How to Change the Rules of Your HOA - Part 1
Every HOA and condo association is defined by its governing rules. The rules in the By-Laws and the CC&Rs shape how the community functions and the conduct that all homeowners must share. The rules can be loose or precise, relaxed or strict - but one thing is certain: The content of your community rules will shape the lifestyles (and options) of the members within.
While rules may have written each rule with the best intentions, not all HOA By-Laws and CC&Rs are still a good fit for members and their council's current body. If there is a rule causing problems in the community - or you've developed the need for a new rule - it's essential to know that these documents aren't set in stone. There are many important reasons to change HOA rules, from previously unfair policies to merely adapting to a more modern community's lifestyle needs.
It just takes a relatively long and involved, neighborhood-wide, process to make a change to your community's governing documents. Here's a quick and helpful outline of the process for changing the By-Laws or CC&R rules defined by your HOA or condo association.
Step 1: Review Your HOA State Laws
First, be sure that you know the laws of your state and county as regards HOAs. These vary state-by-state, defining what HOAs are and are not allowed to regulate. These laws primarily address homeowners' rights that you cannot infringe upon - issues relating to insurance, debt collection, equal opportunity, and fair treatment, along with the rules of the foundation of the association and sale of homes.
For example, it would be illegal to write a CC&R allowing the council to take personal possessions instead of following proper fee and debt procedures or allowing only male homeowners to have porch swings.
Changing by-laws, you may need to consult laws relating to HOA founding. Changing your CC&Rs, you will need to be most focused on laws relating to fairness in homeowner treatment - especially if you are discussing new membership policies or legal remedies to rule-breaking.
If you are looking to write a new rule regarding something specific like pool use or construction, look up other local laws to ensure you are not proposing something that would cause members of the association to violate existing legal policies.
Step 2: Check Your Plan
Before initiating changes with the council, fully explore why the rules are the way they are and get the word out that you plan to make a change. Attend a council meeting and bring up your concerns. Please send an email to all homeowners to alert them of your plan to change the rules, what that change is, and why. Study the existing documents to be certain your proposed change is both beneficial and well-structured.
In other words, cover your due-diligence bases. You may discover that the rule has a previously unknown purpose, that your proposal needs to be adapted, or that the entire community is behind your decision.
It can be beneficial (if not essential) to consult with the community's association lawyer to ensure your proposed changes are entirely within the legal scope of federal, state, and county laws. They can also help you prevent any civil legal conflicts with the policies you propose (avoid getting the association sued in civil court).
Step 3: Write an Amendment Proposal to the Board
Now that you've covered your bases write a formal proposal to change the by-laws or the CC&Rs. This proposal should be typed and sent to the board as a formal submission for board consideration. Be sure it is well-reasoned and directly references the sections of each document you'd like to change. Include specific examples of why the rule needs to change and the benefits of making the change.
If you're not sure of the correct submission procedure, call your HOA office and ask how to submit your proposal formally. The association manager or secretary
[Continued in Part 2]