This article originally appeared on Associaonline.com’s Living Better Blog
By Lea Marcou at Associa
Associations have rules for a reason – owners don’t want to break them; but they may want to take a role in changing HOA rules. A condo owner may have just fallen in love with a Great Dane puppy only to find out your association has a 50 pound weight limit on dogs…or they may be expecting a long-term house guest or business associate who won’t be able to park overnight on the street during their stay.
When homeowners or tenants desire rule revisions at an association you help manage, be prepared!
THREE WAYS TO RAMP UP ON HOA RULE-CHANGING REQUESTS
1. Get Refreshed on your association’s documents – all of them!
Before anyone can begin to make a change — or when you are tasked in abiding to an exploratory process for owners’ or tenants’ requests for rule changes — you need to first know what is trying to be changed and how a rule is worded.
As you may know….typically, associations have three main governing documents:
- The Declaration (or CCR – Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions),
- Bylaws, and
- Rules and Regulations
And — as you also may know…all of these documents are interconnected, but there is a hierarchy; your Declaration will supersede your Rules and Regulations — and there may even be city or state laws that overrule your association’s documents.
If you’re not sure where to find your governing documents…here are a few places to look, as below. Association’s governing documents, including any rules and regulations, are part of the packet provided to new home buyers as part of the buying process near or at closing, so these documents should always be at hand — homeowners can also obtain them by any one of the following methods:
a.) Association Website – Many associations make their governing documents, as well as all community forms, available on their website. Some states actually require this within their statutes.
b.) Public Record – Because most, if not all, governing documents are required to be filed with one or more governmental entities, many documents are public record and can be purchased through your local government offices. Start first with the county of purchase, which can be found in deed records, and phone the professionals within that office for assistance.
c.) Title Company/Realtor – If homeowners have just closed on a home, or are looking into possibly purchasing, there is no better resource than your Title Company or realtor to know the rules of a property.
d.) Management Company – Homeowners will reach out to their professional Property Management company as a resource. Many times they are able to purchase a new set of documents directly through the Property Manager’s office or at least obtain direction on how to accomplish this task.
e.) Board Members – Board Members are deemed a wonderful resource and in efforts to do all they can to educate owners on the rules and regulations of the community. As board members make themselves available, homeowners can, and will, reach out and inquire about obtaining a set of governing documents.
- It’s important to be familiar with a community’s governing documents…which include the bylaws, CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions), rules and regulations and articles of incorporation— because they contain frequently asked questions and can save everyone in the community a lot of time and conflict.
- These governing documents establish how an association is run and set expectations for rule- changing owners, which affect you — if you are an HOA board president, board member, stakeholder, Property Management team member or fellow homeowner — when a condo owner wants to change HOA rules.
2. Understand the documents.
Once you’ve read all documents, you should have a better understanding of what will be easy to change and what might be a little more difficult to achieve.
Remember that there are costs to updating documents:
- Typically, Rules and Regulations can be changed by a vote of the Board or Directors, but the Declaration and Bylaws require a vote of the homeowners—often a significant percentage, such as 2/3 or 3/4 of all owners.
- If the change someone wants is in the Declaration, it will be much more costly and difficult to update, so consider whether the change being proposed is important enough to the community to garner enough interest, to make the effort and cost worthwhile. The other important part of understanding your documents is understanding the reasons certain restrictions were applied in the first place.
- These documents aren’t established overnight, and a lot of thought has been put into developing your community’s guidelines that you may not be aware of.
Homeowners more than likely will attend a board meeting and ask questions – you may find that these types of changes have already been discussed.
While the Declaration and Bylaws are typically prepared by the developer when the property is built… the Rules have usually been prepared by the homeowners and there should be more insights available to you. If you are new to an HOA board, perhaps you’ll find that a 50-pound pet weight limit was a compromise between proponents of breed restrictions and community pet owners; if this was a recent change, then likely the concerned parties are still residents and would not want to see a revision. You may also learn that your city is the one regulating street parking, and that the association may be able to remove their rule, but it won’t make a difference for your visiting guests.
3. Propose changes.
Now that you have the proper background, you should be able to decide if the change you are helping to champion is something worth pursuing.
- If it is worth pursuing, write down your proposed Rule and present it to your Board of Directors. Keep in mind that your rule must be reasonable, enforceable, and something that the association has authority over – protecting and enhancing property values.
- It’s best to submit this type of request in advance and ask for time on the next board meeting agenda to present your idea.
- Keep in mind that your association is also a business, so present your suggestions from that perspective – explain why the change is practical for your community.
- Homeowners may have already spoken with neighbors and if they are also interested in this change, they may — or have already asked — other owners to sign a petition showing their support or attend the board meeting.
Your Association is in place to benefit all homeowners. If changing HOA rules is something the homeowners want, and will impact the community in a positive manner, it’s likely achievable.