Architectural Review Committees: When Silence is Not Golden
Although summer is the most popular season for construction and it is quickly coming to a close (I am not ready to admit it's over), architectural review committees (“ARCs”) operate year-round to review and respond to architectural review committee applications. If you plan on serving on your association’s architectural review committee (sometimes called “architectural control committees” or “ACCs”), we have a couple of important tips to keep in mind.
As you may have noted, a common theme in our advice is to recommend you become familiar with your association’s governing documents. As an ARC member, you should pay particular attention to the section of your governing documents that sets forth the procedures, standards, and other relevant terms relating to the architectural and/or design review process in your association. If the applicable sections are voluminous, you may find it helpful to create a cheat sheet of the important terms to refer to as your committee reviews each application. What kind of important terms should you note? Although that will vary in each set of governing documents, the following are key items to keep an eye out for:
1. Procedures for the ARC, including whether the architectural review committee must respond to the submitted application within a specified time period; and
2. Substantive ARC guidelines, including the specific restrictions and standards that apply to your review of an application.
First, take a close look at the ARC’s procedures to confirm whether the ARC is required to respond to a submitted application within a specified number of days. Determine how to calculate the response time (review to determine whether it’s 10 calendar days or 10 business days, etc.). Next, confirm the ARC has procedures in place to provide a response within that time frame. If the association’s governing documents do not require a response within a specified number of days, then the ARC should endeavor to respond within a reasonable time.
Finally, carefully review the association’s governing documents to confirm the consequences for failing to respond within the specified time frame, such as the application being “deemed approved.” This could create a host of issues for the association. I am envisioning a certain college-football-addict friend of mine seizing the opportunity to paint his house gold. If your governing documents do not allow sufficient time to adequately consider an application or more information is needed, the applicant should be notified prior to the deadline that the application has been rejected until more information is obtained. . Although this seems overly bureaucratic, it helps avoid an owner’s assertion that the application was “deemed approved” and further, the inevitable battle when they start spraying that gold paint.
Standards and Restrictions
Second, you should take a close look at the specific standards and restrictions that apply to your community. Pay close attention whether the ARC guidelines are compulsory (look for the word “shall”) or give the committee discretion to approve certain acts (look for the word “may”). The restrictions vary significantly from community to community, but the general principle remains the same: If you reject an architectural review application, make sure to tie the basis for that rejection to the standards and restrictions in your governing documents and explain the basis for the rejection in the ARC’s application decision. When an applicant understands why the application was rejected, the applicant will have an understanding whether approval can be obtained with some changes.
As always, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.