One of the many committees that can be formed in a homeowners’ association (HOA) is an architectural review committee, or ARC. An important committee with a big responsibility, an ARC oversees a community’s architectural standards and both resident- and board-requested modifications. Their work ensures that homeowners live in a neighborhood they can be proud of. Read on to learn everything you need to know about architectural review committees and their operations.
What are Architectural Standards?
Found in the association’s governing documents, architectural standards are rules that limit the updates, improvements, or modifications homeowners can make. In short, the architectural guidelines dictate what a homeowner can and can’t do to the exterior of their home. While each community has its own specialized set of architectural standards, some examples include limitations on:
- Roofing materials
- Paint color
- Pool construction
- Changes to yards
In addition, zoning ordinances for your municipality and local, state, provincial, and federal laws may also impact architectural guidelines and the role of an architectural review committee.
What’s an Architectural Review Committee?
With the goal of maintaining a community’s aesthetic appeal, an architectural review committee oversees architectural changes submitted by all HOA residents. Architectural committees may be referred to by different names depending on the association. Other names you may see are:
- Architectural Review Board
- Architectural Control Committee
- Design Review Committee
- Environmental Control Committee
- Alterations Review Committee
- Landscape Review Committee
What Does the Architectural Review Committee Do?
It’s the job of an architectural review committee to walk through an architectural approval process efficiently and effectively. To ensure a smooth process for everyone, it’s crucial for the ARC to always be transparent, fair, and timely. Some ways to do this include:
- Detailing the approval process in the governing documents
- Adhering to process deadlines for submissions, questions, and decisions
- Complying with the current Codes, Covenants, & Restrictions
Still, an architectural review committee may have more tasks on its plate. Other responsibilities can include:
- Inspecting homes for violations of architectural guidelines
- Reviewing current architectural policies and proposing changes to the board
- Educating homeowners on architectural guidelines
What Happens During the Architectural Review Process?
The architectural review process is the system used to review and approve or deny architectural requests from association members. More importantly, these procedures are designed to facilitate a fair, accurate, and prompt decision by the architectural review committee. While the process is different for every community, it typically works like this:
- A homeowner submits a request to make changes. Many associations provide a standard application for homeowners to submit an architectural request. In a digital or paper form, the application should give clear instructions and use simplified language. Required information usually includes the address of the property, a description of the proposed change, an anticipated start and end date of work, and the name of the contractor.
- A review of the application. The architectural committee will review the application and compare it to the community’s architectural standards. If there’s any missing information or additional questions, the committee may reach out to the homeowner during this time.
- A decision from the architectural committee. After reviewing the application, the committee will decide whether the homeowner is in compliance and permitted to make architectural changes to their home.
- Written communication between the ARC and the homeowner. The committee will send its decision to the homeowner in writing. The amount of time an applicant must wait for a decision varies by community, but it’s usually thirty to sixty days.
- A resubmission or appeal. If the homeowner is dissatisfied with the ARC’s decision, they may be allowed to revise their request and resubmit. It might also be possible to appeal the decision without resubmission, depending on what is stated in applicable laws and governing documents.
What Is the Architectural Committee’s Authority?
The power of an architectural review committee varies by community. Ultimately, it’s the board of directors’ job to make decisions for the community—and that includes its architectural standards. While some boards give architectural committees the full authority to make architectural request decisions, others make this a collaborative process. Sometimes, the board of directors will partner with the architectural committee throughout the review process or make the final decision after the committee presents its ruling. Review your governing documents and consult an association attorney to ensure all processes and decisions are legally compliant.
What Are the Benefits of an Architectural Committee?
Architectural committees enable a team to work together to keep communities beautiful. Their work has a major impact and provides a sense of pride for committee members dedicated to maintaining harmony within their association. Other notable benefits include:
- Standardized approvals for homeowners.
- Consistent look and feel throughout the neighborhood.
- Property values that are better maintained and protected.
Streamlining the Architectural Review Process
The architectural review committee’s responsibilities may seem complicated, but there are ways to simplify the job and keep homeowners happy. For a guide on how to update your committee’s architectural review process, download our ebook, “How To Transform Your HOA’s Architectural Review.”