Arguably the most important governing body within an HOA, the Architectural Review Board, or the Arch Review, is responsible for the uniformity and exterior quality of the association it presides over. While this can feel like a fairly simple entity to understand, the value of the Arch Review and the quality with which it operates can easily be mismanaged or undervalued under the wrong circumstances.
Part of what makes Arch Reviews valuable to HOA’s is their ability to function at a very consistent and easy-to-understand level so that homeowners applying to make changes to their home feel as though they fully comprehend the process. In contrast, those in charge of the review feel they can operate under an agreed-upon standard of rules. In other words, HOA’s need to understand how to manage their Arch Reviews, building them up to function properly within the community.
Below is a simple guide to help board members and management companies organize and manage their communities’ Arch Reviews to function at the highest level possible while breaking down the best practices both in handling homeowners’ requests as well as protecting the standard of the HOA as well.
1. Establish who exactly will be on the Arch Review Board
There’s very little in participating in an HOA board position that can be classified as easy. With that, what can make board members and management companies’ jobs harder is a disorganized approach to establishing an Arch Review board. In other words, the Arch Review needs to have an established group of individuals that know exactly what their duties are, and that is often found completely separate from the main HOA board of directors.
That means that HOA board members need to look to either appoint the Arch Review duties to other community members or designate those duties to those within the main HOA board that can maintain dual roles. More often than not, those duties should be appointed to others outside the board and to those who have a clear understanding of the Arch Review’s purpose. One of the biggest missteps an HOA governing body can make is implementing an incomplete or non-cohesive Arch Review that residents can’t definitively understand who and what it’s made up of.
2. Establish the Arch Review’s responsibilities to the community
It isn’t enough for the Arch Review board members to understand the purpose and responsibilities of the board. Homeowners also need to understand, in plain language, what exactly is the Arch Review’s purpose. This can be as simple as a community news bulletin or newsletter outlining the Arch Review’s duties or an online portal for residents to understand better the Arch Review application process (more below). Regardless of the particular tactics a respective HOA implements, the easiest way to mismanage an HOA Arch Review is to make it overly complex and ill-defined to the homeowners who will be utilizing it.
3. Create a consistent and accessible Arch Review process
Homeowners who might be looking to apply for renovations to their house are already under enough stress as it is. Allowing the Arch Review application process to become confusing and bogged down with paperwork can make it even worse. To avoid that, the Arch Review application process needs to follow consistently yet easy-to-follow guidelines. This means homeowners know exactly where to go to apply, where they can access the HOA CC&R’s that might pertain to HOA building and renovations guidelines, what information they’ll need to complete the application, and how long it will take the board to review their application once submitted.
Implementing this consistency also removes the headaches that a confusing application process can cause for the Arch Review board members. That is why the board should be looking to implement digital application processes that make providing the proper forms and obtaining those forms in the homeowner’s case extremely easy. Apps like TownSq that aim to consolidate these processes and structures into one streamlined location for the entire community are the perfect investment for correctly managing these applications.
4. Be ready to respond to homeowners
It’s scarce for the Arch Review process to carry on without the homeowners bringing up additional questions. Whether those questions are in regards to what actual renovations a homeowner can make based on the established HOA CC&R’s, or if those questions are in response to application denial, the effectiveness of an Arch Review stems from its ability to provide answers quickly and efficiently.
Given that the HOA CC&R’s and the Arch Review itself are not uncomplicated, Arch Review board members need to know how to respond to homeowner inquiries and concerns in a language they can fully understand. Homeowners need to know specifically what qualifications they will need to meet to renovate their homes and know how to meet those qualifications without being experts on the HOA regulatory structure. Arch Review boards that can bridge this gap and make the process between application and completion easier for homeowners are often the most successful.
5. Maintain the HOA’s established quality
The key to maintaining the look and feel of an HOA community is the establishment of the architectural review committee under the HOA Board. Providing residents with the best possible roadmap and qualifications to successfully apply for home renovations is essential in order to keep the community’s best interests intact. In other words, the upgrades to one particular home, or public amenity, should not degrade the overall quality and consistency your HOA is trying to provide for the entire community.
This is why the other established guidelines can remain so compelling. Providing a straightforward application process and a comprehensive decision process can allow Arch Review members to make consistently good decisions for the HOA. An unorganized Arch Review that contains members with ill-defined roles and poor communication with homeowners will undoubtedly create an atmosphere that diminishes the quality of the HOA and the relationship the board has with the residents it presides over.
Interested in learning how TownSq’s Architectural Request feature can help simplify the arch review process? Request a demo today!