Architectural Changes in Condos or HOAs – Do Members Vote on Them?

Here is the question from a reader: “I am looking for specifics on whether California allows board members to make major architectural changes to the community without getting member approval.  I live in a community that has 132 condos and our dues include outside maintenance and painting every 5 years.  This year the board decided to repaint a third of the condos in a new color scheme without holding a general meeting or getting members to vote on the subject.  My condo is one of those to be painted a new color.  The painters are in the community and after many attempts to contact management and board members I have been given no specifics about how my condo is going to look after it is painted.  Other members are just as confused and frustrated as I am.

 I understand other states, such as Florida, have rules that state a board must get 75% member approval for major architectural changes.  Does California have any rules like this?”

California law requires HOAs to send members a policy each year on what the process is for seeking architectural approval if the documents require it (most do). But the law does not require a member vote for changes like the above question.

However, the governing documents for the association may have requirements that apply. Perhaps the architectural review committee has to approve the plan. Some documents require owner approval for capital improvements. Is changing the paint colors one that would qualify?

Check the governing documents to see if there is a definition of capital improvement and whether any require owner approval. In California that is where I would start. Check to see if the board has adopted any standards under authority of the governing documents.

I think that probably most attorneys in California would say changing the paint colors is not a capital improvement that requires owner approval, even if some improvements do (even though it generally adds costs). That would be because the buildings will have to be repainted eventually and it doesn’t matter what color the board chooses.

And be sure to check out the E-News Archives at because I just did a newsletter on how boards should cope with emotional issues (yes, paint color changes qualify) in order to avoid political chaos or an uprising.

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