How to Get HOA Approval for Your House Painting Project
Before making changes to your home's exterior, contact your HOA to see if your exterior paint choices fall within allowable guidelines. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Robert O.)
Most homeowners associations, or HOAs, are wonderful to work with. Occasionally, you do get some that are more difficult, take their time getting back to you or are very strict in its approval process for house painting.
Why HOA approval is important
One of our customers this summer had his HOA approach him after we painted his home's exterior. They told him he hadn’t received written approval he needed to paint his home and that a design review committee would have to approve the new paint color. Our customer told the HOA he didn’t know about the approval process, wasn’t going to change the color and couldn’t afford the expense of repainting his home again.
The customer had just purchased the home and told his HOA he wasn’t too concerned with their threat to place a lien on his home. His logic was that he didn’t plan to sell his home within the next eight years. So if they put a lien on his home, by the time he decided to sell, it would be due for a new paint job anyway.
I experienced the potential hassle of dealing with an HOA firsthand when it came time to paint my home’s exterior this past fall. Let me tell you, it could have been a real nightmare — if we didn’t have our ducks in a row.
I contacted my HOA in the early summer and explained we wanted to paint our home exterior by early fall. They directed me to the HOA website, where I was supposed to print out a form and list my color choices with the paint swatches attached to it. Once I filled out and returned the form, it would go to the HOA board for approval. When I submitted the form, including mailing the original and making a duplicate of it, I explained in detail the paint color, manufacturer, product quality, sheen and the location that each color would be applied.
Several weeks later, they mailed an approval form from one of the HOA board members. A few weeks later, we repainted our home. Within a week we received a notice stating we did not get proper approval from the HOA and would be fined. The HOA also stated we would need to resubmit the paint colors to be approved.
After further review, they decided I was not in the wrong and the threat of a fine was lifted. I’m not sure where the communication breakdown occurred, but I was glad I went through the proper channels, kept copies, and had a copy of the HOA board member’s approval!
Taking the right steps to get HOA approval
First, if you’re like me, you’ll need to hunt down your monthly bill from the HOA and contact the property management company that handles maintenance in your HOA community. Call them and explain your painting project. Ask the proper protocol for approval and how long the process will take. Also, be sure to ask them to direct you to the HOA’s website or send you the forms needed for the approval process. You should see if they need paint color samples on paper in addition to the paint color names. It’s also good to ask if paint color samples you’ve chosen need to be applied to the home or not.
I’ve found it can take a couple of weeks to a month or two to get your color selection approved, depending on how busy and well-staffed the property management company is. The approval process can also depend on if the colors you’ve selected match the colors currently on your home currently, if the colors come from a palette of HOA-approved colors, the colors of your neighbors’ homes, and if the colors you’ve selected match the HOA’s plans for the neighborhood. I’ve seen instances where customers choose a color they love, but the HOA feels the color looks too similar to a neighbor’s house.
Some HOAs have little to no guidance to adhere to. In these cases, I often suggest color schemes to our clients that likely won’t upset the neighborhood, avoiding choices that are too bold or too similar to a neighbor’s home. Some folks who may have moved from a beautiful Victorian home with a multitude of bright colors may need to be coached that their color selection for their current home won’t fit in with the earth tones of their new neighborhood.
Selecting the right paint colors
As part of our painting company’s service, we like to find out the HOA’s requirements and provide free color consultations. We typically look at the color of the roof, accents near the home, as well as the ideas the customer has in mind. We then look at a variety of paint manufacturer color palettes and samples from their color fan decks to select a paint color. Sometimes, the paint color selection process also entails taking the customer on a tour of homes in the area or viewing a portfolio of painted homes to help steer the customer in the right direction.
Once we narrow the color schemes down, we like to place samples on the home to see how the customer likes them. When we’re both certain of the color selection, we have the customer submit the colors to their HOA for review and approval.
It’s really a rather simple process — especially when you consider our average paint job in Colorado lasts about eight to 10 years.
Cheers and happy painting!
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Jan. 9, 2013.