metro Atlanta real estate
Search the entire internet   

Question: I live in a community association and am a member of the architectural control committee. We are unclear about the term "Architectural Guidelines"? Are such guidelines only for guidance? Do they have the same force as our legal documents? Is disregard of a guideline ipso facto a violation? How should guidelines be enacted? Answer: Has your committee been accused of being the KGB of your association? Unfortunately, many community association members believe that the architectural control committees are spies who are trying to uncover every single violation -- regardless of the scope or size of the issue. Most community associations throughout the country have some form of architectural review committee. Although the scope of these committees varies, the general theme is that in order to keep some semblance of uniformity and balance within the association, unit owners must receive advance approval from a committee before any exterior work is done. However, there are owners -- whether in a condominium or in a homeowner's association -- who believe that such control is not only unnecessary, but is an unlawful impingement on civil liberties. Many homeowners have also had negative experiences with their architectural control committees; we have all read of the cases where these committees acted arbitrarily and without any common sense. We have all heard about the Association that asked a homeowner to remove a statute of the Virgin Mary that was located in his front yard. We have all read about the struggles of patriotic Americans who want to fly the American flag and have been accused of violating the rules and regulations of the association. However, design review within an association has at least two purposes: to establish and preserve a harmonious design for a community and to protect the value of the property. When you buy into a community association, right or wrong, you must understand that you have opted for community living. Decisions cannot be unilaterally made, nor can the rules and regulations of the association be unilaterally ignored. One might disagree with the need for external uniformity, for example, but the fact remains that if the association documents require such external uniformity, that is the law of the association and is binding on its members. You should read your association documents carefully, to learn the scope and purpose of the architectural review committee. Indeed, you should have read this material before you decided to purchase into the community, and definitely before you became a member of the architectural control committee. Most legal documents require that before a homeowner can make any improvements or alterations to the outside of their home, the plans must be submitted to a committee -- which is generally referred to as the architectural control committee. This committee is charged with the responsibility of determining if the proposed plans comply with the legal requirements of the association. In order to avoid any confusion -- and to make sure that the committee is not acting on whim or emotion -- most associations have adopted guidelines. Sometimes these guidelines are quite specific -- for example the color of the paint that must be used, or the height of the fence. Other guidelines are rather general, and that is where the problems lie. A homeowner believes that he or she is in compliance with the general guidelines, while the committee takes the opposite position. These disputes -- if not resolved by negotiation or at the board of directors level -- unfortunately often lead to litigation. The area of architectural control is perhaps one of the most litigated issues involving community associations. Having discussed the function and purpose of architectural controls, however, boards of directors of community associations must also recognize that the architectural control committee cannot be a dictator, arbitrarily rendering decisions. The courts that have addressed these issues have made it clear that covenants are valid and enforceable provided there are clear policy guidelines establishing the overall standards. For example, it is not enough to say that owners may not make changes to the exterior without first obtaining the written approval of the board or the architectural control committee. If no specific guidelines have been developed, neither the unit owner nor the review board will have any objective standards by which to judge the proposed external change. And without such standards, even the most well-intentioned committee can be accused of being arbitrary and capricious. Boards of directors must establish fairly specific guidelines, and if those rules are not already in your association documents, they should be drafted and approved by a majority of the homeowners. Your committee also should be aware that the following will be valid defenses by a unit owner when the board tries to seek enforcement of the architectural standards: * Arbitrary and capricious actions have been taken. The architectural standards must be applied fairly and consistently, across the board and in good faith. They cannot be selectively enforced. It is improper for a board or its architectural review committee to pick and choose the enforcement of the covenants. * Delays, or "laches," have occurred. This means that the board has permitted a lengthy period of time to elapse before taking action against a unit owner. For example, one court has ruled that a board's six-month delay in filing suit against an unauthorized fence barred the board from enforcing the covenants. If a unit owner is in violation of the architectural standards, or at least the board believes there is a violation, the board must begin prompt action to assure compliance of the standards. * A waiver has been granted. Basically, if the board fails to enforce a covenant in the case of one homeowner in similar situations, it may be prohibited from enforcing the same standards against another homeowner. * Often, the association documents require that the committee make a decision within a specified period of time (for example 60 days from receiving the request) or the request "will be deemed to have been approved." Since you are on the committee, make sure that you read your documents and follow the language carefully. If you must act on an owner's request within 60 days, it is not acceptable to reject the owner on the 61st day. Because this is community living, there has to be a give and take not only by the homeowner, but by the board as well. All too often, architectural control boards have been accused of asserting dictatorial powers and have equated the committee with the KGB. According to one report, committee members were often seen "prowling around the neighborhood with their clip boards, looking for violations." Often, boards (or their architectural control committees) become obsessed with minor, petty violations and lose sight of reality and common sense. A considerable amount of money has been spent by both homeowners and boards of directors on litigation that should never have been brought. Boards must sit down with the homeowner who is alleged to have violated the architectural standards and try to work out an amicable resolution of the problem. In the final analysis, boards and their architectural control committees must be firm but must also be reasonable and flexible.

