There is most definitely a hierarchy when it comes to HOA documents. Familiarizing yourself with your association’s community documents is essential when serving as a member of the HOA board, but it’s also important as a homeowner. Being ‘in the know’ when it comes to what’s acceptable, expected, and standard procedure not only helps you to be informed, it also prevents confusion and misunderstandings in the future.
However, there may be the occasional discrepancy when it comes to the governing documents of an association. Below is a hierarchy of documents, according to how they are recorded:
- Legislative Law: Federal to state to local.
- HOA Plat: The survey of land that identifies the boundaries, roadways, floodplains, and right of way access.
- Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs): These documents outline the requirements and limitations of what you can and cannot do with your property.
- Articles of Incorporation: Also referred to as the Certificate of Incorporation or Corporate Charter, this document establishes the HOA as a corporation within the United States.
- Bylaws: Rules established to govern how the association operates and should be run.
- Rules and Regulations: Some general rules and regulations may be contained in the CC&Rs, but there are additional requirements that fit the needs of a specific community based on amenities and other factors that are specific to that particular HOA.
- Supplemental Declarations: These may be added or changed over time as the property evolves and different amenities are added, or new laws are enacted.
Each of these documents plays an important role in the running and maintenance of an HOA community.
Let’s take a look specifically at the Articles of Incorporation – what are they, how are they acquired, and what they do?
What are they?
Developers form a Homeowners’ or Condominium Association before it is sold. When each individual or family purchases property within the association, they automatically become members.
The Association is formed by filing for “Articles” as a non-profit organization with the Secretary of State in which the development is located. These articles are generally brief, and contain basic information such as the name, location, and purpose of the organization.
How are they acquired?
While each state’s articles of incorporation form differs, there is typically some information requested that includes the following:
- The name and address of the association
- The purpose of the association/corporation
- The intended duration of the association
- The name and address of the registered agent (A registered agent is someone who has agreed to accept services and other official documents on behalf of the association. At the time the organization is formed, this information will be the developer.)
- The names and addresses of the incorporators (a person who signs the articles and ensures they are filed)
Articles of incorporation are filed with your state’s business filing agency. A filing fee is collected when paperwork is submitted. Once the corporation is approved, a certificate of formation is granted by the state.
What do they do?
The Articles of Incorporation are like your association’s Declaration of Independence. A corporation has no authority to act in any way not authorized by its articles; therefore, they are worded generally and non-specific to avoid limiting the organization’s authority to do business.
Articles of Incorporation for homeowners limit membership to property owners and use language that can specify it as a non-profit. Once the documents are filed, an HOA will almost never deal with the articles, but they must be filed correctly.
We hope understanding more about the Articles of Incorporation will be beneficial to you in your role with the HOA.