Top 5 Challenges in Evaluating an HOA Architectural Review Application
If you've ever needed to make a change to the exterior of your home, you've probably come across the ARC, better known as the Architectural Review Committee. Unlike most HOA committees, this group is unique. They work as a group of volunteers that regulate the decisions and requests given to exercise changes to the exterior of a home or condo.
What is an architectural review committee?
An Architectural Review Committee (ARC) is a committee that reviews exterior changes to a home within a community, such as an HOA. Unlike other committees that are elected through the Board of Directors, the ARC primarily consists of volunteers. The primary purpose of the ARC is to regulate and review all architectural changes, including requests set by the HOA and governing documents.
What does an architectural review committee consist of?
Keep in mind that every HOA is different. Depending on the size of the community, a separate ARC may not be needed — the ARC may be run by the HOA board of directors or a delegated committee that is created by the board.
What is an ARC responsible for?
- 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 - including the approval and denial process of all exterior changes.
- Maintaining the property value of the HOA community.
How does an ARC delegate decisions?
Authority is often exercised by the type of common interest that the committee was formed to manage. Keep in mind that any final decision made by the ARC must be submitted to the HOA Board of Directors for approval. It is the ARC's responsibility to provide recommendations and all necessary details about the application. When an ARC delegates their decision, they must abide by specific requirements:
- 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).
- A written hard copy - 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 for request made must comply with the HOAs governing documents.
In addition, the type of application may differ between community homes and condominiums. Here are just a few examples of common requests made between both communities and condos.
- Height specifications for structures
- Satellite dishes
- Electronic vehicle charging stations
- Balcony terms
- Modifications to electrical design
- Window tints and designs
As an HOA community member, do I have to submit an architectural review request?
Short answer — yes. Part of the responsibility of being an HOA member is to abide by the rules and guidelines set by your governing documents. One of which is submitting an ARC request. Any exterior changes to a home or condo may not be conducted without an ARC request's proper submission and approval. If formal permission is not provided, a community member may violate the community governing documents and guidelines.
How to submit an architectural request for approval
- Review the ARC request guidelines and bylaws - Before submitting an ARC request, we recommend reviewing your community's ARC guidelines and governing documents so that your request aligns with the communities standards.
- Submit your ARC request - Information that may be required include:
- Precise measurements and details concerning the change, along with the type of change being requested.
- Copy of the vendor's proposal or estimate shows height, materials, colors, location, and measurements.
- Clear and detailed photos such as sketches, layouts, and colors.
- Necessary permits.
- A plan or timeliness of the completion date.
Is there an easier way?
If your HOA uses HOA software, they may offer a much more simplified way to submit a request. For example, TownSq gives communities the option to utilize their arch feature application that allows HOA members the opportunity to submit an ARC request straight from their mobile app or website. Many HOA boards and communities have found this application to be quite helpful and resourceful for several reasons.
- Quickly review, approve (or deny), and notify homeowners' architecture requests.
- Can customize forms according to your HOA's needs and regulations
- Keep tracking of all requests and projects
- Discuss and chat between private groups
- Instant email and text message updates
- Committee voting
- Define voting and duration
- Automatically approve or deny requests straight from the application
- Review and publish decision letters
The architectural review application process
Once a request has been submitted, here is where the ARC will proceed with its review of the application to ensure that each bid is appropriately inspected.
- As each member of the ARC reviews the application, a check of the community's bylaws and code of compliance will be conducted to ensure that the request meets the communities standards and guidelines.
- Following the review, the ARC will then make their recommendations to the Board of Directors.
- Once the Board of Directors has made their decision, a decision of either approved or denied will be provided in writing. For litigation purposes, a copy both digitally and physically must be provided for record.
- A response must be given to the homeowner within a 30-day window.
- If in the situation that a request is denied, the ARC must provide the HOA member with the proper steps and procedure for requesting consideration for revaluation.
When you take the role of being on an ARC, you're committing yourself not only to serve the best interest of the HOA but the challenges that can come with it. An ARC can sometimes experience challenges that can delay or frequently cause controversy among the committee and homeowner.
Five challenges in evaluating an HOA ARC review application
- Staying uniform and following guidelines - Regardless of the type of request, personal opinions and emotions should be left out of the decision-making process. ARC members must use their best justments and follow all community guidelines regardless if they agree or disagree. The rules of the ARC were set in place for a reason — to provide a standard and image for all community members.
- Selective enforcement - This is when an HOA allows variations to the guidelines. For example, an HOA cannot enforce a rule against one HOA member while not enforcing that same rule against the entire HOA community.
- Lack of a knowledgeable attorney - Considered one of the most common challenges, an ARC will often find itself at a standstill to seek the proper legal advice needed to make a decision. Reasons may include a low number of volunteers, expense, seeking personal opinions, or adhering to legal advice based on past experiences.
- Owners have the right to appeal - If a homeowner is denied their request, they may have the opportunity to appeal the decision within 30 days. In some cases, this can cause a wild goose chase, especially when the homeowner is unwilling to cooperate or abide by the community's standards.
- Non-experienced volunteers - When creating an ARC group of volunteers, you may find that your members vary in inexperience or lack the required knowledge to run the ARC successfully. It's in the HOAs best interest to select knowledgeable volunteers. To do this, an ARC is influenced to create a group that may come with experience or knowledge of the job's primary responsibilities. For example: having a thorough understanding of your HOAs bylaws and governing documents, landscape and vendor protocols, or experience working with exterior projects and hardware.