Your HOA’s governing documents establish the procedural and practical standards for life in your association. They outline everything from when assessments should be paid, to how board meetings are run, to the approved paint colors for fences.
Governing documents are usually created at the very outset of a community’s inception. The developer typically writes the initial set of documents, charting the type of community envisioned in the planning stages.
By their nature, governing documents aren’t easy to change. Changes to Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) may require a 67% super-majority. Updating bylaws usually requires a 51% simple majority – but check your own documents, as the voting requirements can vary. These documents are intentionally structured in such a way to protect the association against an individual or group of individuals instituting sweeping changes to assessments, insurance, or other issues that would significantly impact community life.
That said, communities are never static. They’re comprised of residents who grow and evolve over time – and require their community to keep up with changing desires and needs.
As with everything community association management-related, there is a clear process for change, and it must be followed closely. If your community’s governing documents no longer reflect the will or lifestyle of residents, here are our tips to institute changes responsibly:
Tip 1: Make sure to outline a clear vision
Work with your community association management company to uncover the true crux of the proposed change. Your manager and association attorney can help you determine if the amendment requires an entire rewrite or just an update to a single section. Understanding the intent behind the change will guide all your forthcoming actions and help you determine clear messaging to disseminate to community members.
Tip 2: Conduct community PR
Avoid a negative reaction from confused or suspicious community members by implementing a detailed communications strategy leading up to the vote. Residents will be more cooperative if they understand exactly how the change stands to benefit them. Simply sending out a notice that a vote is imminent will likely result in an inability to achieve quorum or a knee-jerk, negative reaction. Each communication should reiterate what change is being proposed and why the change needs to happen. One email blast is not enough. Frequent communications keep the issue top-of-mind for residents and invites their consideration and discussion.
Tip 3: Actively encourage members to vote
By nature, updates to governing documents require the involvement of the community. If no one shows up to vote, the resolution automatically fails. Encourage community members to participate, no matter which side of the issue they support. Work with your community manager to send email blasts, post notices throughout the community, and make it easy for the membership to show up and cast their votes. The ability for the membership to have a direct say over community association management is part of the benefit of living in an HOA. Let residents know their vote is valuable.
Remember, change is always a process and processes always take time. Unlike in private industry, all decisions in an HOA require diligent discussion and review. The time required is always in the best interest of serving the community. As associations evolve, a careful approach to updating governing documents allows HOAs to keep pace with the times without compromising property values or undermining a strong sense of community.
Is it time for you to update your community’s governing documents? Our HOA management experts are here to help.