Naples, Florida, Hot Destination
Continues Sizzling Home Sales
"Naples continues to be a destination for tourists, retirement, and investment," says Realtor Dan Buckley. "Gorgeous sunsets, fine dining on 5th Ave South, the arts, golf, boating and beaches. Did I leave anything out? Experts continue to predict, 'The end is here, and the real estate bubble is about to burst.' Well, they have been writing and reporting that for the last 10 years or more. Sure, they will eventually get the downturn in the real estate market right somewhere in the country and say, 'I told you so!' But, southwest Florida relies on people that are looking for a vacation home, retirement home, or an investment property that they will rent and use themselves when they are ready for retirement."

Buckley explains, "We are now half way through 2005 and the real estate market in southwest Florida continues to be a seller's market. I do see a slow down in listings and a few price reductions, but for this time of year that is the norm. Many properties are resales from deals of a year or two ago and are now being sold. These properties are still a good value for the next owner even though the appreciation rate may not be as rapid as in the past two years."

Realtor Audrey Pullos says, "The city of Naples offers some of the finest homes in the world and lifestyles to match! Naples boasts of magnificent high-rises, quaint Old Florida cottages, and modern Mediterranean villas. Since Naples has been bestowed with the honors of being voted one the "Best Beaches" in 2005 to vacation and Naples Gulf & Beach Resort has been voted the number one place to vacation, people have been flocking to our shores. Hence our popularity is rising again, which in effect increases the demand for housing. Whether it is the baby boomers, seniors, or families purchasing a second vacation home, real estate is still a very hot and expensive in Naples.

She advises, "In fact, the latest numbers are in from the Florida's Realtor Boards/Associations for single-family existing home sales from March 2005. Naples has already seen a 19 percent change in their median sales price! Current single-family homes on the market today range anywhere from $500,000 to well over $22,000,000 depending on your location and lifestyle choices. A recent search on our multiple listing service also shows that condos and attached villas that are now available for sale range anywhere from the $170,000's to well over $11,000,000. Amazing! Also, with the low interest rates, and the savvy buyers who know how to purchase real estate with their self directed IRA's the purchase power and money is there and sales keep escalating."

"Naples has many things to offer people from all walks of life," Pullos adds. "You can enjoy the arts, culture, entertainment, the zoo, waterside dining and unique shopping & dining experiences along 5th Avenue and Third Street. Discover the "7" pristine beaches along with the "14" beautiful parks. In Naples, golf is a particular favorite with over 60 courses. Naples has the highest ratio of golf courses to golfers in the United States. Naples also has a progressive medical community featuring excellent healthcare facilities.Our schools are top notch in the community and many of our local sport teams win top awards. Once you come to Naples and enjoy the lifestyle you are hooked!"

Agrees Realtor Carol Wilsey, "This little southwest corner of Florida was known by only a fortunate few for a long time ... now, because of our closeness to the warm Gulf waters, constant balmy breezes, and multitude of wonderful golf course communities, the rest of the world has discovered us! Come see for yourself."

"Amazingly, even though "season" is coming to a close, the prices on all types of properties have not showed any sign of impending reductions," advises Wilsey. "And, there is still a tremendous shortage of available inventory to sell. This creates an almost frenzied atmosphere when a new property is listed at current market value. This past year, single family home prices have risen a whopping 28 percent in Naples, and between 15 and 20 percent in neighboring Bonita Springs and Estero. Now we are seeing even bigger jumps in prices. We all know that the market will need to slow down a bit, but when?"

cobbform210 | cobbform220 | cobbform230 | cobbform240 | cobbform250 | cobbform260 | cobbform270 |