As a condominium owner association (COA) or homeowner association (HOA), it is part of your responsibility to uphold rules and regulations that aim to keep your community safe and comfortable for all current and future residents.
While this is true, these rules must be in unison with the development’s bylaws, covenants, conditions & restrictions (CC&Rs), and any applicable state (and federal) laws where your property is located.
“Going from an apartment building to managing an association, you’re managing a corporation with stockholders and board members in a homeowners association. The financials are different, and you follow different laws and regulations.”
~ Melanie Barkodarian, Fidelity Management Services, Inc.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the who, what, and why of COA/HOA rules and how to ensure you’re following your state’s law by leveraging HOA owner portals to enforce and manage the rules. Let’s start with the basics…
What are CC&Rs?
Covenants, conditions, and restrictions, also known as the declaration or master deed, is a legal document that describes the rights and obligations of the association, board, and homeowners.
It specifies the homeowners versus the community association’s ownership rights and the architectural guidelines for the community. The rules outlined in your HOA’s CC&Rs are legally binding.
Your CC&Rs may cover the following items:
- Maintenance responsibilities of the association and its members
- A framework for enforcing rules and resolving disputes
- Provisions for lender protection
- Restrictions of property use
- Assessment obligations
- Insurance obligations
Amending the CC&Rs may take some work since the record is preserved in a governing document with the state. Any modifications will also need to be voted on and approved by the members. We recommend uploading a copy of the CC&Rs in your HOA portal for easy access in the event it needs to be reviewed by board members, homeowners, or your staff.
What are Bylaws?
Bylaws address the components of the COA/HOA board’s authority and obligations.
While CC&Rs touch more on the rights of the association and property owners, the bylaws lay out the specifics of how the members should operate. Members of the board must stick to the power conferred by the bylaws and state legislation when making decisions and taking action.
Your bylaws may cover the following items:
- HOA Election Process
- Term length of HOA officers
- Nomination details of new board members
- Board members duties and responsibilities
- Meeting frequency and quorum requirements
Like CC&Rs, bylaws require a vote by the members to be revised or modified.
Can Associations Add Rules and Regulations?
Your association may also enact additional rules to assist in enforcing and clarifying the restrictions contained in its CC&Rs.
If the regulations aren’t more stringent than current restrictions, the board can sometimes go ahead and approve them without a vote from all homeowners if it follows your state laws.
While there may be rare instances that associations make and implement additional rules without notifying their members, it’s a practice that we do not recommend. Transparency in an organization is critical for preserving trust and solidarity in the community.
Ensure that your homeowners know about any new rules by using an online system with portals for your owners, board members, and staff. To disperse the message, you can use TOPS [ONE] Community Websites or Enhanced Communications options. Informing your homeowners of new rules is a must and will help you avoid negative implications from state laws.
Implications of State Laws on HOA Rules
Not following HOA rules as a property owner can carry legal and financial consequences, but the same goes for board members who do not adhere to your state’s law about enforcing these regulations.
What if our development’s document does not require prior notice of fines or lawsuits to violators?
Depending on your property location, the association may be required by state law to notify homeowners before filing a lawsuit. Other HOA actions might also be regulated by state legislation.
Can the state law require a COA/HOA to settle rules disputes with property owners out of court?
Because disagreements regarding rules and regulations between HOAs and their members are expected, most states prefer to keep them out of the courts. Before filing a lawsuit, some states require the association to seek to resolve any problem with a homeowner through arbitration or mediation.
Does the State Law have power over COA/HOA Liens?
Some state laws may decide whether the HOA can place a lien on the property of an HOA rule violator to collect past-due fees. On the other hand, some states do not allow liens for penalties but do in certain other circumstances.
It’s important to note that nearly all states’ laws require prior notification to the violation owner and the association’s intent to file a lien.
Using an HOA Owner Portal to Comply with State Law Requirements
Pose as an example to your community by ensuring that the rules and regulations you implement are announced through the proper channels.
TOPS [ONE] Advanced Portals can make life easier not only for your board and property managers, but your residents will appreciate it as well.
Our Advanced Portals serve as a bridge between residents and community associations. [ONE] is a self-service site where residents can make online payments, track payment history, request service repairs, and other functions that can help avoid and quickly remedy rule violations. Giving your residents this option saves them a lot of time and decreases the workload for the association and property manager.
Community associations’ portals make it fast and easy for residents and board members to communicate regarding rules and regulations, preventing any unnecessary state involvement. And, if disagreements fail to be resolved out of court, the TOPS [ONE] HOA owner portal can provide you instant access to reports and documents that can support your case.
Are You Prepared When It Comes to State Laws?
Setting up rules and regulations that coincide with state laws helps protect the interest of everyone in your community, including the association.
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This list doesn’t give you all the answers, but it does provide a thought provoking opportunity to insure that whatever solution you are considering, it will work well for your organization.
This is the resource you’ve been waiting for.