QUESTION: Our association has given the owners permission to build patio covers on our homes at our own expense. The only paint color that the association will allow on the patio covers is white.
I would prefer to have a natural wood finish, but the association will not approve anything other than white paint for the exterior since it can be seen by other owners.
Since I am paying for this improvement myself, can the association dictate the color?
ANSWER: Many associations have very strict control over any exterior improvements even if the owner is paying for the architectural change. Architectural controls vary from one association to the next. The requirements usually promote uniformity, quality standards and aesthetic factors that might affect the overall appeal of the neighborhood.
You can learn about the specifics of your association's architectural control by reading the governing documents of the association. The declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions will state the association's authority to adopt and enforce architectural guidelines.
Honor May Encourage Future Board Members
Q: I live in an 80-unit condominium. We just had our annual meeting. The manager presented engraved plaques to the board members in recognition of their service to the association. I'd like to know how much of our money was spent on this big show. We could use the money for better purposes.
When I asked the manager how much the plaques cost, she avoided the question. Do I have the right to a straight answer?
A: I'm usually in favor of homeowner's rights, but if your purpose is to embarrass or criticize the board or the manager for the recognition that was given, I hope you will change your mind. Those plaques are more than a "thank you" to the board members. They are an investment to encourage more volunteers in your association.
You must not have served on the board yourself. Board members are volunteers who often give a lot of their time without getting any thanks. Criticism, on the other hand, can be unbearable when the assessments have to be increased or major repairs require a special assessment.
Sometimes, owners are inconsiderate or unreasonable. I often hear of board members getting nasty phone calls about a rule violation or a mechanical problem that needs repair.
When I was president of my homeowner association, I received a phone call at 10 o'clock one evening. I didn't know the irate homeowner who was loudly complaining about an 18-wheeler with its noisy motor running. I asked her what she wanted me to do. She expected me to get "that thing" out from in front of her house immediately.
The fact that I didn't have a trucker's license and the truck was parked on a public street had no bearing on the matter. She demanded that I find the driver and make him move the truck. I declined as politely as possible. I was surprised that she didn't start a board recall effort the next day.
Positive reinforcement of volunteers is good for everyone in the association. Board members should retire after a couple of terms, and fresh recruits must be brought in to fill the vacancies. The board and the manager know that recognition may encourage others to participate on the board and committees of your association. Recognition of volunteers is a healthy sign that your association is on the right track.
Hickenbottom is a past president of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Community Assns. Institute, a national nonprofit research and educational organization. She welcomes readers' questions but cannot answer them individually. Readers with questions or comments can write to her in care of "Condo Q&A," Box 5068, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360.