5 Tips to Ensuring your Architectural Review Committee is Fair and Reasonable
One of the many committees that play a significant role in an HOA is the Architectural Review Committee (ARC). Unlike other groups, this committee takes a more active role in managing the exterior design and aesthetic of the community. In doing this, they must practice fair and reasonable standards so that all parties involved maintain compliance with the HOAs code of ethics.
What is an architectural review committee?
An Architectural Review Committee (ARC) is a committee primarily made of volunteers that are responsible for reviewing any exterior changes or modifications to a homeowner's property. A large part of the ARC’s role is to maintain the community aesthetic by assuring that all members follow the rules set forth by their CC&R (Covenants, Conditions, & Regulations). In some cases where the HOA is smaller in size, an ARC may not be necessary. In this situation, the ARC is often run by the board or a delegated committee member. Some common responsibilities may include:
- Managing and monitoring the application process.
- Enforcing guidelines and standards set forth by the ARC.
- Evaluating applications for accuracy.
- Making objective decisions regarding guideline compliance.
- Approving or denying all exterior changes.
- Obtaining information required of any contractors involved in the project.
How does an ARC delegate decisions?
Authority is often exercised by the standards set forth by the HOA. Any decision made by the ARC must be submitted to the board for approval. With that being said, the ARC is responsible for providing all necessary details regarding the homeowner's request or application. In addition, when delegating decisions, an ARC member must abide by specific standards:
- Good faith - A decision on a proposed change shall be made in good faith and may not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(2))
- Fair Employment and Housing Act - Any decisions or proposed changes may not violate any governing provision of law, including, but not limited to, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (Part 2.8 (commencing with Section 12900) of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code).
- Hard copy documentation - All decisions must be provided in writing, especially if the decision is denied — a detailed explanation of why the request was denied, along with a description and procedure for reconsideration, must be provided. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(4))
- Code compliance - Any approval or denial of a request made must comply with the HOAs governing documents.
5 ARC Tips for Practicing Fair Standards and Ethics
1. Experienced volunteers
The relationship between the homeowner and ARC is extremely important — especially when you’re given the responsibility to decipher decisions regarding someone's home. In order to create a stronger trust between both parties, an ARC should elect volunteers that are knowledgeable and experienced in the fields of construction or home building. This includes those that are well-versed with their community's CC&R and bylaws.
More times than not, an HOA may consider electing inexperienced volunteers out of good faith because they may not have enough volunteers to fill the role. Although some may find this a temporary workaround, it’s not encouraged. In times such as this, the board should consider the guidance of their property manager or elect one of the board members to fill the role until an experienced volunteer can be considered.
2. Clear defined process
Having a clearly defined process is an important part of ensuring an ARC’s success — this goes for both the ARC and the homeowner. While the process for all HOAs may be different, they commonly work in the same way. For an ARC member, the process usually takes place in the following steps:
- An application is provided to the assigned ARC member to review.
- The application is then checked against the HOAs bylaws and codes of compliance to ensure that the request meets all HOA standards.
- Following the review, the ARC will then present the application to the Board of Directors with any recommendations or details required to make a fair decision.
- Next, the board will submit their decision to either approve or deny the request in writing — by both hardcopy and digital format.
- Finally, the homeowner will be informed of the final decision given by the Board of Directors. For most, the homeowner is usually notified within 30 days of the board's decision.
If a request is denied, the ARC must provide the homeowner with the proper steps to request a consideration for revaluation.
3. Clear defined roles
In times when larger projects and tasks are being requested, it can be easy to misinterpret one another's roles. You may even find yourself working between multiple groups or individuals that manage multiple decisions at one time. In order to keep all parties involved organized, the ARC should define each committee member's primary responsibility before the start of the year. The purpose of this is to ensure that all members involved practice fair standards within their roles. Here are just a few examples:
- Board of Directors - The board shall be responsible for making all final decisions regarding each homeowner's application that is submitted by the ARC.
- ARC - The ARC is responsible for collecting and obtaining all necessary information to present to the board.
- ARC members - Depending on the size of the committee, each member may be given a set list of responsibilities. Common responsibilities divided between ARC members may include:
- ARC member 1 - Responsible for collecting all ARC requests, along with managing all communication and submissions between the homeowner and board.
- ARC member 2 - Responsible for evaluating all applications for compliance and accuracy.
- ARC member 3 - Responsible for presenting all applications to the board of directors. ARC member 3 shall work as the direct contact between the board and ARC.
4. Record keeping
In times when multiple homeowners submit requests, it can be easy for documents and applications to get lost in the weeds — this is why record keeping is vital. It not only allows the ARC to track each application's process, but it also ensures that the ARC is practicing fair standards and ethics. It also provides the HOA with a way to show a record of communication when an ARC request is denied and evaluated for reconsideration.
In today's digital world, HOAs now have the opportunity to utilize HOA software as a way to minimize time and maintain accurate record keeping. Software such as this also allows the ARC to easily log all communication and steps exercised during the submission process.
One of the most advanced ways to ensure compliance is by utilizing specialized HOA software. For example, TownSq is a software that provides communities the option to submit ARC requests through a digital application or their platform.
- Customize forms
- Digital voting implementation
- Maintain ARC track records
- Private group communication
- Auto email and text message notifications
- Track the duration and timing of all requests and projects
- Automatically approve or deny requests through a digital application
- Digitally review and publish decision letters
Watch this demo to see the TownSq’s Architectural Review feature in action!