July 2nd, 2019
Living in an HOA comes with many benefits and conveniences, including use of communal amenities like pools and tennis courts, and well-maintained outdoor spaces and roads. Since the HOA takes care of so many details, life can feel more hassle-free than living in an individual home. What HOAs don’t cover are maintenance, renovations, and repairs to a homeowner’s residence. When you want to fix up your home, it can be confusing about how to proceed. Do you need to hire a special contractor to perform the remodel or repair, or will any contractor do? Are there rules about what you can and can’t change about your property?
Before you get too far down the path with renovations and repairs, get clear on the right way to proceed. Here are 3 things to consider as you plan your home improvement project:
- Read and comply with your HOA governing documents
Every HOA has governing documents, which are often called Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions or CC&Rs. These are essentially the laws for your HOA. They describe what you can and cannot do inside your unit, and what you must do when undertaking projects. Requirements vary widely across HOAs, so it’s important to read the CC&Rs for your particular HOA. But in general, HOAs require notification about work you plan to complete. You might need to submit forms for approval before work starts, and prove that the vendors you’ve hired have the proper insurance and licensing. You may also be required to submit detailed project plans to your HOA for approval, especially when work may impact other units or areas of the HOA. Again, rules vary by HOA, so read the CC&Rs for your HOA.
Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission?” This adage might be useful in some areas of business or life, but it doesn’t apply to HOA home renovations. If you go ahead with a renovation without asking permission (i.e. checking to make sure your plans align with the rules of your HOA), you might be in for an expensive, stressful surprise. You’ll likely be forced to stop your non-compliant renovation or repair and in many cases, redo it completely. Avoid the hassle and unnecessary expense, and do it right the first time.
- Hire the right contractors
Once you understand what you can and cannot do in your HOA, the next step is hiring people to perform the work. Your HOA may be able to provide you with a list of contractors who are experienced in working in HOAs—maybe even yours—and are familiar with the guidelines. If these recommendations aren’t available, you may have to find the right contractors on your own. As you research possible contractors, look for people who:
- Are highly skilled and qualified. If your HOA’s CC&Rs require vendors to be licensed and have insurance, make sure your candidates meet these requirements.
- Are able to complete your project in a timely fashion and in compliance with your HOA guidelines.
- Are experienced in the type of project you’re planning. For example, if you want a bathroom remodel, choose someone who’s done dozens of successful remodels. You don’t want to be their first! Ideally, the person you choose also has some experience working in an HOA.
- Price their services fairly. A good way to get a sense of prices is to collect more than just one or two estimates.
Some people find their vendors via word of mouth, or by hiring a friend. Relying on personal connections can seem like a good idea, but can lead to more headaches than it’s worth. You need a highly qualified contractor who’s going to keep it professional. You can find qualified, impartial pros on websites like HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List, which only list high-quality contractors.
- Stay involved
You don’t want to micromanage the remodel or repair, but it is important to stay involved and aware of what’s going on. You don’t have to track every board that’s cut and every nail that’s hammered, but you should:
- Keep an eye on aspects of the project that could run afoul of HOA guidelines. You and your contractor should discuss these guidelines before work begins, to set the project up for success. But as work progresses, check in to make sure that the project is compliant. If there’s a slip-up, it’s often easier to fix it if you catch it early, versus noticing it after the project is done.
- Oversee the timeline, to ensure the schedule stays on track. If you see that the timeline is slipping, you can bring it up sooner rather than later.
- Make sure that neighbors aren’t being disrupted. It’s a good idea to check in with neighbors periodically, to ask if there are any issues (like after-hours power tool noise) that you need to address.
About JSP Properties
At JSP Properties, we’ve spent over 20 years honing our HOA property management expertise. We’ve witnessed all the missteps and mistakes that could possibly happen during an HOA home renovation! We’re so glad to use this knowledge to help you plan and pull off your HOA home improvement project without a hitch.
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Posted In: Home Improvements