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  • Architectural Control Committees Serve a Need
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Benny L Kass) on October 18, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    Q. We live in a homeowner association and I have just been appointed to the architectural control committee. Some of the homeowners do not want such a committee, and many owners just ignore the process when they make exterior changes. Our declaration of covenants requires advance approval before any such changes or additions can be made. Many people do not understand the concept of belonging to an association and when we try to explain, they become hostile. How do we get homeowners to understand that this is not unique to our development? A. Most community associations throughout the country have some form of architectural review committee. Although the scope of these committees varies, the general theme is that in order to keep some semblance of uniformity and balance within the association, unit owners must receive advance approval from a committee before any exterior work is done. However, many owners -- whether in a condominium, planned unit development or homeowner's association -- believe this requirement creates an unnecessary, time-consuming -- and often expensive -- burden. Many homeowners have also had negative experiences with their architectural control committees; we have all read of the cases where these committees acted arbitrarily and without any common sense. However, design review within an association has at least two purposes: to establish and preserve a harmonious design for a community and to protect the value of the property. When one buys into a community association, one must understand that it is community living. Decisions cannot be unilaterally made, nor can the rules and regulations of the association be unilaterally ignored. One might disagree with the need for external uniformity, for example, but the fact remains that if the association documents require external uniformity, that is the law of the association and is binding on its members. You should read your association documents carefully – preferably before you buy -- to learn the scope and purpose of the architectural review committee. Having discussed the function and purpose of architectural controls, however, the architectural control committee must recognize that it cannot be a dictator, arbitrarily rendering decisions. Courts that have addressed architectural review cases have made it clear that covenants are valid and enforceable so long as there are clear, written guidelines spelling out the overall standards. For example, it is not enough to say that owners may not make changes to the exterior without first obtaining the written approval of the architectural control committee. If specific guidelines have not been developed, nor circulated to all homeowners, neither the unit owner nor the review board will have any objective standards by which to judge the proposed external change. And without such standards, even the most well-intentioned committee can be accused of being arbitrary. Boards of directors (or the committee itself) must establish fairly specific guidelines, and if those rules are not already in your association documents, they should be drafted and approved by a majority of the homeowners. You should also be aware that the following will be valid defenses by a unit owner when the committee tries to seek enforcement of the architectural standards: • Arbitrary and capricious actions have been taken. The architectural standards must be applied fairly and consistently, and in good faith.and if something occurs in a unit (such as a pipe bursts that only serves that unit) the owner is obligated to pay the condo deductible, regardless of fault. (Section 5) It is improper for the architectural review committee to pick and choose the enforcement of the covenants. • Delays, or "laches," have occurred. This means that the committee has permitted a lengthy period of time to elapse before taking action against a unit owner. For example, one court ruled that a board's six-month delay in filing suit against an unauthorized fence barred the board from enforcing the covenants.If a unit owner is in violation of the architectural standards, or at least the committee believes there is a violation, prompt action must be taken to assure compliance with the standards.• A waiver has been granted. Basically, if the committee fails to enforce a covenant in the case of one homeowner in similar situations, it may be prohibited from enforcing those same standards against another homeowner.• Often, the association documents require that the committee make a decision within a specified period of time (for example 60 days from receiving the request) or the request "will be deemed to have been approved." Since you are on the committee, make sure you read your documents and follow the language carefully. If you must act on an owner's request within 60 days, it is not acceptable to reject the owner on the 62nd day. All too often, architectural control committees have been accused of asserting dictatorial powers. Indeed, in one large local community, the architectural control committee has been referred to as the "KGB." According to one report, committee members were often seen "prowling around the neighborhood with their clipboards, looking for violations." Often, architectural control committees become obsessed with minor, petty violations and lose sight of reality and common sense. A considerable amount of money has been spent by both homeowners and boards of directors in litigation that should never have been brought. Your committee must sit down with any homeowner who is alleged to have violated the architectural standards and try to work out an amicable resolution of the problem. In the final analysis, architectural control committees must be firm -- but must also be reasonable and flexible. […]

  • Eye on Nashville: Why Music City is Now a Top Five Real Estate Spot
    by rtstaff@realtytimes.com (Jaymi Naciri) on October 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    A new study of the hottest real estate markets in the country from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute is out, and it’s topped by Dallas Fort Worth, a region that has experienced extreme growth over the last several years. However, another city on the list caught our eye, and not just because we’re big music fans: Nashville. “Nashville's real-estate market bounded ahead of Seattle, Los Angeles, and other major markets as the nation's fifth-surest investment bet for 2019, according to one of the industry's most comprehensive and influential reports,” said The Tennessean. “In the study, Nashville rose from 9th to 5th place this year.” Nashville’s reputation as a top music city may be largely responsible for its growth over the last few years, but, that’s only the beginning of the draw today. "It's really a story about affordability, employment growth, population growth and employment stability," Mitch Roschelle, a PwC partner, said in The Tennessean. "One thing that's really important now is no state income taxes. That's becoming a bigger and bigger factor when people start making choices about where they want to live." If you’re considering a move to Nashville, or simply looking for a place to put down roots, this top five real estate market may be for you. The music Whether you’re an aspiring musician or simply love the idea of being in a musical city, Nashville could be for you. The Bluebird Cafe is “where greats such as Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift played before making it big,” said Bellhops. “You should also check out South Broadway Avenue, the veritable heart of country music. While Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is the most famous venue on this strip, you can walk into any honky-tonk at any time of day and hear live music. The Ryman Auditorium was originally a church built in the late 19th century. Now it is well-known as an historic, beautiful, and popular music venue that hosts shows of all genres.” The affordability Nashville’s home prices seem like a dream for those coming from pricier markets, although the reality is a little murkier for those coming from lower-cost areas, and, especially, long-time residents who have watched home prices rise steadily. “Nashville's housing costs have jumped more than 70 percent in the past six years, as new residents flooded the city at a rate of about 100 people per day,” said the Tennessean. “The surging prices have shocked residents and rapidly displaced lower-income people outside the city center, creating an affordable-housing crisis. But the $250,000 median cost of a single-family home in the greater metropolitan area is still just below that of the overall U.S. market.” To put that in perspective, SpareFoot notes that a 2017 study released by GoBankingRates “revealed that Nashville has seen the greatest year-over-year cost of living increase in the nation. But, a salary of $70,150 will allow you to live comfortably in Nashville—more than some other popular cities, but far less than other hot markets in the Top 20. A bright spot for buyers: the new-home market, which led to Nashville’s No. 1 ranking for home-building markets in the ULI report. Vibrant neighborhoods Downtown Nashville is a dynamic spot within walking distance of Bridgestone Arena, Nissan Stadium, and Broadway Ave. (the main strip in Nashville), while Bellhops calls The Gulch “the fastest-growing neighborhood in Nashville. Located just a few blocks from downtown, this area boasts easy access to the interstate and some of the best new restaurants and bars in town. A word of caution: the cost of living continues to rise as The Gulch becomes more popular. For reference, though, it remains somewhat cheaper than downtown at the moment.” Music Row is ultra-convenient to numerous recording studios, if that’s your thing, but is also heavy on the rentals and college students. East Nashville “includes popular neighborhoods such as McFerrin Park, Greenwood, Lockeland Springs, Maxwell, and Eastwood. Through neighborhood revitalization, the focus of East Nashville has become more community-centered. Musicians, artists, and creatives have flocked to this neighborhood, which is now a haven for arts and culture.” Brentwood is 15–20 minutes from downtown, meaning it’s still convenient for those who work in the city center but offers a more suburban-type environment with larger, single-family homes with yards—popular with young families and professionals. The economy According to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nashville “had the lowest unemployment rate—2.7%—of any metropolitan area in the US with over one million people as of February 2018. Nashville even beats out the metropolitan area of San Francisco, the US mecca of economic vitality,” said Quartz. Bridgestone Tires and Vanguard Industries both have their headquarters in Nashville, and startups and tech companies like Emma and Cicayda are also abundant. So much other stuff to do “If there's one thing that Nashville, Tennessee is known for, it's probably the country music. But you’d be (pleasantly) surprised to learn how much music city has to offer even if you don’t have a single country bone in your body,” said Bellhops. Have a picnic (or watch a concert) in Centennial Park, or stroll along the Cumberland River walkway, working up an appetite for the famous hot chicken. The city’s abundant restaurants and breweries cater to just about anything you have a craving for. “Nashville cements its ‘It City’ status with eclectic and fine dining establishments, such as City House and the Catbird Seat,” said Livability in its look at “8 Reasons to move to Tennessee." The sports Whether or not a city has its own professional sports teams can and does drive migration to the area. So many of those who are moving to Nashville love the fact that they can support the local NFL team, the Tennessee Titans, and the NHL’s 2017 Stanley Cup finalists, the Nashville Predators. […]

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