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Apr 9, 2024

Mastering ARC Applications: Best Practices for HOA Board Members

Sponsored Content provided by Dave Orr - CEO, Community Association Management Services

If you're part of a community association board, you will become familiar with Architectural Control – the process for reviewing and approving additions or exterior modification requests for homes within the community.  Whether the board is tasked with managing the process or delegated to an Architectural Review Committee (ARC) or Architectural Review Board (ARB), you know the challenges it can present. But fear not! With some straightforward best practices, you can streamline the application process, ensure fair decisions, and maintain harmony within your community while ensuring compliance with the governing documents and the community's aesthetics.

Best Practices
Community associations should have architectural guidelines in place. These guidelines should clearly communicate the policies and rules outlined in the governing documents and present the information in a format that is easy to understand for all homeowners. 

1. Establish Clear Submission Guidelines: Specify submission requirements. Clearly outline what documents, photos, and plans applicants need to include. Consistency in submission requirements reduces confusion and streamlines the process for both the board and community members.
2. Adhere to Approval Timelines: ARC application decisions must align with the timelines outlined in the covenants. Failure to adhere to these timelines can lead to automatic approval (if allowed by the governing documents) and leave the association vulnerable to legal liabilities. Timely responses are essential to maintaining trust and compliance within the community.
3. Seek Professional Advice: When in doubt, consult professionals, such as community managers, attorneys, and builders, to ensure compliance with governing documents and legal obligations. Seeking professional advice demonstrates fiduciary responsibility and strengthens the association's position in legal disputes.
4. Provide Thorough Responses: Respond to applications with clear, detailed explanations for approvals or denials. Avoid text-speak and provide constructive feedback, including suggestions to modify the request. Clear communication fosters understanding and cooperation between the board and community members.

Things to Avoid

1. Deviation from Submission Requirements: Avoid deviating from established submission requirements, as it can lead to confusion and allegations of favoritism. Consistency in application procedures promotes fairness and accountability.
2. Arbitrary Denials or Generalizations: Refrain from making arbitrary denials or sweeping generalizations without proper justification. Base decisions on factual evidence and avoid statements that could be perceived as discriminatory or biased.  Reserve your personal opinions and tastes; they do not have a place in this decision-making process.
3. Lack of Detailed Explanation for Denials: Provide detailed explanations for denials, including specific reasons and suggestions for potential approval. Transparent communication minimizes misunderstandings and promotes compliance.
4. Beware of Offering Personal Opinions: ARC members should refrain from offering personal opinions during informal discussions with applicants, which can create false expectations and lead to disputes.

Enforcement Options
In cases of non-compliance, the association has several enforcement options, including administrative actions such as hearings, fines, and suspensions. Legal remedies may include seeking court intervention to compel compliance.

Special Considerations
To avoid discriminatory actions, be mindful of the provisions of the FHA and ADA. Familiarize yourself with application approval timelines and ensure transparency in decision-making processes.

In summary, mastering ARC applications involves adhering to clear guidelines, being transparent in decision-making, and seeking professional advice. By following best practices and avoiding common pitfalls, community association boards can effectively manage ARC applications and maintain harmony within the community.

About Community Association Management Services
In business since 1991, CAMS is North and South Carolina’s premier community management company. With experienced local managers in each of its regions, CAMS provides innovative solutions to the community associations it serves. Additionally, CAMS was featured on Inc. Magazine’s 2022 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America. To learn more, visit www.camsmgt.com/choose-cams.

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