Mr. Richardson: Help! During a monthly meeting, I presented a petition signed by many homeowners concerning the color that they were going to paint the complex – we wanted a newer look. They wouldn’t consider the petition, saying that the subject had already been decided. Shouldn’t the board take into consideration what a goodly number of owners want?
Dear Kelly: In my complex, we’ve had the same color of exterior paint for all the years the complex has existed. Our board is proposing/attempting to change the color. Can the board to do that without input from the homeowners?
Dear T.W. and M.S.:
On the question of whether a board must seek member input on keeping or changing the color scheme there is a “yes and no” answer. Normally, decisions about maintaining the association property are made by the HOA board of directors. Those decisions can occasionally be limited by the HOA governing documents, such as if a rule specifies the approved exterior building colors. Without some other specific restriction in the governing documents limiting board discretion regarding colors, technically, yes, the board could make the decision without seeking member input.
However, even if a board is not required to present the issue to the community for member input, it should do so. If the board abruptly decides to completely change the HOA’s color scheme, it could be very upsetting to the membership and result in bad feelings against the board and even association upheaval. There are times when a board should pause and take time to present its plans to the community before forging ahead, and this is certainly one of them.
The board’s most basic duties are to protect, preserve, and maintain the HOA property. However, boards are not required to improve the property. Making a major change to the colors could be controversial – and that will be learned through presenting the idea to the members and listening.
So, “must,” no, but “should,” yes.
Kelly: My HOA approved a certain trim color on my house approximately 20 years ago. In the meantime the color faded and I recently repainted the house and the trim came out a little brighter. Although some neighbors complimented me on the paint, one person mentioned his distaste in an insulting and hostile anonymous letter to me. I have unsuccessfully asked the HOA for copies of any complaints for the sake of verifying that these people are actual members. Should I be bullied by some unidentified coward?
M.G., Anaheim Hills
Since the HOA approved your trim color change, this means the HOA approved your paint color, and so long as you stay within the scope of that approval you are complying with your association architectural standards. Some HOAs have rules requiring disclosure to neighbors in advance of esthetic changes to a residence, but your does not. A neighbor’s complaint letter is not a document that you have a right to see. In my experience, you probably don’t want to see it – it will just be upsetting. The neighbor has a right to their opinion, but so long as you stay within the HOA’s approval, it is just that – an opinion.
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com. Past columns at www.HOAHomefront.com. All rights reserved®.