Home improvements need OK first

A new home. A new beginning. And a new look.

Like a blank canvas, your home’s yard can become a tropical paradise or desert oasis suitable for escaping the rigors of daily life. It can be an extension of your house, complete with a seating area and additional kitchen.

Before you start creating the landscape of your dreams, be sure to check with your homeowners association to ensure the project doesn’t violate any restrictions or city codes. Most of the time, the association also will require an architectural review, which includes a detailed description of the proposed project.

Bill Peterson, president of the Shadow Hills Master Association in northwest Las Vegas, said the main purpose of the architectural review is to keep the integrity, design and flavor of the community intact and not allow minor changes to impact the community as a whole. For example, a project could change the drainage on a piece of property, which in turn would affect surrounding properties.

This means, an architectural review must be submitted for projects in any part of the yard, even if it’s in a fenced area that won’t be seen by anyone other than the homeowner, he said.

The project also has to comply with city codes, said Andy Maiden, president of the Waterfall homeowners association in North Las Vegas.

“Different associations require different things. Obviously if you’re building a patio, there’s a lot more required than if you’re just planting bushes in the front lawn,” said Barbara Holland, a certified property manager and columnist who writes about homeowners association issues for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

In some cases, it could be architectural drawings and others may require a financial bond and/or proof of insurance from a licensed contractor.

Without the approval, a homeowner can face legal actions that may require them to restore the property to its original condition or pay for the costs of the association’s lawyers, said David Stone, president and owner of Nevada Association Services and former president of two homeowners associations.

In extreme cases, fines can be levied or the association will restore the property and bill the homeowner for the work, Peterson said.

It’s very important that homeowners submit a request that is as complete and detailed as possible, as well as legible and understandable. That will help prevent delays in getting approval by having to make corrections, he added.

Additionally, the architectural review committee can make suggestions to help improve the project as well. Maiden said he is well versed on the types of plants that do well in his neighborhood.

“I look closely at the plant material as I know what works in this zone — through trial and error on my own,” he said. “Just because they have a certain plant in the nursery, does not necessarily mean it will do well in your backyard.”

Practically all associations request that neighbors sign the architectural review request so they have knowledge of the project. But, said Holland, their approval is not necessary for the project to get approval.

It’s more of a courtesy, said Maiden and Peterson. Having neighbors sign the request prevents them from being surprised when a truck dumps a load of landscaping rocks on the street or if a pool pump will be installed near their bedroom window.

Once the architectural review committee or homeowners board of directors approves the project, it will send a conditional letter of approval. Holland said the letter is conditional because it stipulates that the project must be completed exactly as approved; any changes must be approved as well.

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