Buying a home in a neighborhood that’s governed by a homeowners association (HOA) means that you’ll need to pay strict attention to the rules and regulations that the association requires homeowners to adhere to. When you purchase a home, you’ll likely want to make changes to it over the years. Renovations can significantly increase a home’s value as well as the comfort you get out of the property.
If your home is situated in an HOA neighborhood, you’ll be tasked with obtaining approval from the HOA before you can move forward on the project. Getting HOA approval is challenging, which is why you should be cautious when attempting to do so. If you want to keep frustration and headaches at bay, you should know how to obtain HOA approval for your next renovation. This guide offers some helpful tips and suggestions on seeking approval.
What is the HOA?
An HOA is a type of non-profit organization comprised of volunteers as well as a governing body that’s in charge of creating and enforcing various rules for a planned unit development, subdivision of homes, or condominium complex.
When you decide to buy a home in an HOA, you’ll immediately become a member of the association and be tasked with paying monthly or annual dues. You will also be given the opportunity to put your vote in for the board of directors.
The people who make up the board of directors will oversee all of the day-to-day responsibilities, which include everything from collecting fees to enforcing the rules. Members can volunteer as assistants to the board of directors and take part in some planned activities during the year.
The Importance of HOA Approval
Any repair or renovation you want to perform on the exteriors or interiors of your home must first be approved by the HOA. The HOA believes that every member of the planned development is affected by these changes. If you want to obtain approval, you must submit an application for the renovation that you’d like to perform. The board will then review your proposed renovation to make sure that it adheres to all governing documents.
Even if the board approves the renovation, they will help the homeowner complete the project without breaking any of the rules. While you might want to go forward with renovations instead of sending in an application, the board can stop progress and task you with redoing everything even after you’ve finished the project. Keep in mind that the HOA can require you to get rid of the changes you’ve made even if these changes don’t break any rules. Approval must always be obtained beforehand.
HOA Renovation Rules
There are four HOA rules that must be considered for any renovation.
1. Set Time Limits
Surrounding residents can become frustrated if they wake up early each morning because of the sound of ongoing construction work. The same is true if this work is being done throughout the evening hours, which is when many homeowners are attempting to relax after a long day at work.
It’s likely that your HOA will set specific times of the day and week when you can perform construction for your renovations. In most cases, construction can’t begin before 9:00AM and must conclude by 5:00PM. With this approach, the majority of residents will be at school or work while you’re performing your renovations. There’s also a good chance that the HOA will prohibit construction on the weekend.
2. Require Daily Clean Up
The HOA rules and regulations will likely require you and the construction crew you’ve hired to clean up the worksite at the end of every day, which ensures that the surrounding area maintains a good curb appeal even during renovations. This rule also helps prevent serious injuries.
3. Set Duration Limits
Even if your HOA approves the renovation that you’d like to perform, you won’t have an unlimited amount of time to complete the project. No HOA wants a home in the subdivision to be in a constant state of disrepair. The time limit that’s set by the HOA depends on the scope of the project.
4. Make a Plan for Enforcement
Unless an HOA is new, it will likely have guidelines in place that give instructions on how to enforce the HOA rules. Any infringements of these rules will result in consequences. You’ll first receive a written letter that warns you of the violation. The HOA could eventually enter your home to get rid of the renovations if you continue to disregard the rules.
Which Renovations Need HOA Approval?
You’ll typically need to seek approval from the HOA when you want to complete projects like:
- Adding or rewiring electrical components
- Replacing flooring materials
- Performing structural changes, which include kitchen renovations and load-bearing wall removal
- Relocating or adding plumbing
- Making renovations or repairs to the exterior of your home
Some of the projects you can complete without HOA approval include:
- Changing light fixtures
- Replacing the interior paint or wallpaper
- Making changes to kitchen counters, sinks, and appliances
- Performing bathroom remodels
For landscaping, your need for approval depends on if the work will be visible above your fence line. If it will, approval is likely required. Keep in mind that the above information should only be used as general guidelines. Every HOA can have different rules on which projects require approval. Make sure that you find out what these rules are before you go forward with the renovation.
How to Get HOA Approval
Every HOA is different, which means that the approval process can also be different. In most cases, an HOA will require homeowners to submit project forms or a project proposal that contains every detail surrounding the renovation. At this point, the board could ask that you provide a timeline and completion date.
The board will then take some time to review all of the documents you’ve submitted, which will form the basis for their final decision. In the event that your project request is denied, you could ask if it’s possible for you to change some of the details to better adhere to the HOA rules and governing documents. Once the board provides approval, you can likely start the project immediately.
5 Tips for Getting HOA Approval
At Crest, we have five tips you can follow to improve your odds of obtaining HOA approval, which include everything from reviewing the HOA covenants to speaking with your neighborhood’s property manager.
1. Review Your Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions
Begin by obtaining a copy of the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CCRs) that your HOA abides by. This document was likely provided to you when you closed on the purchase of your home. You don’t need to read the whole thing. Instead, focus on the rules about property restrictions. The HOA CCRs should provide you with guidelines on the materials and colors that are acceptable in the community.
2. Speak with Your Neighborhood’s Property Manager
Keep in mind that revisions can be made to CCRs, which is why you should ask your HOA if anything has changed since you’ve moved in. Your neighborhood’s property management company will be able to give you this information. Ask them how long it will take for your project to obtain approval and what documents need to be filled out with your application.
3. Going Without Guidance
If you find that your specific neighborhood doesn’t have colors or materials that are pre-approved, you’ll be able to make your own decisions, after which you should seek approval. Your best chance of obtaining approval in this scenario is to select colors and materials that are true to your personality but aren’t too different than the standard ones throughout the neighborhood.
4. Add Time for the Approval Process
It could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to obtain approval for your renovation’s design and color choices. You won’t be able to choose what renovation you’re going to make one day and then begin the project the next. Regardless of how small the change is, you should allow a reasonable amount of time to pass for the HOA to review your plans.
5. Build Your Case
You might discover that the architectural review board within your HOA doesn’t have much understanding of interior/exterior design and will only approve renovations that don’t change much of anything. If you believe that your colors or materials should be accepted, you should take some time to build your case and make a compelling argument.
The most effective method of convincing the architectural review board that your renovation ideas are the way to go is by showing as opposed to telling. Use drawings, samples, and photos to help these individuals visualize what the end results will be.
Seeking HOA approval for your home renovations doesn’t need to be a time-consuming endeavor. When you follow all of the HOA rules and regulations, you should be able to avoid putting yourself in a situation where your application is denied. While you could still obtain approval by making changes to your renovation plans, you’ll be able to get started on development sooner rather than later by getting it right the first time.
Jason Somers, President & Founder of Crest Real Estate
With over 15 years of professional experience in the Los Angeles luxury real estate market, Jason Somers has the background, judgement and track record to provide an unparalleled level of real estate services. His widespread knowledge helps clients identify and acquire income producing properties and value-ad development opportunities.