One of the biggest gripes homeowners often have about HOAs is that they limit some of the changes they can make to their homes and yards. This brings up the question, do associations really need architectural review boards (ARB)? Shouldn’t homeowners be able to do what they want with their homes since they own them? Yes and no.
A benefit of being part of an HOA is greater protection of property value. One of the ways that this is achieved is by maintaining a certain consistency among homes and aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood. This is where the ARB comes into play. They are the ones that set these standards and approve or deny the changes that homeowners want to make. Some governing documents actually require that an ARB exist. Here are a few reasons why the ARB can be beneficial:
- They maintain consistency. When everyone’s home complies with an approved list of paint colors or types of fencing or style of mailbox, it creates an overall cohesive image within the community. There is still variation because homeowners have several options to choose from, but it eliminates the potential for any extreme outliers.
- They enhance member satisfaction. Yes, there will always be those members who want an exception to the rules, but for the most part, consistent ARB standards keep homeowners happier. They know they won’t come home from work one day to see their neighbor has a bright orange door, is installing a nine-foot fence, or is building an addition that blocks their view or sunlight. They can rest assured there won’t be a dilapidated shed next door detracting from their home’s value.
Everyone is held to the same standards. There are instances where variances can be granted, but the ARB should be selective in what it permits. Allowing too many variances defeats the purpose of achieving consistency and can create pushback when one homeowner’s request is approved but another’s is denied.
Improving Compliance with ARB Standards
The ARB should establish clear standards and report any changes (such as an approved color being replaced because it was discontinued) as soon as possible. Be open in explaining to members why certain standards exist and how they benefit the community. It is also a good idea to periodically review standards to ensure they’re still relevant and up-to-date.
If a request is denied, instead of simply stating that it was denied, provide constructive feedback. Let the homeowner know why and what changes they can make to bring it into alignment with ARB standards. Maybe the fence they submitted is a little too tall or the slats are a little too wide. Provide them with the acceptable criteria and some approved options. Usually a mutually agreeable solution can be found.
Partnering with a property management company like Kuester can help your HOA to maintain consistent enforcement of HOA rules and regulations, improve communication with members, and effectively work through challenging situations.