Modifying your home can be an exciting and challenging time. On one hand, you’re finally able to customize your dream house but on the other hand, you must obtain approval from your homeowners association. Many homeowners experience frustration and confusion regarding this process, asking: Why do I need to submit an application? Who approves it? How long does the whole process take? Is all this really necessary?
This article explains the why and how behind your architectural application to help you smoothly navigate the path to your dream home.
Architectural Approval Preserves Your Property Values
When you made the decision to settle in your community, you bought into a desirable neighborhood with a certain aesthetic. In order to keep the aesthetic cohesive, every resident must be conscientious when modifying his or her home. Not only does it keep your neighborhood looking pleasant and visually appealing, it has a measurable impact on ensuring high property values over time.
Review Twice, Build Once
Before you begin working with an architect or contractor, closely review your community’s design guidelines, which are available from your community association management company or directly from your HOA. Many HOAs store these documents online for easy access, so check your community’s website first. You are ultimately responsible (legally and financially) for keeping your home in compliance, so thoroughly reading and understanding your community’s design guidelines before you begin construction is the single most important step you can take when updating your home.
An Overview of the Application Process
Once you have read your community’s design guidelines and have developed a plan with your contractor, the first step is to complete your application. Check your HOA’s website or contact your community association management company for an application.
Once completed, submit your application with all associated fees (fees vary by each community so check your community’s website). Your HOA then has a set period of time to review and approve your application. The amount of time your HOA has for approval is outlined in your community’s governing documents, usually 30-45 days. HOAs often delegate approval to a third party committee, called the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) or the Design Review Committee (DRC).
If your application is denied, you can amend your design plan (or the application itself, if it is incomplete) and resubmit, which kicks off a new 30-45-day approval period. Once your application is approved, you may begin construction. After completion, the ARC will inspect your construction and you will receive a Letter of Completion indicating that your construction is complete and compliant.
Working with Your Contractor
Many contractors offer to handle architectural application submission on your behalf but remember: you are ultimately responsible for your property. Make sure that your contractor has read your community design guidelines before drafting any plans. You, too, should read the design guidelines to ensure that your contractor is on track. Additionally, be sure to read your architectural application completely before signing off and stay aware of where you are in the approval timeline process.
Remember to incorporate your approval period into your project timeline, taking into account additional time needed if your application is denied the first time around. Approval periods are typically 30-45 days, and stated in the governing documents. Many homeowners choose to withhold the final 10% of their contractor’s project fee until they receive their Letter of Completion, to ensure that their contractor stays involved in the process until the very end.
You Are Responsible for Your Property
Remember that you are ultimately legally and financially responsible for ensuring that your updates comply with your community’s design guidelines. Your close involvement in the approval process can ensure your compliance before you build, sparing you the additional expense of modifying your design after construction is complete. Do not simply forge ahead without obtaining approval then ask for a variance from your HOA. This is a risk that rarely resolves in the homeowner’s favor and you will be responsible for any additional construction costs required to remedy the situation.
How Your Community Association Management Company Can Help
Your community association management company simply aids in facilitating the architectural application process. They have no authority over the development of the design guidelines and have no authority in whether an application is approved or denied. However, your community manager’s expertise can help you throughout this process. Consult with your community manager as you develop your architectural plans; they can point out obvious infractions that you might miss. Ask your manager to review your application before you submit it; they might catch small details that could cause your application to get kicked back for administrative reasons. Your management company will also help usher your application through the review process, ensuring that it is routed correctly to the ARC and it appears on the upcoming HOA meeting agenda. Finally, your management company can answer any additional questions as you navigate the process, which can relieve you of stress and overwhelm.
A little bit of proactivity goes a long way reducing the time and money spent to remedy problems after building. Do not undertake any modifications to your home without first obtaining official signoff from your HOA in the form of an approved architectural application. If in doubt, contact your HOA management company or your HOA board and ask specific questions. Failure to comply or starting construction without board approval can ultimately cost you a ton of time, money and frustration.