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Is a change of color palette considered a material alteration

My townhouse HOA, has decided to change the color palette of our exterior walls to what we, the property owners are calling, prison gray, that would also apply to our back patios. This decision was made without the consultation of property owners and now they just want us to vote for a color.

This is Arizona and our townhouses are territorial style with brick details and block walls painted a light, happy yellow – it has always been this color. It is attractive, makes you happy to come home and in case you are selling, it is a good color to have as a first impression. While it is understandable if the HOA wanted to change the shade of the yellow (darker/ligher), deciding to change the palette to a gray – a color that is black pigment based – it is not.

The HOA decided on the colors on their own and now want us to vote which color – I was contacted by my neighbors because I am a city planner and they are all against it and don’t want to vote for any color changes.
For a forty-year old complex, this sorrowful prison color that will make our concrete carports and walkways look even older and force us to have grey patios, which are an extension of our living rooms. This could negatively impact the value of our homes from inside and out – nothing better than coming to a gray sad complex.

The ballot the HOA sent out contains errors that invalidate the ballot and also failed to have a box if property owners do not want to vote for any color.

Is a change of color palette considered a material alteration that would require a vote by the property owners?
What can property owners do? Should a vote have been required to change the palette? Should the HOA board have to provide an explanation why this is desired?
What happens if the majority of the property owners write that they will not vote for a change?

There is a Florida case, “Ivanovski v Golden Horn” that found that while the HOA could do certain changes, that when it came to changing the color of the building, both inside and out (which they did), the court ordered the association to obtain owner approval for the changes (vote) and failing approval, the association would have 90 days thereafter to return the hallway walls and building exterior to their original color and restore the lobby walls to their original form and/or condition.”

Thanks for any input you can provide. Would prefer not to get into a legal fight that would be a cost to both, property owners and the Association.

2 Responses

  1. dennisl

    Vania,

    A lot depends on what your specific CC&R’s say. It is not unusual for an association to change the color pallet for the units. You mentioned that you were town houses. Town houses can be considered either condominiums or planned communities. but are typically condominiums. The way you distinguish between the two is who owns the common property if the association owns the common property then you are a planned community, but if the common property is owned by all the unit owners in common than you are a condominium. Why that is important is that for a planned community if the association changes the color pallet they cannot force any homeowner to repaint their home to comply with the new color pallet, but in the future you want to repaint your home you will be required to paint your home in one of the approved colors. If you are a condominium if the association decides to change the color pallet for the common property than it will be done for all units as a common expense for the community as a whole.

    I suspect that you are a condominium, but am unclear why the association is asking the homeowners to approve the change in color pallet? There must be some specific provision within your CC&R’s that requires such approval. Once again I expect it is not the color pallet that is being approved but rather the expenditure to repaint the exterior of every unit.

    To your specific question would changing a color pallet be considered a material change to the CC&R’s . As you are aware I hope you know I’m not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice but such a change would not typically be considered a material change to the CC&R’s.

    If you can provide me the exact wording of the ballot issue , I can provide more insight as to what may be happening. Arizona law requires any ballot initiative presented to the unit owners must allow any homeowner to either approve or reject and specific line item on the ballot. So if the ballot says, chose between a color of grey or pink that ballot item does not comply with Arizona law. It would have to read something like this do the unit owners approve a pallet change to grey: yes or no or do the unit owner approve a pallet change to pink: yes or no.

    Provide me a little more specific information on the actual ballot item and why this is being brought to the unit owners for approval and i can provide you specific guidance.

    Thanks
    Dennis

  2. Vania Fletcher

    Hello Dennis,

    Thanks so much for your help! While the common areas are HOA, we have townhomes, single-family attached ownership product, with four-units attached by fire retention walls, one-story building. Since they are attached, all are the same color.

    The only thing I found in the Association documents refer to anything related to the mail boxes, nothing regarding this type of change. As I said, I can see a slight change of color shade but not a change to a color that will be more heat absorbent & will fade horribly.

    There is nothing on the cover letter that speaks of additional cost, but it does state that ‘due to the cost of painting our cul-de-sacs, this project will take considerable time to complete.’ I really don’t know what it means other than the cul-de-sacs property will end up looking like a patch work fading in different shades of prison gray in different areas. This is why our current color is so efficient, you can barely notice the fading.

    Here is the ballot language, verbatim. Dennis, please note that there are actually 3 color choices.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
    PAINT COLOR BALLOT

    Proposed Action: To select the color homes and common walls will be painted.

    _____ I vote for Pigeon Gray
    _____ I vote for Stanford Stone
    _____ I vote against Trail Dust

    This ballot is valid only for choosing the color of the body of the homes and the common area walls. In order to be counted, it must be received in the office of ( name of the management co. and address), no latter than 5:00 pm on August 31, 2020.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

    I wrote them requesting all information including minutes of these discussions because no one knew about it. I pointed out that this ballot is in error and not valid. There are 3 choices of colors and the way they listed them is not appropriate – the language should be the same for all three choices.

    I said that I assumed that the choice to vote for ‘Trail Dust’ was just not included and the line with the word ‘against’ should actually read: “I vote against all color changes” – which, if not on the ballot, I requested to be included.

    Again, thanks so much for your help!

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