RealManage Insight

A Member’s Guide to Understanding the HOA's Governing Documents

by Kimberly Sutherland on Apr 28, 2022 9:00:00 AM

The governing documents of an association contain the rules, regulations, and other contractual obligations to which members are obligated. When you purchase a home in a governed community association, you instantly become a member.

If you're an HOA member or thinking of buying in a community managed by an association, keep reading to discover facts that you may not know (but should).

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Facts About HOA Documents All Members Must Know

Most states require sellers to advise prospective buyers that the house they are interested in is part of an organization. The seller must also reveal the community association's contact information as well as the papers governing the property's usage and occupancy.

Basic HOA Documents and Hierarchy of Authority

All HOAs have the following basic set of governing documents that dictate how a community may be governed:  

  • Articles of Incorporation: Has basic information about the community association.
  • Federal and state law: Unless the statute specifies that the association's documents take precedence.
  • Declaration of CC&Rs: Contains the rights and responsibilities of each member. It also sets out the duties of the HOA to its members.
  • Rules and Regulations: Details of how the CC&Rs are interpreted and implemented.
  • Bylaws: Establish the technical rules and procedures for voting, directors' elections, and term limits.

These contracts are legally binding, so make sure you read all of the community association rules ahead of time so you know what to anticipate. Any breach of the terms may also be considered a breach of contract.

Seller's Obligation to Disclose HOA Documents & Information

Most states have laws requiring sellers to notify prospective buyers of any obligation to fulfill commitments or limitations. These regulations are intended to protect the interests of prospective buyers who are considering purchasing property regulated by community associations. Rules give you the authority to revoke the purchase agreement if the seller fails to comply with state disclosure laws.

HOA's Obligation to Allow its Members to Review and Copy the Governing Documents

As an HOA member, you have the right to review and copy the association's documents after a written request. Here is a list of HOA Official Documents that the law gives you the right to access.

  • All documents provided by the developer, including community maps, permits, plans, and land surveys.
  • Recorded Declaration of CC&Rs, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and any amendments.
  • Rules and Regulations.
  • All membership and board meeting Notices and Minutes.
  • Membership roster that includes the association's members' telephone numbers, mailing addresses, and units/lots.
  • Association's Insurance policies.
  • Association's contracts or third-party agreements or contracts.
  • Copies of Liens or Judgements recorded against or on behalf of the association.
  • Recorded instruments related to all community-owned properties.
  • HOA documents on membership approvals, voting, and the election of directors and officers.
  • All HOA accounting records for the past three years.

State Laws on the Right to Examine and Copy HOA Documents

Some states have more developed laws about a member's right to inspect the association's documents than others. For example, Arizona, California, and Florida laws are pretty detailed, whereas other states like Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Missouri will merely apply the principles of contract law.

To access your state's applicable laws, please follow this link.

How Much Should HOA Documents Cost?

Some states limit the amount that an organization can charge you for preparing and reproducing community association paperwork. When a property is under contract for sale, the seller is required to provide the buyer with the HOA's governing documents for complete transparency. In such a circumstance, the seller is most often legally responsible for the costs of producing copies of the community association paperwork.

How to Get Copies of HOA Documents 

Here are a few things that owners or potential buyers can do to avoid paying exorbitant fees:

  • Talk to your neighbors.
  • Contact your association directly and get online access to all community documents.
  • Send your association a written request to inspect the association's official records.
  • Search for the association's documents in the public records of your county recorder's office.

Prospective Buyers: Document Checklist & Considerations

Before purchasing a property ruled by a homeowners association, obtaining and reviewing several vital documents is essential. Be sure to get and review: 

  • All documents provided by the developer,
  • Recorded Declaration CC&Rs, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and any amendments,
  • Rules and Regulations,
  • Age and Rental Restrictions,
  • Architectural Guidelines,
  • The history of lot/unit violations,
  • Association's Insurance policies,
  • Account statement for the lot/unit,
  • Financial statements, budget reports, special assessments.
  • Copies of Liens, Judgments, or any encumbrances recorded against the property.

Winding Up

You get into a legal connection with the association as a member. This is a legally binding contract, and you must fulfill particular tasks and follow all restrictions. The simplest approach to avoiding arguments and fines is to thoroughly grasp the rules and limits you commit to purchasing a home. 

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