HOA Require Aesthetic Changes

Aesthetic Changes: Can a homeowners association force me to replace a perfectly good roof because they want me to upgrade to their new favorite roof style of shingles? 

By Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Can HOA Require Aesthetic Changes?

Q: Where can I find information about homeowners association powers? Can a homeowners association force me to replace a perfectly good roof. Because they want me to upgrade to their new favorite roof style of shingles? 

It is my responsibility to repair the roof. But having me pay more than $10,000 for a new roof simply because they have changed their aesthetics seems ridiculous. I am sure this sort of thing was not addressed in the documents I signed when I bought the townhouse.

Start with Reviewing Documents for Homeowners Association

A: We agree. It seems quite odd (not to mention wasteful) that a homeowners association would require owners to replace their roofs solely for aesthetic reasons. 

Start your search for information with a reading of the governing documents for your homeowners association. Those documents assign the rights to the association’s managers to operate the homeowners association. And to set up rules and regulations for all of the owners in the association.

Condominium Association and Homeowners Association

We do want to distinguish between condominium associations and homeowners associations. In many condominium associations, the structures are maintained by the association. The association has the right to make improvements to the buildings on behalf of all of the owners.

In an association of single family homes or townhomes, the association may set rules and regulations regarding the aesthetics of the association for future construction and for the upkeep of lawns. What we don’t know is which part of your association documents gives the association the right to require owners to make changes to their homes when those homes are not in need of repair.

We can imagine situations where a homeowners association could require structural changes to homes for safety reasons. Let’s say you live in an area prone to fires. And, your homeowners association wanted to make changes to protect all homeowners from fires that could potentially destroy the entire community. Changing roof files to those that offer greater protection from fires might be a smart move for the entire association. Life, health and safety changes might be well within the charter of the association.

HOA Documents and Aesthetic Changes

But what about aesthetics? If the association has the power to compel change for aesthetic purposes. It should be spelled out in the association’s governing documents. If the board of managers has that specific right. You might have no choice other than to write a check and comply. But if they don’t? Feel free to point that out.

Association’s New Requirements Moving Forward

The association board can insist that all roof replacements going forward must abide by the association’s new requirements. That’s likely within their rights. They can also pass rules relating to the choice of paint colors, type of exterior improvements, the height and size of fences, the locations of landscaping, the manner in which homes must be maintained, among many other matters. 

Assuming the board’s requirement is solely for aesthetic purposes. We’d hope they would recognize the costs involved. Allowing homeowners to phase in the change as roofs need replacement. We understand it might take quite some time (five, 10 or even 15 years) for the change to take place. But when it comes to a significant expense. It feels wrong to compel homeowners to make a change that isn’t needed today.

Local Real Estate Attorney Could Help Provide Clarity

If the documentation is inscrutable. You might have to hire a local real estate attorney with experience with associations. They can provide clarity and insight as to your legal (and other) options.

©2022 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin.