Homeowners typically need to secure approval for home renovations in HOA communities. And while the process can vary from one association to another, there are a few general guidelines you can follow.
Understanding Home Renovations in HOA
If there is one thing that all homeowners associations have in common, it’s that they all exist to maintain curb appeal and preserve property values. One of the ways associations accomplish this is through the careful and consistent enforcement of architectural guidelines.
Architectural guidelines, also known as architectural standards, are a set of rules that tell homeowners what they can and can’t do with their property. Typically, these standards pertain to modifications, alterations, and additions. For instance, an HOA might not permit the use of metal fences or require owners to use only shades of blue to paint their homes.
While they may appear unnecessary, these architectural guidelines actually serve a greater purpose. They help associations maintain their unique character and appeal. They allow associations to create a uniform aesthetic through the curation of home appearances.
More often than not, homeowners must go through an approval process before pursuing HOA home improvements. This approval process makes it easier for HOA boards to review proposals and ensure that architectural standards are consistently met.
Additionally, the procedure acts as a way to notify both the HOA and the owner’s neighbors of the impending construction work. The association can monitor the time and duration limits of the project as well as enforce a strict cleanup schedule. This allows the HOA to make the community a nice place to live in.
Common home improvements or renovations that require approval include but are not limited to:
- Any and all renovations affecting the home’s exterior
- Any and all structural modifications, such as the removal of load-bearing walls, the addition of rooms, etc.
- The addition or relocation of plumbing
- The addition or relocation of electrical wiring
- Flooring changes
How to Submit Plans to HOA and Get Approval
The exact steps and requirements of the approval process will depend on the individual association. After all, HOAs can come in many shapes and forms. Procedures tend to vary based on a number of factors, including the type of association, the nature of exclusive or limited elements, and the governing documents themselves.
That said, the process for securing approval for home renovations in HOA communities usually involves the following steps.
1. Ensure Plans Adhere to Rules
First and foremost, homeowners must thoroughly review their plans and make sure they don’t violate the HOA’s architectural guidelines. Double- and even triple-checking the design plans will ensure a smoother application process. It also increases the likelihood of getting the board’s approval. Submitting incomplete documents will only cause delays. And, if any of the plans don’t conform to the architectural standards of the HOA, owners can expect a quick denial.
It is important to adhere to the HOA home renovation rules of the community not only because it increases the chances of getting approval but also because homeowners have an obligation to the association. Upon buying into the community, homeowners agree to abide by its rules and bear the consequences for any violations. If an owner proceeds with a renovation without getting approval, the HOA may fine the owner or force the owner to reverse the modifications at their own expense.
2. Complete and Submit the Required Forms and Documents
Homeowners should then find out the process for getting approval. Normally, this process is written in the governing documents of the association. If not, owners can talk to their HOA board or manager to inquire about the process.
Homeowners associations will normally ask members to fill out an application form consisting of the details of the renovation project. These details can include but are not limited to the type of renovation, the duration and projected completion date of the renovation, and the contractor the owner intends to hire.
In addition to a completed application form, the association may also ask owners to submit supporting documents. These can include blueprints of the renovation, a detailed timeline of the project, government permits, and the contractor’s licenses and certifications. Owners should check the documents that the HOA requires them to submit. This should be outlined within the architectural approval process of the association.
Even if an HOA does not specifically list down what documents to submit, it is a good idea to keep them handy. This way, owners can be ready with the supporting documents at a moment’s notice if the HOA requests them, and the project will suffer no delays.
Depending on the type of renovation, some contractors offer assistance with this step. For instance, many solar panel companies are familiar with how HOAs work and actively help owners get approval.
3. Wait for the Board’s Decision
The final step is to wait for the HOA board’s decision. In some communities, a separate committee known as the Architectural Review Committee handles these types of requests.
Homeowners will typically receive a written notice of the board’s decision with further instructions. For denials, the board might ask the owner to change parts of the plan to comply with the architectural rules. For approvals, the board might state when renovations can begin.
Can HOA Tell You What to Do Inside Your House?
The short answer is yes, an HOA can hold authority over what homeowners can do inside their homes. But, this authority must typically appear in the governing documents of the association.
Some examples of when an HOA can regulate what owners do inside their homes include:
- Noise Rules – HOAs don’t allow owners to make too much noise at certain times of the day so as not to disturb the neighbors or negatively impact the reputation of the community.
- Rental Restrictions – Many associations prohibit or limit rentals, especially short-term rentals. However, in some states, the law does not allow total bans on rentals. For instance, unless rental restrictions already were already in place when the owner bought the unit, associations in Nevada can’t prohibit rentals.
- Electrical or Structural Alterations – For the safety of the owner and the community, any significant electrical or structural changes might need to go through the HOA first.
- Flooring – Particularly in condominiums where units sit on top of each other, an association may control what type of flooring owners can use.
Word of Advice
It can be tricky to navigate the rules on home renovations in HOA communities. Homeowners should make sure to find out the exact requirements and procedures in their association before commencing any renovation projects. In doing so, they can avoid hefty penalties and the pain of undoing all the changes.
Elite Management Services provides HOA management solutions to communities. Call us today at (855) 238-8488 or contact us online to request a free proposal!
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