An association’s governing documents may require association approval before a member may make a physical improvement or modification to the member’s property or to common area. In such cases, the association adopts an architectural application and approval process for members to utilize, and to assist the association in administering its architectural standards. The responsibility for reviewing and approving or disapproving a member’s architectural application is commonly delegated to an architectural committee that is separate from the board.
When reviewing and approving or disapproving a member’s architectural application, the association must provide a “fair, reasonable and expeditious procedure for making its decision.” (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(1).) That procedure must:
- Be included in the association’s governing documents (i.e., in its CC&Rs or operating rules);
- Provide for prompt deadlines; and
- State the maximum time for the association to issue a response to the member’s architectural application or a request for the board to reconsider a disapproved application. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(1).)
The association must provide its members with annual notice of its architectural approval requirements. (See “Annual Policy Statement.”) The notice must describe the types of improvements/modifications that require association approval, and include a copy of the association’s architectural application and approval process. (Civ. Code § 4765(c).)
Any decision regarding a member’s architectural application must:
- Be made in good faith and not be unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(2); See also Cohen v. Kite Hill Community Assn. (1983) 142 Cal.App.3d 642.)
- Not be in conflict with any “governing provision of law” (e.g., Fair Employment and Housing Act, building codes, laws governing land use or public safety, etc.). (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(3).); and
- Be made in writing. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(4).)
If an application is disapproved (rejected), the written decision must include both an explanation of why the application was disapproved and a description of the procedure through which the member may request reconsideration of the decision by the board. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(4).)
Disapproval & Reconsideration (Appeal)
Where a member’s application is disapproved, the member is generally entitled to reconsideration by the board at an open meeting of the board. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(5).) However, if the initial disapproval of the application was made by the board “or a body that has the same membership as the board” at a duly held board meeting, no reconsideration is required. (Civ. Code § 4765(a)(5).)
Related Case Law
- Ironwood Owners Association IX v. Solomon
(1986) 178 Cal.App.3d 766
[Architectural Control; Enforcement] A HOA must show that it has followed its own standards and procedures when taking action to enforce violations of its governing documents.
- Cohen v. Kite Hill Community Association
(1983) 142 Cal.App.3d 642
[Architectural Control; Duty to Act in Good Faith] When exercising its architectural control authority, an association owes a fiduciary duty to its members to act in good faith, and to not make decisions that are arbitrary or capricious.
- Dolan-King v. Rancho Sante Fe Association
(2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 965
[Architectural Control; Judicial Deference] An association may grant discretionary authority to an Architectural Committee to apply subjective, aesthetic criteria for approving member applications for proposed architectural improvements.