Modular Housing News
Modular Homes Sales: Solving Problems with Neighborhood Associations and Review Boards
This article was written by the South Carolina Modular Housing Institute and was recently featured in their quarterly publication
Modular homes generally enjoy a good image in South Carolina. But some citizens still hold uninformed and outdated notions about modular homes. This will occasionally result in problems with placing a modular home in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association or architectural review board.
Where to Start
Are There Deed Restrictions or Covenants?
Find out if there are any restrictions or covenants in the deed of the property where you will be placing the home. This is the essential first step to determine if a neighborhood/homeowner’s association or architectural review board will have any power over what you do.
Establish Positive Relationships
It is very important to try dealing with the association/board in a positive manner. If possible, get to know the officers before the issue comes up before the association/board. The officers may often be retired people who dedicate a lot of time to these jobs, and their positions may be very important to them. It is also vital to establish positive relationships with the adjacent and nearby landowners. If they complain, it will make working with the association/board much harder.
Approval Meetings with a Board or Association
Lobby Before the Meeting
Prior to the meeting, try to show association/board members what the house will look like when finished, and make sure they know it is built to the same code as a site-built home. Talk to association/board members to get a feel for who will be an ally or adversary.
Show the House Completed
It goes without saying that you should have lots of photos of the house as it will look when completed. Drawings are helpful, but photos are better. If the meeting or hearing is before an architectural board, you should show different angles to allow full understanding of the design of the house.
If you have to go before a Board/Association for approval, make sure you are fully prepared for any questions they may have. Aside from aesthetic questions, the association/board will probably question what kind of equipment will be traveling through the neighborhood, how long the equipment will be there, how long will it disrupt the neighborhood, etc. Be as prepared for a meeting or hearing with an association/board as you would a court proceeding. Bring copies of all relevant documents; try to anticipate questions and have the facts ready.
Keep Your Cool
Association/Board meetings may sometimes get very heated. Some of the association/board members might use inflammatory language such as calling your home a “trailer” or other derogatory terms. It is vital to keep your cool and not be drawn into an angry exchange. If a conflict becomes personal, resolution will become more difficult.
Dealing with “No”
Try to Deal with Association/Board Concerns
If the Association/Board members state specific concerns, try to meet those concerns. Is it an issue that can be solved by additional landscaping, or slightly altering some feature of the house?
Closely Read the Deed for Restrictions
Assuming the deed for your property does give jurisdiction to an association or board, closely read the deed for what the extent of that jurisdiction is. Neighborhood associations and (non-governmental) architectural review boards get their power through whatever language is in the deed of your property. These are contractual disputes at their heart.
Association / Board Findings and the Law
Courts have been inconsistent on the issue whether a deed restriction which prohibits “tailors” or “mobile homes” can be applied to prohibit modular homes. South Carolina law gives fairly wide latitude to associations/boards in making decisions: The State Supreme Court decided in 1997 that “although an architectural review board has discretion regarding approval of proposed construction, that discretion is "constrained only by reasonableness and good faith." Contact your state or national association for copies of decisions favorable on the issue.
Consider hiring an attorney to file an appeal or negotiate for you or the customer. Just the potential of an association/board having to pay for an attorney may make them willing to negotiate.
Moral of the Story
If you can solve any issues with the association/board prior to a formal decision, life will be much easier for you and your customer.