Condos and HOAs use rules to help support—and fill in the gaps of—the CC&R provisions. Rules regulate things like common areas and amenities, which aren’t included in the CC&Rs (for example, the CC&Rs don’t state the gym’s operating hours). Communities must make those kinds of rules.
As time passes, some rules lose their relevance. The board is responsible for periodic review of rules—as well as bylaws and CC&Rs—to ensure they continue to reflect the needs of owners and the entire community. Rule additions or changes can also come about in response to requests from residents. Below, we’ll cover the process for introducing and implementing new or revised rules.
Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions cover the rights and obligations of association members. The document is recorded and filed with the land records in the county where the development is located. That means the content written in the CC&Rs is usually legally binding.
The developer that creates the condo or HOA is responsible for writing the first set of covenants, conditions and restrictions. However, once the developer turns the community over to owners, associations can amend and restate their CC&Rs to:
- Reflect changes in the law,
- Address circumstances that have not been addressed in the document, or
- Modify the rights and obligations of the association and its members.
CC&Rs are legally binding, so it’s not an easy process to change them. But it can be done – here’s how:
1. Proposal of amendment
The first step consists of a proposal describing the changes to the law or covenant.
2. Discuss the amendment at a meeting
The board will then discuss the proposed amendment at a board meeting. The board must allow owners to voice their thoughts and concerns. In some cases, the board may call a special meeting so that the community has enough time to discuss the amendment.
Following review, everyone who is permitted to do so will have the opportunity to vote either for or against the amendment. The association will need a certain percentage of eligible owners to support the change in order to move forward. For example, 75% of owners must vote in favour of the amendment before it can be changed.
Certain requirements will also apply here. For instance, your state or province may require your condo or HOA to use secret ballots.
4. Counting the results
The next step is to count the ballots. The tallying of the votes usually takes place during an open meeting. This way, owners can see that the count was done fairly and accurately.
5. Amendment approval
The association will require a majority vote from the membership to approve the amendment. What counts as a majority will depend on your governing documents. Often, the condo or HOA will need either 2/3 or 3/4 of members to approve the change. This is one reason why it can be so hard to change the CC&Rs.
6. Documenting the amendment
After approval, changes to the CC&Rs must be recorded with the county recorder’s office. The board must give owners formal notice about the amendment and when the new or revised item comes into effect.
Bylaws deal with how the HOA or condo is run. They cover things like how directors are elected, voting procedures, the duties of board members and maintenance of common elements.
Like CC&Rs, new or amended bylaws cannot come into effect until they are approved by a majority of owners. The process for changing bylaws is very similar to the process for changing CC&Rs.
The association may not have to record the new bylaw with the county, but this isn’t always the case.
Rules give the association additional instructions and information that help maintain peace and order in the community. Rules are easier to make and change than bylaws and CC&Rs.
The board doesn’t always need approval from the members of the community to implement new rules. However, if a rule would significantly alter the governing documents, then a vote by all members of the association is likely required.
Examples of association rules:
- Architectural controls
- Lawn and holiday decoration restrictions
- Home maintenance standards
- Noise complaint policies
- Home occupancy limits
- Parking rules and guidelines
- Pet size and quantity limits
- Short-term rental restrictions
- Trash and recycling rules
What board members should know
Rules aren’t typically part of the association’s original governing documents. That means boards don’t need to go through an amendment process like they would when trying to change bylaws.
Nevertheless, in some states and provinces, associations must still get member approval for rule changes. In these cases, the proposed change would need to be shared with the membership.
Owners would have 30 days to comment on the rules and provide input. After that 30-day time period, the board would meet to review comments and decide whether to adopt the rule or not. In the event of an emergency situation, the board would not be expected to provide 30 days to owners.
Even if your condo or HOA does not need to inform owners about a potential rule change, experts recommend doing so anyway.
Steps to amending or creating a rule
- Prepare a draft of the rule
- Provide members with description of the change, and why it has been proposed
- Schedule a process for members to submit comments
- Document or save comments. If you have a record of the comments, or the lack of comments to a rule, that can be useful if the board gets pushback after it’s time to enforce it
- Update the rule in the community’s governing documents. Don’t forget about digital copies
Once a new rule has been approved, ensure to give owners time before implementing it. Send out an announcement to all residents explaining the rule change, why it was changed and when it comes into effect.
If the board had to make a rule change quickly because of an emergency, make efforts to inform owners about it afterward. Owners may not understand the new rule and it may take some time for them to get used to it.
What owners should know
Owners can also ask for new rules or for changes to be made to existing rules. Owners are encouraged to read their documents before doing anything. They should have a clear understanding about whether the item they want to change is a rule, bylaw or CC&R.
The other important part of understanding your documents is to figure out the reasons why the rule was created in the first place. If the rule is dated, or creating more issues that it’s preventing, owners can draft a proposal and submit it to the board for review. Explain how the new or changed rule would positively impact the community. If there are many owners who feel the same way about an issue, it is a good idea to include that point in the proposal.
Owners could call a special meeting if the rule change is somewhat urgent. You’ll need the majority of eligible voters to support you and attend the meeting, as per quorum requirements.
It’s usually board members that call for a special meeting, but owners may also petition for them via a written request. Your bylaws should have the requirements—such as the number of signatures needed for the petition to be considered—that must be followed for the special meeting to take place. If all requirements are met, the board must hold the meeting.
Note that even if a special meeting is held, members cannot force a ballot to add or change rules unless the governing documents state otherwise. But, if the change is something the owners want, and will impact the community in a positive manner, it’s likely achievable.
Rules offer specific information to residents. They are customizable, and should be created to serve the community’s best interests. From time to time, rules will need to be amended to reflect the current needs or situation of the condo or HOA. Boards are encouraged to give owners an opportunity to share their thoughts about rule changes, especially if those changes will impact their day-to-day experiences.