Q&A: Home Improvement Allowed?

Q What are the rules on doing outside alterations to my townhome? I would like to  update some paint and trim but do I have to go before the board to get  approval? It won't be anything distracting or flamboyant but I am not sure if I  can just do the work on my own without getting fined.  

 —Fixer Upper  

A “Townhome associations typically regard the uniformity of exterior building  components and surfaces to be an important aspect of community living,” says attorney Scott Rosenlund of the law firm of Fullett Rosenlund Anderson PC  in Lake Zurich. “Presuming that the townhome owner lives in a non-condominium townhome community,  the owner must look to his or her association’s governing documents to determine the guidelines and standards for exterior  alterations.  

 The townhome declaration should delineate the respective maintenance and repair  obligations of the association and the individual owners. The declaration also  should contain provisions relating to exterior alterations and architectural  review. Most likely, the declaration requires that owners obtain the consent of  the association before making changes to the exteriors of townhomes, including  color changes. The association also may have adopted rules and regulations  covering the details of the architectural review process, setting forth  specifications describing permitted products, materials and colors or  establishing guidelines pertaining to issues such as work hours, the proper  disposal of construction debris and the like.  

 “Unless a townhome owner’s right to make exterior changes is made perfectly clear in the governing  documents, it would behoove the owner to obtain the express written consent of  the association before undertaking any work affecting the exterior appearance  of the townhome. Any miscommunications in this regard could subject the owner  to the correction of non-conforming work at the owner’s expense, fines and/or other association enforcement action.”