Can an HOA Restrict Your Architectural Decisions?

Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs) frequently use architectural review to keep a uniform look throughout the community and set standards for what structures or additions are permitted. The HOA will typically provide that members cannot build additions, fences, buildings, or anything else without receiving prior approval of the architectural review committee.

Architectural review litigation can occur when the member believes the HOA is unfairly or illegally preventing them from making an addition. Neighbors may also cause architectural review disputes if they are displeased with the architectural decisions of the other members of the community. While the HOA has wide authority to enforce its architectural standards, there are situations where members can fight back against the HOA restrictions.

For example, the CC&Rs need to be interpreted by the architectural review committee to determine whether a member is violating a community restriction. While a court will give deference to an HOA to draft its CC&Rs as it wishes, the court will not grant deference to the judgment of the architectural review committee. Johnson v. Pointe Cmty. Ass’n, 205 Ariz. 485, 489, 73 P.3d 616, 620(Ct. App. July 31, 2003).

In Johnson, the HOA had allowed a member of the community to have exposed electrical conduit lines and change the external appearance of their home by adding a stucco texture without seeking approval from the architectural review committee. The HOA did not take action to make the members comply with the CC&Rs, and the neighbors brought suit.

While the HOA believed it had discretion to enforce minor violations or choose not to, the court disagreed. The CC&R required members to obtain approval for any modifications that changed the exterior appearance of their home. The HOA did not have the authority to ignore the provisions of the CC&Rs.

Some architectural review decisions will be open to interpretation, and it may be difficult to get a court to second guess the HOA’s ruling. However, the HOA is bound by its governing documents. If the CC&Rs have not been followed, the HOA cannot use its discretion to claim that it can follow the rules at its own discretion.

Chernoff Law handles business and real estate litigation matters throughout Arizona. Contact us to discuss your case with an experienced real estate attorney.

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