Changing your community’s governing documents is a hot topic with many homeowners associations right now since lots of governing documents were established when the community was built and are therefore out of touch with today’s needs. Luckily, governing documents are not set in stone. They are designed to adapt to communities as they change over time. If you are a member of your community’s HOA management Board or if you are an interested homeowner looking to get more involved, here is your step-by-step guide to changing your community’s governing documents effectively and efficiently.
Determine which part of the governing documents require an update.
Communities have three main types of governing documents, CC&Rs (which outline the distinct obligations of owners and associations), Bylaws (which discuss the association’s governance practices), and Rules and Regulations (which provides the community’s operating rules). There are two ways to update your community’s governing documents: either review and comprehensively update the entire document at once or simply identify and update the sections that are relevant to the issue at hand. Your first step is to determine which update is right for your community.
Next, understand the technical requirements for updates.
Each community’s governing documents set forth parameters that outline the requirements for making changes. While the Rules and Regulations only require a vote of the Board and notice to the community, Bylaws and CC&Rs frequently have different requirements for making changes and require a vote of the membership. For some communities, changes require a supermajority of resident votes (67% or more), for others a simple 51% majority is fine. When you identify how difficult the change mechanisms will be, you get a sense of whether your updates are worth the time and effort required. If so, move on to the next step.
Form a small committee to discuss new language, then meet with a lawyer.
Discuss what you are trying to accomplish in plain language, then work with an attorney to determine exactly what the language should be when implementing official changes. Remember, you are dealing with legal documents that are designed to protect the value of your investment by shielding your HOA from liability. Language matters to the courts and an attorney will help you craft the appropriate wording to make sure your HOA complies with local and state laws. Your homeowners association management company can help you understand the basic language requirements but only an attorney with homeowners association property management expertise can provide you with explicit guidelines for crafting the appropriate language.
Spread the word.
Obtaining buy-in from residents is perhaps the most critical part of making changes to your governing documents. Ask for their opinions and take them into consideration as you draft amendments to your governing documents. Residents will need a clear understanding of why the community guidelines have changed. By clearly articulating the reasons behind the changes and outlining the positive impact on the community, you make homeowners feel included in the process and avoid unnecessary pushback. Your homeowners association management company can help you communicate advantages of the new changes by facilitating town hall meetings, including information in your community newsletter or on the website, and spreading the word door-to-door.
Take it to a vote.
Residents always vote on changes to bylaws and CC&Rs. If you have done your homework and put in the communication effort, residents will be able to make informed decisions to amend your community’s governing documents for the better. Changes to community rules & regulations require only approval by the HOA management Board but Board members should take homeowners’ opinions into careful account.
Governing documents should not be changed quickly for convenience or amended on a whim. All decisions regarding changes to your community’s governing documents should come after careful consideration, thoughtful deliberation and including voices and opinions from the affected residents. Speak with your homeowners association management company to answer any additional questions about changing your community’s governing documents or to discuss getting initiating the amendment process.