Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Architectural Control Committee – The HOA Nightmare

Tampa Bay, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD, 
Author: In Search of Robin

If you live in a condo or an HOA association-controlled apartment, residence or property, your most likely interaction will be with something called the architectural committee or its counterpart.
The architectural control committee is established in the association’s declarations or CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) and in Florida, it’s also authorized in the Florida statute 720.3035. So, it’s functions and actions are not only provided for in the condo association/HOA rules and regulations, they are also supported by Florida's state law.
Generally speaking, the people who migrate to the architectural control committee or its condo counterpart are those most interested in controlling the lives of the people that live in the condo or development, and they have a significant tendency to be those least easy to deal with.
An acquaintance of mine whose son was in his in the driveway of his recently purchased home in an association-controlled community, was rinsing off his car when he heard the clicking of a camera behind him. He turned around to see a somewhat angry looking lady standing in his yard, who identified herself as a member of the “Environmental Control Committee” taking pictures of his son and the car.
A few days later and envelope was found taped to the door with a $25 fine from the Environmental Control Committee since washing your car is illegal under the HOA rules. Obviously, a battle ensued; feelings were hurt, and my friend is looking for a new home.
For a more detailed look at the law supporting architectural control committee’s click this link .
Depending upon the provisions of the association’s governing documents, the architectural committee may be referred to as any of the following: Architectural Committee, Architectural Control Committee, Architectural Review Committee, Art Jury, Design Review Committee, Environmental Control Committee, Landscape Review Committee.
An architectural committee's authority and responsibility came from the Homeowners Association's bylaws also known as CC&Rs(Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions)
Members of the architectural committee are responsible for maintaining the aesthetic and structural integrity of the association and enforcing the CC&Rs.
They should be reviewing any applications for modifications, additions, or architectural changes in the community.

The architectural review committee is responsible for: 
  • Managing the change or modification application and approval process;
  • Monitoring the community for violations of standards;
  • Fairly enforcing standards set forth in the governing documents;
  • Making subjective and objective decisions about guideline compliance;
  • Making recommendations to the board of directors;
  • Reviewing guidelines for adequacy and proposing changes
  • Educating the community about set guidelines.
These committees operate under the guise of “protecting property values," “maintaining aesthetic consistency," “external conformity," but frequently it is all about power and imposing personal will than it is about property value or esthetic consistency.
Fighting with the Architectural Control Committee any of its iterations or the Association Board of Directors is usually a losing battle.
The courts have made it clear that HOA covenants are valid and enforceable provided there are clear policy guidelines establishing the overall standards and they are applied uniformly. Florida Statute 720 loads the game in the favor of the developers, lawyers and the feudal kingdoms they create.
Most year's minor tweaks in the Statute 720 are made by the legislature, but these changes are carefully watched over by the developers, lawyers and those that make significant money from litigation related to Statute 720 impositions.
It just seems unconscionable to me that the State would allow a situation where one of the conditions of purchasing real property could be the enforcement of an agreement that directly takes away rights guaranteed by our constitution.
It is way past time for the Florida Legislature to take a serious look at the requirements imposed by developers on their customers and make some changes that protect the buyer.
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