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Is your house getting to the point that every time you pull into the driveway you think “we really need to paint” or “gee, a cactus design would look cute on the mailbox” or “is this my house”?

Before you trot down to the hardware store for supplies, you need to check if the changes you want to do to the exterior of your home are allowed by your Homeowners Association (HOA). If you don’t live in an HOA, check your neighborhood’s Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs – not Creedence Clearwater Revival). Every subdivision has them. CC&Rs are limits and rules placed on a group of homes or a condominium complex by a builder, developer, neighborhood association, or homeowners’ association.

The Difference Between A Subdivision and A Sub Association

Sonja Perez, Homeowner Liaison, CC&Rs/Code Enforcement with Scottsdale Ranch explains the difference. “For example, Scottsdale Ranch is a master association that directly oversees multiple subdivisions. Additionally within Scottsdale Ranch Master is 20 plus sub-associations that have their own board of directors made up of community volunteers, and vendors. Each are their own separate entity with their own articles of incorporation, bylaws, CC&Rs, and finances that are specific to that one community.”

Committees of the Association are established to assist the Board of Directors in studying an area of responsibility, obtaining information, evaluating requests, evaluating projects, furnishing recommendations for action, furnishing recommendations for Association policies and rules, and generally overseeing specific areas of the Association as assigned by the Board.

Whoa Nellie! Put Down That Paintbrush!

Now that we are clear how HOA’s work, what does that mean when you want to update or differentiate your home’s exterior?

As with Scottsdale Ranch, most HOA communities require approval from the board or architectural committee prior to beginning house painting or any other exterior changes. If you live in such a community, Perez suggests that projects be submitted two to three weeks in advance so it can be placed on the next meeting’s agenda. Check your HOA’s timeline in case they require an earlier submittal. In addition, some HOA’s provide a neighbor disclosure. This allows the surrounding neighbors to comment on the project and whether they have any objections.

“Any exterior change that can be seen from neighboring property, street or common areas, whether it be the front or back of the house needs to be submitted for approval,” said Perez. “Even if you are painting the exterior the same color it was painted 20 years ago, the color needs to be submitted because it may no longer be on the approved color pallet list.”

Many HOA’s enforce fines if projects are started without approval. A neighbor is always watching and will contact the HOA to ensure permission was granted. So, just take that step. Get it approved, avoid the fine, and most importantly don’t give that neighbor the pleasure of ratting you out.

“Not submitting projects for approval is one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make,” said Perez. “They don’t realize they need to submit their plans for review.”

Some items can be approved by the association’s executive director within a few days of submittal. However, it is not uncommon for homeowners to lack the information needed for their submittal, thus delaying the approval process. Review the committee’s project checklist before submitting a project for approval.

Another approval homeowners tend to fail to submit is on-site storage containers and dumpsters. “Often times, the association management is not aware of interior projects until they see or hear about the containers. (Uh, remember that neighbor?). While, interior projects do not need to be approved, anything that is going on or placed outside, even for the interim does need approval.

Suggestions To Update & Differentiate Your Exterior That Likely Need Approval

  • Accents – Stone Veneer, Fountains, Statues, Fireplaces, Benches
  • Additions
  • Boat Docks
  • Courtyard Walls
  • Dumpsters and Storage Units
  • Entry Doors
  • Garage Doors
  • Gates
  • Landscape – Turf, Plants, Rocks, Design
  • Lighting
  • Mailbox
  • Paint
  • Play Structures – Trampolines, Basketball Hoops, Swing Sets
  • Rain Gutters
  • Roof
  • Satellite Dishes
  • Security Shutters
  • Shade Structures – Awnings, Gazebos, Ramadas, Pergolas, Sun Shades
  • Sheds
  • Signs
  • Solar Panels
  • Stucco
  • Swimming Pool, Spa, Sauna
  • Walkways & Driveways
  • Windows
  • Wrought Iron Window Barriers

HOA’s do a wonderful job maintaining common areas and keeping the streets pristine. Make sure you have a current copy of your homeowner association’s guidelines. Download it from the community’s website or pick it up in the management office. Read it thoroughly. If you don’t understand or question something, contact the HOA’s management. Attend your HOA’s board meetings and stay informed.


Photo Credits:

  • Shutterstock


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