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By Mike Broemmel

Home improvements and homeowners association approval

The manner in which a homeowners association, or HOA, operates is governed by the laws in each of the states as well as by the specific contract between an individual HOA and its community members. The divergence in state laws and specific contracts is important to understand when it comes to considering residence improvements in a community regulated by an HOA.

Improvements typically a responsibility of an HOA

Despite the differences in laws from one state to another, and in HOA contracts, there are some residential improvements that typically are assumed by an HOA. Chief among them are exterior paint and roofs.

A common provision in an HOA agreement is that the association will pay and coordinate the repainting of exterior surfaces of a residence at specifically delineated intervals. If a homeowner desires to undertake such a project more frequently, HOA approval will likely be required, and the cost is borne by the homeowner.

Similarly, responsibility for a residence’s roof upkeep, improvement or replacement oftentimes falls under the umbrella of an HOA agreement. The reality is that a safety issue is at play when it comes to a residential roof, a consideration that impacts all residents in the community. An HOA is going to be insistent that a roof meet certain requirements pertaining to its fire-resistant quality.

Improvements associated with driveways also frequently falls within the responsibilities of a HOA. Other types of improvements that are the responsibility of a HOA vary from one community to another but can include features like underground lawn watering systems and exterior lighting at a residence.

Improvements desired by a homeowner

A homeowner may desire to make exterior alterations or improvement to his or her residence. These proposed projects nearly always will require approval from an HOA. For example, a homeowner may desire to enclose a patio or add a sunroom to a residence. Not only does a homeowner need to obtain appropriate permits from governmental agencies, but approval of the project also needs to come from the HOA.

Why communication between the homeowner and HOA is important

The key to gaining approval for an improvement project from an HOA is communication with the association board. Association boards typically are made up of fellow homeowners, a representative of a property management company and oftentimes an attorney.

Effective communication begins with knowing the requirements in the underlying homeowner’s agreement regarding improvements to a residence. The agreement is nearly certain to spell out the procedure to be followed in this type of situation. Trying to find a scheme to circumvent the process delineated in the agreement will not set the tone for effective communication.

Ultimately, the goal is to assure the HOA board that the proposed improvement enhances not only value of one residence, but of the community overall. If approval is not obtained from the HOA board, there oftentimes is an appeal process or the ability to seek mediation included within the agreement.

If the proposed improvement is reasonable, and generally permissible within the parameters of the association agreement, and approval from the HOA board is not forthcoming, a homeowner is wise to consult with legal counsel. There are real estate lawyers with significant experience addressing issues arising from an HOA.

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