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Question: Last weekend, one of the owners had a red metal roof installed over their front porch. They never submitted an architectural change request and metal roofing is not permitted by our governing documents. What's the best way to handle a situation like this?

Answer: It's easy for architectural and design requirements to get buried in the governing documents which few read or remember even if they have read them. Does the board regularly remind owners of design standards through a website, newsletters and postings? If so, the case can be made that this owner simply chose to ignore the requirements. If not, it's easy to understand why a homeowner would think "my home is my castle and I decide how I want it to look".

Architectural standards established by the developer are not cast in stone. In fact, many developments are locked in a color and materials code that was hoped to trigger sales and profits for the developer. But tastes change. As new colors and materials come into vogue, it makes sense for the board to establish different standards or allow deviations within reason.

In this particular case, the simplest approach is for the board to inform the owner of the governing documents standard and request replacement with the standard. The owner may comply without question. However, it is more likely that the owner will protest loudly that he didn't know and shouldn't be penalized. The "didn't know" defense is more or less valid depending on how aggressively the board has enforced standards in the past.

If the owner resists changing, the ultimate decision by the board is based on how aggressive the owner is determined to be to defend his position (like going to court over it). The HOA is rarely well served going to court since it is usually either a Win-Lose, Lose-Win or Lose-Lose outcome. The board should make a decision that is in the best interests of the HOA. That decision may be to allow the roof to stay. This decision won't satisfy everyone but may be the most practical one. Moreover, the board could press to remove inflexible standards from the governing documents. In the long term, that would allow the HOA to change with the times when it makes sense to do so.

Question: Can the board call a meeting outside of the regularly scheduled monthly meeting, hold the meeting without a quorum of board members, without the management company and without taking minutes?

Answer: Both special meetings and emergency meetings can indeed be called between normally scheduled board meetings. There is no requirement that the management company be present although it's generally desirable that the manager be there to advise the board. All board meetings require minutes be taken as a record of decisions made. The biggest sticking point in this particular situation is that without a quorum, no legal business can be transacted.

Question: Our governing documents restrict unit occupancy to "single family". Our board interprets single family to mean "related" individuals. According to this interpretation, a girlfriend, boyfriend and a caregiver would violate that restriction.

Answer: Having the board try to pass judgment on each living situation is a waste of time and possibly illegal under the federal Fair Housing Act. The real issue is not family status but how residents impact the neighbors and common area. In that regard, the board has the authority to enforce reasonable rules and standards that apply equally to both owner and renters. It should stick to rules enforcement not relationship scrutiny.

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