May An HOA Board Repaint the Complex A Different Color Without Owner Approval of Colors?

 

May The Board Paint the Complex Changing the Color Without Owner Approval of Colors?

Here is the email that triggered the above question:

“ I own a condo in Hollywood that I rent out.
I was by the building the other day and they’ve painted in brown.
It had previously been white.
It’s a streamline modern building and the color should be white.
I’m not on the HOA board but of course I pay my HOA on time every months since I bought the place 8 years ago.
But the people on the board thought it was okay to change the look and style of the building without telling me.
Is that allowed?”

The answer is probably yes, the board has the authority to choose paint colors. There is a caveat. There might be a provision in the CC&Rs or Bylaws that says something contrary about choosing colors (not common). There may be a pertinent provision in the CC&Rs that limits capital improvement expenditures. Sometimes it costs a lot more to change colors than retain the original color scheme. The truth is though, usually the Board has sufficient authority for this action without member approval, and without even telling members.

The next logical question is: “Is that wise?”

I say “no” to that question. Changing paint colors is one the most controversial, emotional, and political bombs a board can drop. The very option can divide a community. In one recent case, an HOA had a problem when the Board changed the color of a perimeter wall from its original sand/beige color to a deep red color. More striking, right? However, some of the owners came unglued claiming the red color was tied to one of the identified local gangs, and the Board had to then have the fence repainted the original color, over the red color. Anyone who has ever painted a neutral color over a deeper color knows that one coat won’t generally do it; hence a big expense to address a big debacle. Even worse, trust in the board is eroded when such actions are taken without vetting them with the members before proceeding.

I will say it again – changing paint colors is one of the most controversial topics. A board should at the least notify all owners, put up some meaningful samples (preferably a test section on the actual building or fence to be painted so as to be “true” to the value and hue of the color in real life), invite owners to review and comment and review the comments, before proceeding. This is common sense. Sometimes even though a board (or owner) has the legal authority to do something behind it; it (board or owner) forgets to consider how it might upset the balance and affect the quality of life or property of others. And then we are talking about the “duty” side of things. A board has a higher duty than an individual to make good decisions for the benefit of the entire community, not just a “clique”.  It’s called “fiduciary duty”. Many boards proceed ignorant of this aspect, and ignorant of the particular issues that raise political ire, like changing the color of the structures without asking the owners what they think.

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Beth A. Grimm is an attorney who serves homeowner associations and homeowners alike. She is a frequent contributor to the Echo Journal and other similar publications in the State of California and on a national level. She provides several publications written in plain English to help people who need information about California law as it relates to homeowner and condominium associations.

Things to keep in mind about this site: Practical Nuts and Bolts Problems and Solutions are Discussed. Beth A. Grimm practices law in California ONLY! There is nothing in these blogs that is intended to constitute legal advice. You must consult with an attorney if you want legal advice!