For homeowners who belong to an HOA, making updates to your home can be a big deal. Even a simple front door replacement can violate the rules of a homeowners association, so we’ve collected some tips on how you can keep you home up to date without accruing fines or fees for violating neighborhood bylaws.
A typical HOA requires approval to make changes to exterior walls, the structure of the building, or aesthetic alterations to the exterior. Windows and entryway doors, by their very nature, fall into this category. So while you may be fed up with a small, drafty casement window that you wish were a bay window, you will need to submit your project to the HOA before proceeding with an update.
PRO TIP #1
One Exception: In the case of damaged or rotted window casement, you may not need approval to repair the trim work on door and window casings. But to be safe, carefully read the by-laws and requirements; we recommend always formally notifying your HOA of work on your home to be safe.
PRO TIP #2
Use an Approved Vendor: Each HOA has a short list of local companies they prefer to work with. When submitting your project for approval, including an approved vendor as part of your request can improve your chances of approval. The HOA has an existing relationship with the company, and the vendor has experience and prior knowledge of the rules and requirements of your particular neighborhood.
FAQs about Renovations and your HOA:
Why do I have to get HOA approval before fixing or replacing an entry door or window?
When you purchase a condo or home within an homeowners association, you agree to follow covenants, conditions and restrictions, and these CC&Rs become legally binding. These CC&Rs typically cover common responsibilities, resident behavior, and architecture/structural state of the development.
Do I need a city permit AND an HOA approval for a window replacement project?
You will to seek HOA approval for exterior projects, and in most cases, your municipality will also require a permit for renovations on exterior projects as well. You can check the zoning and permitting requirements of your town within Chittenden County here.
What if I submitted a written request for approval but need new windows ASAP?
Some HOA boards meet infrequently, as rarely as twice a year in some cases. The penalties for failing to follow the rules and wait for approval will be spelled out in your HOA bylaws. A homeowner who makes an update to the exterior of the home without prior approval might be subject to penalties and fees, on a one-time or recurring basis. Your best bet is to reach out to a board member directly, to get advice on how to proceed, and learn when you can expect the next board meeting.
How can I change my HOA’s decision about my renovation project?
If your initial home improvement request did not get approval, you have three courses of action you can take to try and change the decision.
- Make a written request for a variance. This is typically a standard form included in your CC&R documents. Filing a variance is basically like asking to be the exception to the rule, and will have to be approved by the board, and sometimes the property management company as well.
- Propose a compromise. If your request for a a new entry door was denied, perhaps a door more similar to the existing door would be approved by the HOA.
- Join the board. Through active participation, you can make a difference in your neighborhood and your home. While this is not a quick fix, it’s your best option if you’re looking to make a large-scale change that could improve more homes than just yours.
Always check with your HOA before making exterior improvements to your home. Avoid fees or fines by adhering to the bylaws. If you don’t receive approval, file a variance or join the board to affect change in your home and neighborhood. And always check with your HOA to ensure you’re working with an approved vendor to make updates and improvements on your home.