When you live in a community association, there are rules and regulations pertaining to the upkeep of the exterior of your property. But what if you'd like to make a change to your property, like paint your house or put up a new fence? That's where the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) comes in. This group is responsible for approving or denying any exterior changes to your home. So, if you're thinking about making some updates, it's essential to understand the role of the ARC and what they will be looking for when reviewing your proposal.
In this post, we'll discuss who makes up the ARC, what they do, and how you can work with them to get approvals for your exterior projects. Let's get started!
What is the ARC?
An Architectural Review Committee – sometimes called an Architectural Review Board or Architectural Control Committee – is a committee that is either made up of volunteers or appointed by the board. This committee considers (and hopefully approves) initial building plans for a home or authorizes changes to the exterior of an existing home and its lot. The committee may also ensure compliance with approved plans. You'll usually find this type of group within planned developments, such as those found in homeowner and condo associations. Not every association has an ARC committee, but most do. In smaller communities, the board usually takes care of the duties handled by the ARC.
Why Have an ARC?
Community associations were created to help protect the value of a neighborhood. How is this accomplished? Through the association's governing documents! These documents spell out the rules and regulations that all property owners within the community must follow. Enforcement of these documents is necessary to maintain the integrity and aesthetics of the neighborhood.
Who is on the ARC, and What Do They Do?
Associations have a board of directors composed of elected volunteers from the community. The board is responsible for enforcing the governing documents, and they do this by ensuring that all owners are following the community's rules and regulations. If an owner violates the governing documents, the board may issue warnings or eventually impose fines.
Community associations are often created with specific standards, particularly regarding the exterior appearance of homes in the community. But are these appearance standards based on the personal opinions of board members? Of course not! The use restrictions or architectural provisions can be found in an association's governing documents. However, they are also often in separate documents. The architectural guidelines dictate what you can and can't do with your property, including how it should appear. For this reason, many homes in planned communities may look similar, which contributes to the neighborhood's overall curb appeal and may even improve property values.
That being said, living in a community association doesn't always give you much room to be creative or express yourself through exterior designs. However, this type of uniform design benefits homeowners in the end. The ARC's responsibilities may include checking the community for violations of the standards found in the Architectural Guidelines, and sometimes evaluating the existing policies and proposing any changes to the board.
What Do Property Owners Need to Know?
First, owners should have a copy of the governing documents so they may be aware of the rules regarding the exterior of their properties (and all other community rules and regulations). Architectural guidelines are a standard set of rules that homeowners must follow when designing or changing their homes. These rules may include how high your grass can grow, what colors can be used for siding, or whether a homeowner can add a deck.
No two community associations have precisely the same guidelines, so it's essential to know yours before making significant changes. However, there are some things community associations can't ban across the board. For example, community associations can't prevent people from installing satellite dishes or antennae. But, they can restrict how big the dish can be, where it can be installed, or what kind of antennae can be installed. In addition, some states have passed laws protecting homeowners' rights to use solar collectors.
The association's covenants, conditions, and restrictions, commonly called "CC&Rs", define the rules governing the use of your piece of property. The ARC cannot make decisions that are less restrictive than or contradictory to the covenants. In addition, the government may define other boundaries affecting your application, e.g., laws related to stormwater management (impervious surface limits) or municipal ordinances, e.g., minimum setbacks from property lines. The ARC is not responsible for ensuring your compliance with these other entities; they are only responsible for ensuring that your request conforms with the association's governing documents and the overall aesthetics of the community. Therefore, you should consult the planning department before submitting your request to the association for ARC review when applicable.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway for owners is this: Don't give up just because your request was denied the first time. Instead, consider modifications and present those to the board or ARC. Did you submit thorough information to the ARC? If you didn't, try resubmitting with more details. Also, never start a project before it's approved in writing (even if you're sure it will be approved) – that can end up causing a world of trouble.
What ARC Members Should Know
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