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Architectural Review Board: Application Form Best Practices

Hand selecting yellow paint samples.

In a homeowners’ association (HOA), an architectural review board oversees the community’s architectural standards and reviews resident- and board-requested exterior modifications to homes and buildings. To facilitate a smooth architectural review process, many communities provide a standard application form for homeowners to submit architectural requests. Essential to the process, the application form should include all the information necessary to quickly and easily approve or deny proposed architectural changes.

Read on to learn more about the architectural review board and tips for creating an architectural request form that’s clear and effective.

What’s an Architectural Review Board?

An HOA’s architectural review board is a group of homeowners responsible for interpreting the community’s architectural guidelines and overseeing architectural changes submitted by residents. Depending on the community, it may also be called:

  • Architectural review committee (ARC)
  • Architectural control committee
  • Design review committee
  • Environmental control committee
  • Alterations review committee
  • Landscape review committee

While an architectural review board may have different names, its overall goal is always the same. The committee ensures that home modifications or improvements meet community architectural standards and maintain the integrity of the neighborhood. The committee will use a standardized approval process to review applications and reach fair and accurate decisions.

What Is an Architectural Review Board Application Form?

HOA architectural review board forms are the standard documents that homeowners must complete and submit to the ARC to request changes to their property. Before they can make modifications to their homes or yards, residents need to fill out an architectural review committee form that includes details on their property and proposed changes.

Members of the architectural review board will review homeowner applications and use rules from the HOA’s covenants, conditions & restrictions (CC&Rs) to either approve or deny the requests to make changes to their homes.

Sometimes, an HOA’s rules are outdated and ineffective. Check out “Is It a Good HOA Rule?” to learn if your community’s rules level up.

10 Best Practices for Creating an Architectural Review Application Form

A clear and comprehensive architectural review form will provide ARC members with the essential details they need to reach a timely decision. It also gives homeowners the opportunity to describe their intentions and understand what to expect from the process. Here are some things to consider when creating your architectural review application form.

Person typing on a laptop with one hand and holding papers with the other hand

1. Refer to your governing documents for any language necessary on the application form.

While using an HOA architectural review template can be a good place to start, you also want to make your application unique to your community. Review your governing documents to see if there’s required verbiage or specific instructions for your form.

2. Ensure the form requests basic (but necessary) information.

On the form, make sure you include fields for the basic information needed to process the request.  Your architectural review board application should include space for the resident to provide:

  • Homeowner contact information
  • The address of the property
  • A description of the proposed change
  • An anticipated start and end date of work

3. Include clear instructions.

The architectural review board also needs to provide clear instructions for homeowners filling out the application form. Use everyday language that’s easy for residents to understand and follow. After reading the instructions, homeowners should know exactly what steps to take to move forward with the application.

4. Provide checkboxes for simple information.

To keep the form clean and user-friendly, add checkboxes for universal change requests. That way, residents have a standard set of answers to choose from. General choices may include:

  • Painting
  • Adding a fence
  • Installing a satellite dish
  • Changes to landscaping

5. Have adequate space for homeowner submissions.

Because some change requests may be more complex, checkboxes might not cover everything. Make sure that your application form has reasonable space for residents to describe their goals for their property and any other details that’ll help with decision-making. This will keep the architectural review process on track. With the information on hand, you avoid having to go back and forth with the homeowner, which can be frustrating for everyone involved.

6. Ask for the name and contact information of contractors and architects.

In addition to a description of the project, ask for information about the contractor and architect involved. Then, contact them to verify their plans and confirm the details of the job.

Is your community partnered with the right contractors? Read “The Community Partners & Professional Service Providers Every Board Needs” to find out.

7. State where to find the architectural review guidelines in the governing documents.

It’s important to include instructions on where homeowners can find the architectural guidelines in the governing documents. That way, residents understand the limitations of their project and avoid purchasing costly materials that don’t align with the association’s rules. With this information, the homeowner is less likely to commit a violation and the community’s more likely to remain a pleasant and beautiful place to live.

8. Detail a timeline of when the homeowner can receive a decision.

Provide a general timeline of the approval process, including when homeowners can expect a response and final decision. And explain that some applications might take longer, depending on the extent of the project and if information is missing from the form.

9. Consider transitioning to digital architectural change request forms.

As digital communication becomes the preferred method for residents to connect with HOA leadership, it’s an ideal time to consider online applications for architectural modifications. Allowing homeowners to submit HOA architectural review board forms online can make it much more convenient and time-efficient in the long run.

10. Supply a checklist for completion of the form.

The architectural review board often requires a lot of information and supporting documents to complete the application. To help homeowners submit all the necessary details, consider adding a checklist to your architectural review packet. This allows residents to check off each step as they complete it and know when they’re ready to submit their application.

Man with pen in hand marking on a blueprint

How to Transform Your HOA’s Architectural Review

Is it time to update your HOA’s architectural review application? With tips from our ebook, "How to Transform Your HOA's Architectural Review," you can make positive and impactful changes that help homeowners and the architectural review board move through the application process effectively.