Modifications to your Property
One of the most important parts of living in an HOA (and that likely has the most direct impact on homeowners) is the idea of architectural control. What that phrase means is the need for owners to obtain approval from the HOA for modifications that they want to make to their property. This is standard language in the CC&Rs across just about every HOA in the state of California. There is usually a section that requires owners to get approval from the “Architectural Committee” before they begin work on a modification or installation, and CHOA is no different. Article IX, Section 1 of the CHOA CC&Rs requires that owners get approval from the HOA before making a modification to the property.
In this article I wanted to focus on the application process itself. The CHOA Architectural Committee is made up of 8 homeowners, who are all volunteers and donate hours of their free time every month to reviewing applications from homeowners and performing inspections throughout the community, looking for HOA violations as well as impressive homes to include in the Signal. These Committee members look at applications submitted by owners and determine if they comply with the HOA’s rules and conform to the current architectural and aesthetic standard that exists throughout the community.
At first this may seem like a potentially stressful addition to the process for owners who are already spending time organizing their projects. It is important to stress that the Architectural Committee doesn’t want to prevent owners from performing maintenance, upgrading components, or trying to make their property look better. At the same time, the Committee strives to ensure that certain modifications reflect the existing community aesthetic. This approval process helps ensure two things – that modifications being made are permitted by the HOA’s rules, and that they are in harmony with the surrounding area.
In reality, a huge majority of applications are approved – and most that are denied are typically just in need of minor tweaks or clarification. It is rare that a request for a modification is outright denied entirely, although it can happen for modifications which the Governing Documents do not permit, or the Committee does not feel fit with the community.
I want to make a modification – what next?
You will need to fill out an Architectural Application. This can be downloaded on the HOA website under “Documents and Forms” – alternatively, send the GM an email and we will get a PDF copy right back to you!
The biggest issue we usually see with this process is an application without sufficient information. It’s important to keep in mind that the people reviewing these applications are all homeowners here and volunteers. The primary focus when reviewing an application is “what will this project look like when completed?” The larger the project, the more info the HOA will need.
For example, if you want to expand your driveway and change the material from concrete to pavers, simply writing “expanding driveway” usually won’t suffice. It would be helpful to include a quick sketch with dimensions (nothing professional – you can just draw it by hand, so the HOA understands the intent) and then a picture of the pavers you would like to use. For most applications, a hand-drawn sketch made by the owner is more than adequate! And for large projects with contractors and vendors, the sketches you get with the proposal typically have all the info the Committee needs to make a decision.
Another example – if you want to re-do your front yard and add a large walkway from the curb to the door, a sketch of the walkway’s path, along with dimensions and materials, should be included. If replacing a fence, a plot plan with the approximate fence location, along with materials, colors, and dimensions should all be submitted with the application.
So please just keep this in mind – the more “visual” info you provide, the easier the application will be for the Committee to review and understand. If the Committee can’t picture what the owner is proposing to do, they will likely request additional information before it can be approved. The intent is never to delay your project – the HOA always appreciates owners wanting to improve their property! But an incomplete application cannot be approved, so when in doubt, the more info the better.
For 95%+ of all applications, a “professional” sketch or plan is not needed, so long as the owner can clearly convey what they want to do. Simple hand-drawn sketches or plot plans usually do the trick! It doesn’t have to be perfect – it just needs to help the Committee understand what is changing, what is going where, and how big it is.
Once the application is filled out, send it in to the GM at email@example.com or drop it off through the mail slot. If it looks good, it will be put in front of the Committee for review at the next meeting. The Committee meets once a month on every 3rd Thursday at 6pm via Zoom. If you are submitting an application, you are always encouraged to attend the meeting! That way you may answer any questions that the Committee might have when reviewing the application.
What about pre-approved modifications?
The CHOA Architectural Committee has recently spent a lot of time creating policies for modifications that are “pre-approved”. If something is pre-approved, you still need to submit an application, but the GM can approve it immediately.
Are there modifications that don’t require HOA approval?
Yes! Currently landscaping-related modifications do not require HOA approval. However, if landscaping is only a part of your application – for example, you are putting in plants but also a walkway – you still need to get approval. When in doubt, please reach out to the GM for clarification before you start any work.
If you ever have any questions about the architectural process, please reach out to the GM for clarification or assistance.
When will my application be reviewed?
The Architectural Committee meets once per month, on the third Thursday. Applications must be submitted no less than three business days before the meeting. Additionally, these applications must be complete. If an incomplete application is submitted, it will likely not be included on the agenda of that meeting for review.
Owners are usually notified of the results of the meeting on the following Friday.
What happens if my application is denied?
You can appeal the Committee’s decision to the Board. You will need to submit a statement of appeal in writing to the General Manager, which will be included along with the original application for the Board to review at their next regularly scheduled meeting. The Board’s decision is final and cannot be appealed further.