As a community association management company, we often receive inquiries about the differences between governing documents and where to look for specific guidelines regarding particular issues.
We have detailed the differences between each type of governing document in an article titled “Understanding the Differences between CC&Rs, Bylaws and Rules & Regulations” but here is the brief answer:
- Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) is a legally binding document that covers the rights and obligations of the homeowners association and the membership.
- Bylaws outline the structure of governance within your homeowners association.
- Rules & Regulations are an evolving document that establishes the standards and practices that must be upheld by all members of the association (homeowners).
When you purchase a home or condo within a community in a homeowners association, you sign a document requiring you to abide by all governing documents, including the regulations established in the CC&Rs. As mentioned above, your CC&Rs are legally binding. This means that they are in a carefully-crafted document that is designed to protect the association and its membership in case of legal dispute.
The reasons you would reference your CC&Rs differ slightly depending on your role in the Association. In this article, we will address when to turn to your CC&Rs for the HOA Board and for the membership.
When the HOA Board should turn to CC&Rs
A community’s CC&Rs are what assigns the Board its authority. This includes a detailed description of the rights and responsibilities of the Board and the members of the Association. It also covers the legal description of official property lines including common areas, individual lots, and where the community ends and city or county responsibility begins.
A Board should consult their CC&Rs when addressing the following issues:
- Questions or disputes about common areas
- Questions about Association authority
- Questions about the Board’s enforcement ability
- Questions about member vs. Board responsibility
If a Board acts outside of its authority as outlined in the community’s CC&Rs during its delivery of community association management, the Board and Association open themselves to significant legal liability. If in doubt about the Board’s authority to manage an issue, we always recommend checking with your community association management company and your Association’s legal team before taking any action.
When a member should turn to CC&Rs
Chances are if you, as a member of the Association, have a question about the governance in the community, it will likely be answered by the community’s Bylaws or its Rules & Regulations. However, there are two common times that the Association membership will consult the community’s CC&Rs:
- When there is a question about Association vs. Member ownership or responsibility for property
- When a member wants to submit an architectural application to change their home and needs to know the guidelines they must follow
The community’s CC&Rs will explicitly outline how to handle these issues. If you still have questions, contact your management company who can explain in further detail.
How to Change your community’s CC&Rs
Because CC&Rs are a legally binding document, extreme care should be taken when implementing any updates. In fact, most communities require a membership supermajority to approve changes. However, as communities evolve they occasionally need to update their CC&Rs. In these cases, we recommend consulting your community’s legal counsel to make sure that the proposed changes protect the association and still abide by local, state and federal laws.
A community’s CC&Rs are a useful reference tool. We encourage all Board members and homeowners to keep a copy of their CC&Rs handy to research topics and answer questions as they arise. Every Association member is issued a copy of their community’s CC&Rs after the purchase of their home or condo. However, if you have misplaced your copy you can likely find a current PDF on your community’s website or you can contact your community association management company, who will email or deliver a copy to you.