One of the main reasons people consider whether to live in a community administered by an association is the concept of “uniform appearance”. While some may find the sameness of color and style monotonous, many association dwellers like the fact that everything looks exactly the same.

One of the most important committees for a townhome or single family home association to have is its Architectural Control Committee. These are the people who are going to review everything from fences to actual dwelling plans and recommend a finding to the board of directors.

Association law being a relative newcomer to our legal system (the general rules of real estate date back to William the Conqueror) produces more legal decisions on the issue of architectural control than all of the others combined. These are some of the issues associations routinely deal with:

– The developer approved a modification while controlling the board and there is no documentation.
– There are no rules for a specific change and the board wants to deny it.
– Four years after installation the board decides they no longer want to permit it.
– The owner received a building permit from the City so they believe they can do whatever they wish.
– The owner does whatever they want and thumbs their nose at the rules.

Confronted with these and innumerable other scenarios, the board has few choices; leave it be, levy a fine or go to court to obtain an order for removal. Each one of these alternatives comes with its own set of problems:

– By ignoring it, it does not go away…it can spawn an epidemic of more of the same. Also, by trying to stop something else, the board is not accused of discrimination.
– By levying a fine, there is a punishment, but the object of offensiveness is still there.
– By filing suit, you will spend thousands of dollars, plus 1 to 3 years in court and even if the declaration requires the owner to pay legal fees, the court may not award the full amount.

Therefore, starting with the initial adoption of policies and procedures, a pro-active board can minimize the aggravation factor with the following steps outlined in the NorthPoint Property Management’s ‘Condo & Homeowner Board Member Handbook‘ (pgs. 15-18).


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