Written by Richard Thompson
Owning your own home is an American dream. In urban settings, homeowner associations have become a dominant form of new construction, often representing over two thirds of new home construction. While HOA homeowners carry many rights and privileges, the owners often concede certain freedoms usually enjoyed in more traditional home ownership. One particular area of concession involves remodeling.
To control look and feel, many HOAs have material, color and design standards which must be adhered to. In common wall and multi-story communities, structural integrity demands that changes made by one unit do not jeopardize the viability of the building. For these reasons, it is important for the homeowner association to keep the owners informed and reminded of material standards and inadvertent violations. Here are a number of requirements and guidelines which can be included in a Remodeling Policy as appropriate:
1. For smaller projects (aesthetic only, no structural or utility work involved), submit to the board for written approval prior to commencement of work a description of the work to be performed, who will do it and the anticipated schedule.
2. For more involved projects (includes structural, plumbing, electrical work, etc.) submit architectural plans, copy of permits and signed contractor agreements to the board for written approval which must be received prior to commencing work. If warranted, the board can seek the review and approval of an architect or engineer with related costs to be paid by owner.
3. If view is a consideration in your HOA, require disclosure of proposed structure height and whether removal of trees is involved for view purposes.
4. All power tool operation must be accomplished either in the unit or off property unless authorized by the board in writing and provided there is no unreasonable objection from the neighbors.
5. Contractors are permitted to work only from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturdays.
6. All demolition and construction material shall be disposed of off property, not in HOA dumpsters.
7. Contractor shall clean up any affected common area daily.
8. Owner will provide adequate parking for contractor. Contractor may not use guest parking or block fire lanes.
9. Common utility (electrical, water, gas, etc.) interruption must be approved and coordinated by the board.
10. If landscaping renovation is proposed and the HOA has a landscape standard, a comprehensive plan should be submitted showing proposed changes.
11. Establish specific standards (brand, model, color) for paint color, roofing material, storm doors, screen doors, awnings and other common add-ons.
Since the desire to remodel can happen anytime the spirit moves the remodeler, the board needs to be proactive in keeping owners informed of expectations. Publish the Remodeling Policy on the HOA website and reference it in all newsletters and periodic email updates. Since remodeling will happen, make sure you do all possible to direct a model outcome.
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