One of the advantages of a homeowner association is to keep the hood looking good by enforcing architectural and design standards. These appearance standards are designed to protect the HOA members' property values. The theory is that if all homes follow the same basic theme, the average home buyer will be willing to pay more.

Non-HOA subdivisions have appearance standards too, but only a civil lawsuit can stop someone determined to violate them. Since most neighbors hate confrontation, appearance standards usually go by the wayside opening the door to the things like RVs parked along side the house, tarped classic cars and eye wincing paint colors. Thus, the need for appearance standards and the enforcement thereof.

The governing documents usually outline the appearance standards when they are very strict but often say little when they're not. They may define the standards but not the enforcement method. leaving the Board in an awkward position when confronted with multiple appearance challenges. This is a great topic for the Resolution Process. Resolutions are board policies that deal with complex issues like collection of money, pets, parking and appearance standards. Resolutions provide a framework to deal with them effectively. By the way, resolutions cannot amend or change the meaning of the governing documents, only expand on the authority. Amending the governing documents requires an appropriate vote of the homeowners.

After your Appearance Standards Resolution is drafted, ask your attorney to review it for compliance with statute and your governing documents. Then, allow the other owners to participate in the outcome. Once drafted, it should be circulated to all the owners for a 30 day review and comment period. The approval process shouldn't be rushed. Change is difficult for some.

A good way to broach the subject with the membership is to send out a newsletter discussing the reason why: to preserve property values. Consistent appearance standards are in everyone's best interests. Describe how, for example, junk vehicles, unkempt lawns, collapsing fences and weathered or outlandish paint colors drag property values down for everyone without naming names (Mrs. Lavendar Chartreuse, you know who you are). Encourage attendance to a special meeting to discuss the Appearance Standards Resolution.

After the new Appearance Standard Resolution is cussed, discussed, amended and approved, it's time to start enforcement. Select the closest equivalent you have to Henry Kissinger and a Mafia Hitman. If you have none of these, after appropriate written notifications, make good use of your attorney to turn up the heat. Never be guilty of selective enforcement. Treat everyone the same.

Appearances do count and it's up to the board to watch dog what happens in the community. Don't wake up one day and ask Where am I and why am I in this handbasket? Protect your HOA appearances by keeping the hood looking good.

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