Homeowner Association Architectural Review Standards

Homeowner Association Architectural Review Standards

Two of the bills signed into law this month by the Governor modify Florida Statute 720.3035 regulating architectural review. Because of these two pending changes to the law, homeowner’s associations should review their architectural review with their community association attorney.

House Bill 293, Hurricane Protections for Homeowners’ Associations, adds to Florida Statute 720.3035 a requirement for each homeowner’s association in the state to adopt hurricane protection specifications for every parcel governed by the association. While these types of legislative mandates are common in condominium law, this is the first such legislative mandate for homeowner’s associations. HB 293 purports to apply to every homeowner’s association in the state, no matter when the homeowner’s association was created, and it would become effective on the date it is signed by the governor.

HB 293 adds a new Section 6 to Florida Statute 720.3035, which would prohibit any architectural review committee from denying an application for installation of certain enumerated hurricane protection items by a parcel owner, if the application conforms to the specifications adopted by the association, and the unified building scheme of the community. Florida Statute 720.3035(6)(b). The term “unified building scheme” comes from the Fifth District Court of Appeals decision in Young v. Tortoise Island Homeowners, Inc.:

In the absence of an existing pattern or scheme of type of architecture which puts a prospective purchaser on notice that only one kind of style will be allowed, either in the recorded restrictions or de facto from the unified building scheme built on the subdivision, such a board does not have the power or discretion to impose only one style over another, based purely on ‘aesthetic concepts.’

Young v. Tortoise Island Homeowners, Inc., 511 So. 2d 381(Fla. 5th DCA 1987).

For the first time, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill to include the protection for the “unified building scheme” in Florida Statute 720.3035. But that protection would apply to the section of Florida Statute 720.3035(6) applicable to hurricane protection standards.

Among other changes, HB 1203 (still pending the Governor’s signature)_ provides that any architectural committee denial of a parcel owner’s request or application for the construction of a structure or other improvement on a parcel, must include written notice to the parcel owner stating with specificity the rule or covenant the committee relied on when denying the request, and the specific aspect of the proposal that does not conform to such rule or covenant. This new requirement, to include a specific document reference as justification for a denial, appears to disallow a denial based on the overall aesthetics of the community based on the unified building scheme, unless such protections for the unified building scheme are expressly stated in the association’s architectural review standards. An owner harmed by an unreasonable denial of an architectural application will be entitled to monetary damages, including attorney’s fees, under new Section 720.3035(4)(b).

If you are a homeowners’ association leader, you should review your architectural standards and review procedures with your legal counsel.

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