Your community’s governing documents provide a framework for your HOA’s structure, operations, and standards. We have covered the distinctions between the different types of governing document in a previous post, but here is a quick summary:
- Bylaws outline the operational structure of the Association.
- Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions cover the rights and obligations of the HOA to the Membership and vice versa.
- Rules & Regulations are your community’s day-to-day rules of conduct. Rules & Regulations cover items that are not addressed in Bylaws or CC&Rs.
Your community’s Rules & Regulations are meant to be a flexible document that evolves over time, keeping pace with the needs and goals of your community. As such, Rules & Regulations are the easiest to amend.
Here are the steps you should take to ensure that rule changes and updates proceed as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Before You Begin
First, encourage every member of your board to read the Rules & Regulations. A thorough understanding of the document’s content will help you be more efficient during the update process.
Next, become aware of the general groups or “buckets” of issues facing your community. Review comment cards, make a list of your most commonly-heard issues and review other sources of member feedback. Your community association management company can assist you in compiling relevant information to help your Board identify the most important areas to address. This evidence will also provide proof that you are addressing the needs of the community and not making arbitrary decisions, should any doubt from the Membership arise.
Determine whether your Board needs to amend a single rule (or two), or deploy a sweeping update your community’s entire Rules & Regulations. If you see significant issues or changes facing the community, it makes more sense to update the entire document.
Finally, remember that your governing documents follow a strict, legally binding hierarchy. Keep in mind that any changes made to your Rules & Regulations cannot supersede the content in your CC&Rs, especially since your CC&Rs grant the authority to the Board to establish and amend the Rules & Regulations in the first place. If you are unsure or unclear if changes in your Rules & Regulations will conflict with your other governing documents, consult your attorney.
Overhauling your entire Rules & Regulations document is a time-intensive undertaking that will likely overwhelm a single individual. Instead, assign a subcommittee to manage the process. Your subcommittee should be composed of individuals with keen attention to detail. We recommend either asking for volunteers from the membership (who may or may not be led by a Board member) or creating a subcommittee comprised of a minority of the Board.
Note: if your subcommittee reaches a quorum, meetings and actions taken by the sub-committee must be recorded, put on an agenda, etc. This is why your subcommittee should be a Board minority.
To begin the process, your subcommittee should review the Rules & Regulations document to identify areas in need of updates, then bring them to the Board. The Board will discuss the relevant items and draft updates. After the Board proposes changes, you must submit draft revisions to the Membership during a 30-day open comment period. Once you receive input and feedback from the Membership, your Board can advance to a vote.
Single Rule Changes
Individual rule changes are generally far less time-consuming. Instead of appointing a sub-committee, your attorney or community management company can assist in reviewing the document to identify the specific rule to amend. Your management company, attorney or an individual Board member might suggest updated language. As with full rewrites, the proposed changes must be communicated to the Membership for the 30-day comment period.
Communicate Your Changes to Your Membership
Not only are you legally required to solicit member input on proposed changes, doing so is an important step in maintaining transparency and establishing the context and purpose for changes.
Your property management company can help develop a communications strategy to make sure that all Members are aware of their right to comment on the proposed changes. If the change is going to be controversial, we recommend you invite membership to speak directly to the Board at town hall or open board meeting.
Once you have a redlined version or a completely revised document, you must send the updates to the Membership via First Class Mail. We recommend including a cover page that includes a short summary of changes as well as explaining the intent of the revisions. Also, it’s always a good idea to post changes elsewhere throughout the process, including email blasts, notices on your website and social media updates. Your community management company can help.
Finally, once the vote has been registered and changes are made, a new copy of your Rules & Regulations must be mailed to every member for their records. Ask your community association management company to update the final document on your community’s website.
How Your Community Management Company Can Help
Your management company, Board and Membership are all partners with the same goal: to protect your community. Use your management company’s background experience to your advantage by soliciting their input to discover what has worked for other similar communities. Your management company can also provide valuable input into the operational realities of rule enforcement.
Your ultimate goal is to evaluate rule changes macroscopically. That is, you must look at how changes fit in with the needs, goals and daily use of your community. There are no set timetables or schedules in which to update your Rules & Regulations. Instead, keep your finger on the pulse of the community to make sure that the changes keep pace and propose updates accordingly.