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I'm preparing to submit house plans for approval by my Architectural Review Committee.

I felt confident. We prepared a house to the specifications of the covenants and studied them carefully. I just discussed the plans with a member of the ARC. He stated "no lots with xyz showing will be allowed."

However, this is nowhere in the covenants. Nor is it in any of the documents I signed when I bought the house.

Can an ARC enforce covenants or building restrictions NOT within their documents? Further, can they be liable for costs and time we've spent designing and planning our house based on their covenants?

  • It's possible that some document gives discretion to the HOA to impose additional restrictions or that the terms under which its approval is required are vague enough that it can in practice do so. What do the documents say about the approval process? Also, in what jurisdiction is this? Statutory law may override provisions of the documents, or it may impose rules or requirements in areas that the documents do not address. – phoog Sep 11 '18 at 15:57
  • Phoog - this is Tennessee. The document does note "authority to confirm or deny any project belongs solely to the ARC." This language clearly cedes authority, but does it allow non-statutory decisions (covenants being statute in this analogy)? My real question is this: Does the law or custom require the ARC to confirm or deny based on its set covenants? As a metaphor: A judge may have the authority to confirm or deny an appeal, but doesn't he need a statute or precedent to base his decisions? Or do ARCs possess the power to nullify on will alone? – John Sep 11 '18 at 17:15
  • You're right: saying they have authority to make a decision doesn't imply that they have discretion to impose new criteria or make an arbitrary or unreasonable decision. I'm somewhat familiar with housing cooperatives under New York law, but know little about HOA's and nothing about Tennessee law, so I don't have much else to say, I'm afraid. I hope someone who can answer will do so soon. – phoog Sep 11 '18 at 17:22
  • Thank you for your answer. I see this as a potential issue of major contention. The ARC I refer to recently gained power en bloc. The previous officeholders noted in public discussion "we have the authority to recommend items that are suggested, but not the power to compel" For ex. it states "the ARC prefers tinted walks and driveways." The prior ARC stressed that a preference carries no mandate. Logically, if a stated preference carries no authority an unstated decision carries none either. However, I don't know the legal basis of that statement. – John Sep 11 '18 at 17:43

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