Adams Stirling PLC


QUESTION: Our HOA requires homeowners receive approval from an architectural committee before painting their homes. The committee does not have any standards for reviewing paint colors. Can they deny a color simply because they don't like it?

ANSWER: Yes they can reject a paint color simply because they don't like it. That is precisely why an architectural committee exists--to make aesthetic decisions about what is appropriate for the community and what is not.

Another important function of the Association is to preserve the aesthetic quality and property values within the community. (Cohen v. Kite Hill.)

Maintaining a consistent and harmonious neighborhood character, one that is architecturally and artistically pleasing, confers a benefit on the homeowners by maintaining the value of their properties. (Dolan-King v. Rancho Santa Fe.)

Written Standards. Not having written standards, however, is a problem. It leads to discord and potential litigation because members jump to the conclusion that they are somehow being discriminated against if their request is denied. If the committee were to adopt written standards, applicants would know what colors to choose from and would submit a conforming color, thereby avoiding rejection.

Disapproval Requirements. Per the Davis-Stirling Act, any decision by the architectural committee must be in writing. If a proposed change is disapproved, the committee's decision must include both an explanation of why the proposed change is disapproved and a description of the procedure for reconsideration of the decision.

Changing Colors. If an architectural committee or board were to change the existing color scheme in the committee, another procedure needs to be followed. It's impossible to please everyone, especially when it comes to paint .color (or carpet, wallpaper, lobby furniture, etc'). Putting it to a vote of the members is the best way to.handle the situation.

Benefits of Owner Vote. If the board leaves the membership out of the decision-making process, unhappy owners would have a clear target, he board, and may threaten to sue or launch a recall. If the membership makes the selection, there is no one to recall. It also makes a lawsuit less likely since unhappy owners would have to sue the association as a whole and then try to convince a judge that the majority's decision should be reversed. I don't see that happening.

Voting Formalities. In this case, a membership vote does not require secret balloting, which is reserved for specific kinds of votes. It can be done electronically or by paper. If paper ballots are used, they can be signed or unsigned. Although not required, it's still a good idea to use an independent inspector of elections.

Recommendation: All associations should adopt clearly defined architectural standards. Once adopted, enforcement of those standards must be in good faith and not arbitrary or capricious.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC