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What you need to know about home renovations if you live in a HOA neighborhood
Looking to renovate your house or condo? Make sure you get approval from the homeowner's association before starting your remodel.
While living in a community that’s run by a homeowner’s association can have its benefits, it can also make some aspects of property ownership a little confusing. If you want to renovate your house or condo, you’ll likely need to get approval from your homeowner’s association before you start swinging a hammer.
But, what sort of approval do you need and what can you do to get the remodel underway?
Renovating a property that’s part of a HOA
The process of renovating can be a stressful and time-consuming project, but it can become even more complicated when you have to get permission for a renovation in a property that you own. On top of that, as a good neighbor, you should take into account the needs and complaints of those living next to you.
Generally, in you live in a condominium, you own the inside of a condo, but not the structure of the building. This means that the outer walls, ceiling, roof and floor are all common property, but the internal walls, carpet, bathtubs, countertops and other fixtures are all owned by you.
Here are some differences between what’s usually classified as either individual or common property.
|Individual property||Common property|
What renovations require HOA approval?
Any renovations to common walls, floors, ceilings or other common property will require HOA approval. At the same time, you may also need approval when you want to renovate property that you own. For example, replacing bathroom tiles could potentially affect the waterproofing of your bathroom and have flooding implications for people in other units, so you may need the HOA to give you the green light.
|Renovations that need HOA approval||Renovations that typically don’t require HOA approval|
You’ll need to hire a licensed tradesperson for electrical and plumbing work. Similarly, if you plan to make any adjustments to load-bearing walls in your home, you’ll likely need to enlist a structural engineer.
HOA approval is required because the work could affect the appearance of the building or neighborhood. Before you start drawing up plans for your renovation, take a look at the CC&R.
What is a CC&R?
Covenants, conditions and restrictions are general guidelines set in place by a homeowner’s association. Think of the CC&R as a neighborhood handbook of what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. Some common regulations that a HOA would list in its CC&R could deal with:
- Paint color
- Outdoor decorations
- Noise levels
If you don’t cooperate with the CC&R, the HOA can either fine you, force you to make the necessary changes or file a lawsuit against you for breaking the contract.
How to get approval from your HOA to remodel
The approval process varies by homeowner’s association, but you’ll likely have to fill out an application that details the plan of your renovation or remodel. Depending on the type and scope of your project, you may want to hire an architect or skilled general contractor to start working on preliminary drawings. Having an expert on board can strengthen your chances of approval — it may even be essential in some cases — but don’t pay to get detailed plans drawn up until you’ve obtained full approval.
Preparation is key here and it’s important to provide as much information as possible, including:
- The type of work and if it will affect common property
- The timeline of the renovations
- If common areas will be used during the renovation and for how long
The more information you can provide, the better your chances of getting approval.
Discussing all the details of the renovation with the owners of properties connecting to yours is a common courtesy that you’d appreciate if it were you on the other end. By keeping your neighbors fully informed of your plans, they likely won’t complain about a renovation starting out of the blue.
What happens once I get renovation approval from my HOA?
Even if approval is granted, keep in mind that the HOA may also attach certain conditions. These could concern:
- Types of material that can be used in the renovation
- Hours during which work can take place
- Licenses required by contractors and tradespeople
- Keeping the work area contained from common areas
Know that there aren’t any universal HOA rules set in stone, so it’s best to talk to the correct people when trying to figure out what the renovation do’s and don’ts are in your neighborhood.
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However, if your next renovation is a minor one and a personal loan seems like overkill, you could always apply for a low or 0% interest credit card to give you the flexibility of paying for your renovation now and settling the credit card bill later.
Tips for renovating a HOA property
- Read the CC&R. Make sure to read the CC&R in full and find out what’s classified as common property and what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to renovations.
- Don’t start without approval. Never start work without getting the go-ahead from the HOA. Failing to follow the correct process could result in some hefty fines. Even worse, you may be forced to reverse the renovation to get the apartment back to how it was before work began.
- Get it in writing. Once you receive the appropriate approval, make sure to get it in writing. Having it in writing can protect you in the case that any problems or disputes arise in future.
- Be patient. The process can be slow because the HOA has a responsibility to ensure that the rights of all property owners will be looked after. Allow a month or two for the process to run its course, but remember that the larger and more complex your renovation project, the longer approval will take.
- Don’t forget about township approval and permits. Anything more complex than cosmetic changes may require approval from your township as well. Check with your township committee if there’s anything you need to take care of on their end before starting your remodel.
- Be considerate. The contractors and other workers you use to complete your renovation project need to be respectful towards other residents of the building. This means obeying all noise restrictions, keeping common areas tidy and generally being thoughtful of other residents at all times. If they’re not working in a manner that’s professional, your neighbors could present some obstacles that could slow down or prevent your renovation from being completed.
Make sure you’re aware exactly what sort of approval is required and how to get the thumbs up before you start work on your home renovation. Generally speaking, if you’re doing anything other than making a minor cosmetic change, you should run it by your HOA first to avoid a potential problem in the future.
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