Pro-Active or Reactive Architectural Review

Written by Posted On Friday, 21 December 2018 05:00

Question: I recently heard the terms "pro-active" and "reactive" as it applies to Architectural Review. Apparently, pro-active is when the community announces walk-throughs to look for problems, and reactive is when the community relies on reports by neighbors who see alleged violations. What are your views on "pro-active" enforcement?

Answer: Several years ago, I wrote a column and made reference to an Architectural Control committee which was called the "KGB" by its members. I was deluged by letters all over the country, asking me how I knew about their association.

I am opposed to the "pro-active" approach to architectural review. I have visions of men and women walking around the Association with their binoculars and clip-boards, marking down every real -- and sometimes imagined -- violation.

In my opinion -- whether legal or not -- it is not the way to treat your fellow homeowner. The Architectural Review committee serves a valuable function -- namely to assure compliance with the association documents, and to try to insure that all new structures (or installations) will comply with the guidelines within the association.

Additional, the committee should investigate complaints by neighbors, to determine if there are deviations from the standards.

However, in my opinion, the "pro-active" approach encourages neighbors to spy on one another. This is not the American way. Architectural committees have enough to do; they must establish -- with the Board's consent -- standards to be adopted within the community. They must review -- impartially -- all applications submitted by homeowners. And they must take (or recommend) action against owners who flaunt the rules.

But to wander unfettered through the community looking for rule infractions is, in my opinion, beyond the pale. If your association takes a "pro-active" approach, you may want to call a special meeting of the membership to determine if this is really the will of the majority. It is to be noted that in many situations, the committee is appointed -- not elected -- by the Board.

Architectural committees must be responsive to the owners; they should not be antagonistic to those owners.

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Benny L Kass

Author of the weekly Housing Counsel column with The Washington Post for nearly 30 years, Benny Kass is the senior partner with the Washington, DC law firm of KASS LEGAL GROUP, PLLC and a specialist in such real estate legal areas as commercial and residential financing, closings, foreclosures and workouts.

Mr. Kass is a Charter Member of the College of Community Association Attorneys, and has written extensively about community association issues. In addition, he is a life member of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. In this capacity, he has been involved in the development of almost all of the Commission’s real estate laws, including the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act which has been adopted in many states.

kasslegalgroup.com

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