Whitehawk Ranch v. Bolin – ACC Standards
The Whitehawk Ranch at Hubbard Homeowners Association found itself in an
all too common series of events. After a fire destroyed their home, homeowners
Ngozi Bolin and James Olen began to rebuild it in a design dissimilar
to the other homes in the community and without prior approval from the
Association. (Whitehawk Ranch at Hubbard Homeowners Association v. Bolin
(unpublished)). Following multiple notices requesting the plans for the
home, the Association was forced to seek legal action.
The Association sought an injunction requiring the homeowners to cease
any construction on the property until the plans were received and approved
by the Architectural Committee (ACC). Bolin eventually submitted her plans
to the Association which then concluded that her plans did not meet the
ACC’s standards. The trial court ultimately found in favor of the
Association finding it was reasonable for it to require submission and
approval of the plans for the construction.
Bolin appealed the case in part on the grounds that she was not required
to abide by the ACC standards as the ACC standards were adopted after
she had already begun reconstruction of her home. Essentially, she was
proposing that homeowners do not have to submit approval to the Association
for improvements if the Association has not provided standards for said
improvements. The court disagreed.
The court of appeals found that while the ACC standards were adopted after
Bolin started work on her home, the CC&Rs still required her to submit
the plans to the Association for its approval. She failed to do so. The
Association’s approval had to be in accordance with the governing
documents and the general plan and intent of the CC&Rs. Thus, the
Association did not need specific standards for all improvements, but
could approve or deny plans based on whether or not they met the general
aesthetic quality and characteristics of the community. Of course, having
adopted standards for improvements is recommended.
While this case is unique in that a homeowner was rebuilding her house
after it was burned down in a fire, we see this type of problem arising
with more minor improvements such as the installation of artificial turf,
roof replacement, etc.
This case provides good authority for associations to still require homeowners
to submit plans and to insure that the proposed improvements be in accordance
with the association’s general plan and aesthetic appearance. Associations
will avoid the headache and hassle with homeowners, however, if proactive
action is taken and standards are adopted.