What is an Architectural Review Committee?

What is an Architectural Review Committee?

September 28, 2023

From social to budgeting, every homeowners’ association (HOA) has various committees; however, the architectural review committee (ARC) stands out among them. Typically comprised of volunteer residents, this committee plays a vital role in maintaining a community's architectural standards and assessing modification requests. Essentially, their dedication ensures homeowners take pride in the community’s look, feel, and aesthetic. Read on to explore the functions of architectural review committees, their role, benefits, and more.

What is an Architectural Review Committee?

An architectural review committee is responsible for overseeing architectural requests and guaranteeing compliance with architectural standards, primarily in planned developments like homeowners and condominium associations. With a goal to preserve the neighborhood’s appearance, ARCs may also be known by other names such as:

  • Architectural Review Board
  • Architectural Control Committee
  • Design Review Committee
  • Environmental Control Committee
  • Alterations Review Committee
  • Landscape Review Committee

It's worth noting that not all associations have an ARC. In smaller associations, the HOA board may assume this responsibility. This approach works well when there are fewer properties and property owners within the community.

However, HOA boards in larger associations often face a heavier workload on a regular basis. In such cases, these boards delegate some of their responsibilities to committees, with one of them being the ARC.

What is the ARC’s Authority?

The influence of an architectural review committee can differ from one community to another. Ultimately, it comes down to the board of directors, in accordance with the governing documents, to make decisions on behalf of the community. While certain boards grant complete autonomy to architectural committees to solve architectural requests, others opt for a more cooperative approach.

The board of directors may work closely with the architectural committee during the review process or make the final decision once the committee delivers its verdict. It’s advisable to examine your governing documents and seek guidance from an association attorney to confirm all procedures and actions comply with legal requirements.

Role of an Architectural Review Committee in HOAs

The role of an architectural review committee in an HOA typically includes the following responsibilities:

Reviewing architectural requests.

The main job of an ARC is to assess requests from homeowners for changes to the exterior of their property. These requests usually involve things like changing the landscaping, adding onto buildings, choosing paint colors, using different roofing materials, or making structural changes. Homeowners may submit requests via HOA software or through other means the community has in place.

Enforcing architectural standards.

The ARC's role is to uphold the architectural standards and guidelines set by the HOA. Their decisions aim to strike a balance between homeowners' desires for individualization and the collective interest in maintaining the community's overall appeal and property values.

Assessing compliance.

The committee assesses whether proposed changes align with the HOA's governing documents, bylaws, and covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R). They also consider any local zoning regulations and building codes.

Approving or denying requests.

After reviewing requests, the ARC will approve, deny, or suggest modifications to the proposed changes. They can also offer homeowners advice and assistance to align their requests with HOA rules and guidelines.

Documenting processes.

The ARC keeps records of all architectural requests, approvals, and denials. This documentation helps ensure consistency in decision-making and provides a historical record of changes to the community.

Communicating with residents.

The committee communicates its decisions to homeowners, outlining the reasons for approvals or denials. The committee may also educate homeowners about the architectural guidelines and the importance of preserving the community's aesthetics and property values.

Reviewing appeals.

Homeowners may have the right to appeal ARC decisions if they disagree with them. The committee may participate in the appeal process or refer it to the HOA board.

Performing regular inspections.

The ARC may conduct periodic inspections of properties to guarantee that approved changes have been implemented correctly and are in compliance with the approved plans.

What Does the Architectural Review Process Look Like?

The architectural review process serves as the framework for evaluating and granting or denying architectural requests. Its primary goal is to facilitate a fair, accurate, and prompt decision-making process by the architectural review committee. Although specifics vary by community, the process generally goes like this:

  1. Submission of request: A homeowner initiates the process by submitting a request for architectural changes. Many associations provide standardized applications for this purpose, either in digital or paper format. These applications feature clear instructions and require key information like the property address, a description of the proposed changes, expected start and end dates for the work, and the contractor's name.
  2. Application review: The architectural committee examines the application and compares it to the community's architectural standards. If any details are missing or questions arise, the committee may contact the homeowner for clarification during this stage.
  3. Committee decision: Following the review, the committee determines whether the homeowner's request complies with the guidelines and whether they can begin architectural changes.
  4. Written notification: The committee communicates its decision to the homeowner in writing or electronically. The waiting period for a decision often falls within 30-60 days.
  5. Resubmission or appeal: If the homeowner disagrees with the ARC's decision, they may have the option to revise and resubmit their request. Depending on the applicable laws and governing documents, there could be a way to appeal the decision without needing to resubmit. Check with your HOA for further information.

How do Committees Conduct a Fair Architecture Review?

To maintain a seamless process that benefits everyone, it's essential for the ARC to consistently uphold transparency, fairness, and punctuality. You can achieve this by:

  • Clearly outlining the approval process within the governing documents.
  • Adhering to deadlines for submissions, inquiries, and decisions.
  • Ensuring compliance with the current CC&Rs.

However, an architectural review committee may also shoulder additional responsibilities, which include:

  • Conducting inspections to identify any violations of architectural guidelines.
  • Evaluating existing architectural policies and suggesting revisions to the board.
  • Educating homeowners about architectural guidelines.

The App Architectural Review Committees Prefer

Architectural review committees enable their team to work together to keep communities beautiful. What they accomplish has a major impact and provides a sense of pride for members. HOAs and ARCs everywhere can streamline tasks from start to finish with TownSq’s Architectural Review feature. Request your 30-day complimentary trial today to learn more about this feature!