There comes a point in every condo owner’s life when you realize there are certain rules and regulations you don’t agree with. But, they’re usually so minuscule that you’re okay living with them, anyway.
Sometimes these rules can feel so restrictive that you can no longer abide by them. This often happens with rules that may have worked for a certain epoch but are no longer applicable to modern times.
The good news is there’s something you can do to challenge condo rules and regulations that are redundant or needlessly restrictive. Below are some helpful tips to guide you through this process.
Study the rules
First, you must educate yourself about your condo’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws. That way, you can figure out how often they can be changed, by whom and through what methods. The CC&R document, in particular, contains vital information that the condo community needs to thrive.
Then there are bylaws which govern the implementation of all the rules and regulations that your condo community must abide by. These documents are designed to protect your interests as a unit owner by making sure the right people are elected to the board and there’s a clear vision for them to implement.
Also contained in these documents are rules on how to administer the association budget, how to carry out maintenance tasks, meetings, proxies, voting, special assessments, general assessments, restrictions, and insurance coverage.
Studying these documents allows you to view the law you’re trying to change in context. Enabling you to make an informed and compelling argument when writing a letter requesting the board to alter it.
Also keep in mind that as much as they’re interrelated, these documents exist in a hierarchy. The CC&R may supersede your Bylaws, while state or provincial regulations trump them all. If you don’t have copies of your condo association documents, try looking for them on the condo association’s website, ask a board member or even your realtor.
Attend board meetings
If you’re serious about making a change in your community, then you should attend board meetings. You may find that the issue you want to raise is already on the table.
Don’t be shy to ask questions and most importantly; listen. It’s possible the rules and regulations you want to challenge are the results of a compromise between certain factions within the community.
This means bringing them up for review would set the community back again. You may also learn that certain regulations are based on state or provincial regulations, which means changing them is not up to the board.
Did you find the condo rule you wanted to fight against?
Once you’ve read through the CC&R documents and attended a couple of meetings, you should have a clear idea of your next steps. Perhaps you were lucky enough to find a clause or loophole that legitimizes your reason to change a particular bylaw.
At some point, almost every condo association must review and change their bylaws in keeping with the times. It might be time for your condo association to address issues such as voting procedures or change how they carry out special assessments. If unit owners are complaining about several of the bylaws set out in the document, perhaps it’s a sign that the board needs to overhaul the entire document. This is an arduous and costly process, so before you kick-start it, it might be helpful to ask yourself a few questions first, such as:
- Will changing this rule affect the resell value of the units within your condo building or complex? Will this change fortify the building against financial liabilities and legal challenges?
- Will you improve assessment collections by making the proposed changes? Will you achieve better reserve and budget planning?
- Does the bylaw infringe on certain freedoms, such as your ability to fly your country’s flag? Does it discriminate against single people or children?
- Are you experiencing pest problems, parking issues and poor maintenance of common areas? Perhaps there’s indiscriminate mounting of satellite dish devices and antennas.
- Do you have an issue with reaching quorum requirements at board meetings? Do you have trouble keeping people on the board as volunteers?
- Are some of the provisions in your bylaws outdated and irrelevant to modern legislation? For instance, the document might reference government legislation that has long been abolished.
If after answering these questions, and you still feel the need to challenge certain rules and regulations in the document, read the next section.
To challenge your condo association’s rules and regulations, you need to get a consensus among a certain percentage of the homeowners in your community. Talk to your neighbors and find out what they think about the rule. You might find that you’re not alone in your dislike for certain regulations. If you can get at least a majority of your neighbors to support you in challenging the rules, this makes it an official matter.
The CC&R document should contain some information on the consensus that you need to reach in order to make things happen. In most cases, you need at least two-thirds of the shareholders (AKA unit owners) to vote for the change.
The only downside is that you need to wait for the condo association’s annual meeting to get your concerns heard. But, if you’ve done the groundwork mentioned above, this part should be easy. Alternatively, you could call a special meeting instead of waiting for the annual meeting to convene. You’ll need a majority percentage of the shareholders to attend the meeting as per quorum requirements. Make sure you prepare a petition document prior to the meeting so you can circulate it to everyone who’s present.
Write a letter
Write a letter to the condo association board that states what your reasons are for challenging the rules and regulations. Make a few examples of how it’s affecting homeowner’s lives and how the community could benefit from the change. Remember to attach your petition when you send the letter to support your statement.
Document your actions
Keep copies of all correspondence you make while pursuing the matter. This includes any letters and/or emails that you exchange with the HOA or CA board. If you spoke with a board representative over the phone, follow that up with a confirmation letter stating your understanding of the conversation. If the HOA doesn’t write back with corrections about the letter, it means you’re both in agreement about its contents.
If you succeed and the board agrees to change the restrictive rule or bylaw, they’ll most likely circulate a proposal with details of the rule change to make sure that all unit owners know of the developments.
Afterward, the board will hold another meeting where everyone is given a chance to make comments or questions.
The association may choose to hold a special vote on the matter to make the proposed amendment immediately. Other associations might put off the final vote until the annual meeting.
As you go about challenging your condo association rules and regulations, keep in mind that it took a lot of time and effort to create those rules so they can’t be changed overnight. It might take
as long as 3 to 6 months to change the rules, but if it’s something you’re passionate about, then you should go