HOA Rules vs. Policy: What’s the Difference?

HOA rules vs policy

You’ve heard the terms rules and regulations, CC&R’s, bylaws, resolutions and policy – but what do they mean?  How are each of them different and which term is appropriate to use?  There are subtle differences between them, but there are also similarities.  In fact, some of them even overlap in terms.  We’ve composed a definition and checklist for each to help you decide which term is the correct one for you to use and to help you understand them better.

Rules and Regulations:

The Rules and Regulations of your community can also be characterized as the ‘catch-all’ for things not covered in the by-laws or CC&R’s.  These rules may need to be revised over time due to various changes within your community.  For example, your community may decide to build a pool which would require adding rules for homeowners to comply with when using this particular amenity.  It may also need to change as membership increases.

Rules and Regulations can be changed with review by the HOA members and a vote by the HOA board.  The board will generally send notice to the community of any proposed changes and give them 30 days to review it.  Once the 30 days are over, the board will review any comments or feedback from the members as they make their final decision.  Consider this checklist to determine if something is part of the rules and regulations:

  • Defines expectations of residents and guests in the community
  • May also be referred to as guidelines
  • Specifies limitations of actions for the residents and guests
  • Adopted by the board
  • May not contradict other governing documents
  • CCIOA says that rules and regulations are any instrument used for regulation and management by the association
  • Can be enforced in a court of law

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

This document is legally binding and recorded and filed officially with your state in which the community is located.  Your CC&R’s include the rights and obligations of homeowners within the Association to its members and vice versa.  It can be amended, but it is difficult because it requires a vote by the membership to make any changes.  And any changes made must be updated in the records of the state.  Here are a few key things to look for in regard to the CC&R’s:

  • Insurance obligations
  • Lender protection provisions clearly defined
  • Assessment obligations for homeowners
  • Steps for rule enforcement and potential dispute resolution
  • Maintenance requirements for the HOA and its individual members
  • Property use restrictions as they pertain to your community


The CC&R’s are considered the ‘what’ of the HOA and the Bylaws are best described as the ‘how’.  Your community bylaws create structure for the day to day operations of your HOA.  This list of specifications will help:

  • Meeting frequency and quorum requirements
  • Number of board members that serve at one time
  • Length of time a board member may serve
  • Duties and responsibilities of each board member
  • Process of nominating, electing and sustaining new board members
  • Frequency of HOA board member elections


Aside from modifying recorded documents, a resolution is the most formal way that an association can enact procedures for governance by its homeowners.  A resolution formalizes the board’s decision, follows a set format and is formally adopted by the HOA board.  These are some key points to keep in mind when it comes to resolutions:

  • Adopts Association’s policies and procedures
  • Clarifies terms within the governing documents
  • May not contradict anything in HOA governing documents
  • Memorializes the decision made by the boards
  • Enacted by the board
  • Can be enforced within a court of law


Policy defines what is acceptable per community standards.  They may define responsible parties in various situations such as damage for homeowner property maintenance and may be part of the Rules and Regulations.  Review this list to help clarify:

  • Sets for process of collections, meetings and enforcement, for example
  • Adopted by the HOA Board
  • May not contradict anything in the HOA governing documents
  • Can be enforced within a court of law

Related: Cumulative Voting in an HOA

Every rule and regulation, policy, covenant, condition and bylaw can be changed through a process.  Any changes made to the CC&R’s requires a re-filing with the state, so changes may be done less frequently and with the help of a professional and experienced attorney.  You can better understand how to work with your management company by learning what each document does for your community.  If you have any additional questions, please contact your community representative for clarification.

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