A key committee in larger homeowner associations is called the Architectural Review Committee or ARC. Members of this committee are sometimes chosen because of their expertise in construction and design, but more often simply because of a willingness to serve. While each member brings a different perspective on review and enforcement of architectural guidelines, it's important that each understands the impact of decisions and is given proper guidance by the Board. Properly prepared, the ARC can be a productive and positive force within the community.

The purpose of the ARC in a homeowner association is to ensure that changes made to an owner's property either preserve or enhance the HOA's property values. Typically, the ARC reviews proposed changes on the following criteria.

Does the proposed change:

  • visually detract from the community?
  • reduce the enjoyment of other residents (like blocking view)?
  • conform to local building codes?
  • comply with HOA architectural standards and guidelines?
  • violate any HOA use restriction?

The rule of thumb for the ARC is "if architectural standards and procedures exist, they must be followed." The rule suggests that each homeowner association have a set of written standards and procedures and that each owner be given a copy. Written standards and procedures are important because they provide the ARC guidance and the community knowledge of what is acceptable. The governing documents may provide the resources the ARC needs to render decisions. However, often the documents are vague or ambiguous. It may be time to update or write clear standards and procedures. Knowledgeable attorneys and consultants can assist with the document preparation.

The procedures need to include a written application with details and attachments that makes it clear what the proposed addition or alteration is including:

  1. Materials and design description
  2. Paint color
  3. Blueprints if available
  4. Contractor(s) name, credentials and phone number
  5. Copy of Building Permit
  6. Schedule for completion
  7. Owner contact information

The application needs to include the timetable for ARC approval and fee if an architect or engineer's review is required. A right of appeal is also a basic.

The ARC ideally should be composed of Board members. Since lawsuits are filed against homeowner associations over architectural decisions, and the Board carries the liability of ARC decisions, it makes sense that the Board make the ARC decisions. If the ARC is composed on non-Board members, the committee should make a recommendation to the Board which, in turn, makes the final decision on the matter.

Now that you know the how to build an ARC that "floats," let it set sail!

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