QUESTION: Could you address the issue of exterior architectural control differences with a planned development and a condominium? For example: can an architectural committee specify the windows, garage doors and front doors used in an upgrade for townhouses?
ANSWER: Yes, it can. In planned developments, architectural committees have significant control over the exterior appearance of structures. Following is a description of the differing focus of of committees in condominium developments versus planned developments.
Condominiums. Condo architectural committees care about alterations inside your unit because everything surrounding your cube of air is owned in common. That means you cannot change the structure without first getting the association's permission. Alterations to plumbing and electrical lines are also restricted because they can dramatically affect neighboring units. Thus, it requires approval by the association.
Planned Developments. Planned developments are not interested in what you do inside your house. Instead, they care a great deal about exterior appearances. As a result, they regulate the color of paint you use, your fences, doors, windows, garage doors, landscaping, tree houses, and anything else that can be seen from the street or by your neighbors.
Hybrids. Townhouse developments can be a bit confusing. A townhouse is a form of construction not a form of ownership. Townhomes can be legally structured as condominiums or as planned developments. If structured as condominiums, homeowners might own air space or the entire structure depending on how it is defined. Similarly, maintenance might be defined narrowly or expansively. It is not uncommon for a homeowner to own the structure but the association to be in charge of painting and roof repairs.
Whether a townhouse is defined as a condominium or single family home, the exterior of the structure is controlled by the association. In all cases, the association can specify the type, color and quality of windows, garage doors and front doors used by homeowners when they upgrade.
Recommendation: If your association has not already done so, it should develop a maintenance chart in addition to clearly defined architectural standards so there is no confusion over what owners are responsible for and what they can and cannot do regarding improvements.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.