Most homeowner associations have established in their governing documents an architectural review board (ARB) to help ensure modifications and improvements are consistent within the community. Often the ARB will develop guidelines to provide specific guidance to homeowners considering changes to their property. While these aren’t all-inclusive, standards serve as an excellent guide for maintaining your community. Adding details builds the understanding needed so your committee and homeowners are on the same page. But, do you know that your association can still be sued, even if your ARB is doing everything right? ARB guidelines are among the top reasons for HOA litigation.
It’s inevitable that a few of the homeowners in your community will ask for a variance from the association’s ARB standards. You need to be ready with an answer. Your Board also needs to be fair to all owners, which means that you need a standardized process to determine if a variance is warranted. Too much inconsistency in your responses can increase the potential for litigation.
Another important area is to ensure that your ARB standards are in harmony with your governing documents, your state laws and what your ARB committee is enforcing. Laws and regulations change, so standards should be reviewed regularly. Here are some tips to help your HOA board put solid standards in place.
- Develop clear ARB standards so homeowners can understand them.
- Avoid calling them guidelines because owners may interpret the rules as optional.
- Communicate ARB standards to all homeowners and residents.
- Illustrate or provide examples of any standards that are difficult for owners to comprehend.
- Develop a standard process to assess and respond to variance requests.
- Consistently enforce the standards for all residents.
- Provide flexibility for the ARB committee when a standard creates undue hardships for a homeowner.
Your Board may appoint an architectural committee to handle your association’s standards, especially in medium to large communities where there’s more work. If your Board has a committee to handle ARB standards, you should give them the right tools to do the job well. Establish clear guidelines, processes and a reporting schedule to keep Board members aware of variance requests and responses. Ultimately, it’s the Board’s responsibility to oversee the decisions.
Wise Property Solutions is a property management company serving East Tennessee with offices in Knoxville, TN and the Tri-Cities, TN-VA. Specializing in Condominium Association Management, Home Owners Association Management, HOA Management and Gated Community Association Management.
Tri-Cities, TN-VA: 423-926-7373
Knoxville, TN: 865-643-8989