Your community’s governing documents are the structural backbone of your community’s identity and how it operates. We have already covered a detailed description of each governing document, but here is a quick review of the name and purpose of each governing document:
Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) – This document details the rights and obligations of both the homeowners association and its membership.
Bylaws – Bylaws outline the processes and structure of the governance of the HOA.
Rules & Regulations – Rules & regulations cover any items that aren’t included in the community’s CC&Rs or Bylaws. These are usually a more fluid set of rules that are designed to meet the unique needs of each individual community.
Many governing documents are established immediately after the community’s developer completes construction. Therefore, these documents follow a standard set of guidelines that are intended to protect the community–even though the houses are still empty. As the neighborhood or condo complex fills up with residents, a true community emerges and the governing documents may eventually need to be amended to reflect the changing real-life needs of residents.
Many HOA boards ask us when it is appropriate to update their governing documents. The truth is that there is no hard and fast rule. However, as time passes, we recommend reviewing your governing documents to keep pace with your evolving community, usually every 4-5 years.
Check the mechanisms for changing your documents
Before you can even consider changing your community’s governing documents, you must review the requirements for enacting change. For example, a community might notice that they had a hard time reaching quorum, inhibiting their ability to make any changes to their documents. Their first goal might be to amend the clause that requires a super-majority, lowering required attendance levels. This will enable the HOA to proceed with other changes.
We recommend appointing a sub-committee of interested members. Those with interest in and experience reading legal documents are often well-suited for this committee. Along with your property management company, the committee members will help identify areas in your governing documents that might be ripe for change and can take note of the mechanisms required for updates.
Assess your community’s needs
Keep in mind your community’s ultimate goals and assess how well you are currently meeting them. Pay attention to things like use of your common areas & amenities, resident suggestions, general aesthetics, state and local guidelines, and area trends in housing. For additional suggestions, consult your homeowners association management company. Their team of management experts can offer insights into what other communities in your area are doing to remain competitive, maintain high property values and satisfy residents.
Next, create a list called “Things We Would Change if We Could.” Move down the list, identifying the mechanisms that would be required to make each change. Make sure that the HOA has the authority to make these changes and assess the time and resources required for each. Understanding the bigger picture will help you determine whether or not each community update–and change to your governing documents–is worth it.
Communicate with members
Governing documents affect every member of the Association, so changes should be done in a forthright and transparent fashion. Your property management company will help you create a communications strategy to invite participation from members. Share with the membership your reasons for updating your community’s governing documents, so they understand each change and why it is beneficial for the community.
Changes take time
Updating governing documents can require lengthy and complicated legal processes. Many changes will require input and advice from your community’s attorney. Your homeowners association management company will interface between your attorney and the Association, helping to ensure that the Board provides the appropriate information and documentation as requested by your attorney.
Communities generally don’t change because they have to, they change in order to make sure that the community matches the needs and desires of current and future residents. Most community changes are not sweeping and sudden. Instead, community updates are often part of a gradual roll-out as time and budget allow. Therefore, changes to governing documents will also take time.
Be sure to take a thoughtful approach to updating your governing documents. Since these documents outline the Association’s legal obligations and the rules that you expect all residents to live by, they should not be changed on a whim. However, don’t get locked into rules that no longer serve your community.
If you’re unsure of the best way to amend your governing documents and would like to discuss your options, call us at (949) 833-2600 and we’ll help you discover a solution that works best for your community.