Getting to Know Your HOA Documents

Getting to know HOA documents

Whether you own a home in an HOA community and are serving on the board, or if you’re looking to purchase a home and want to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, let’s breakdown your HOA documents and what they mean for you.

First of all, there are several types of governing documents used by the HOA.  While every development is different, the documents typically referred to are the following:

        • Articles of Incorporation
        • The Bylaws
        • CC&R’s (Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions)
        • Rules and Regulations

Next, let’s take a look at each one in more detail to help you as a potential buyer or owner interested in property development.  Or, if you’re interested in running as a member of the HOA board within your community, having a basic understanding of how to utilize these documents – we’re confident the information here will be a great benefit to you.

Articles of Incorporation:

Before the property of a condominium complex or planned community is sold, the developer forms what is called a Condominium Association or Homeowners’ Association to effectively run it.  By purchasing property within that community, you become a member of the development association automatically.

The Articles of Incorporation are formed for a nonprofit organization with the Secretary of State within the state where the development is located, thereby forming the Association.

The Articles of Incorporation contain basic information about the community’s association like the name, location and purpose.  Generally, there is no need for a buyer or property owner to review the Articles, but they are necessary in order for the Homeowners Association to be formed properly.

The Bylaws:

Once the Association is formed, a set of bylaws is adopted.  These are important because they describe just how the Association is to be run, includes voting rights and procedures, and contain rules for things like how to organize a meeting and how often meetings should be held.

The bylaws are a description of the rights and responsibilities of the Association. An Association is made up of board members often referred to as a ‘Board”.  They are a group of homeowners elected by the membership at large during period elections.  The bylaws specify the procedures for Board member elections and the length of time for which a Board member may serve.

In addition to information regarding the Board, the bylaws also contain the rules and regulations to be enforced in regard to creating an annual budget and determining assessment collections.  It’s important as a homeowner to be familiar with your HOA bylaws and how the Association functions.   You may be surprised to learn that the Association can hold meetings or remove a member of the Board without notifying the homeowners – per your community’s specific rules and regulations.

CC&R’s (Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions):

The CC&R’s represent the bulk of what is considered to be the governing documents of an HOA.  They are the most comprehensive and contain the most information regarding the community development and overall operations.  If there is ever a discrepancy between any other governing document and the CC&R’s, the CC&R’s take precedence and whatever the conflicting provisions are become invalid.

The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions is a lengthy document that addresses the overall structure of the development, specifics as to what land is subject to operation within the guidelines of the governing documents and what parts of the community are considered to be common areas owned by the HOA.

The CC&R’s also specify the Homeowners Association’s right to enforce and define the roles and responsibilities of each member.  All owners must comply with the rules, restrictions, limitations, conditions and terms found within the CC&R’s.  As an owner or potential member of an Association, reviewing the CC&R’s will provide insight into your rights and responsibilities.  For example, you may learn that your CC&R’s contain restrictions on having visible satellite antennas or that your lawn must be mowed once per week.

Most CC&R’s also specify the procedure for amendments or changes to the community and how the original terms have been modified, especially for a development that is older.  Generally, state law requires the CC&R’s to be recorded in the county where the community is located, and a copy of the CC&R’s must be provided to an owner or potential owner prior to making a purchase within the development.

Rules and Regulations:

Some general rules and regulations may be included within the CC&R’s, but the HOA often creates a separate and more specific rules and regulations.  The Association’s discretion to implement a rules and regulations document may be contingent upon state or federal law and must not conflict with the terms of the CC&R’s.

The rules and regulations provide specific details regarding things like trash in yards, prohibiting cars being parked along the street after dark, the number of swimmers allowed in the pool or the height limit of a fence.  Because the Association is there to do what’s best for the community and the common good to maintain value in the development, these rules and regulations can sometimes create controversy and may be the cause of disputes between the HOA and the members.

A potential buyer should familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations in order to have a clear understanding of whether or not they can live by them before purchasing a home in the development.  If owners are not allowed to have dogs over 20 pounds, it would be quite devastating to realize you won’t be able to take your beloved Labrador to your new home, for example.

As a general rule, if you have questions or concerns about the governing documents of your current or future Association, contact your community representative.  Trying to make sense of being a homeowner in a planned community can be overwhelming and vary from state to state, but having a clearer picture of what you need to know can make your experience much more pleasant.

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