A community’s HOA documents are not just pieces of paper to formalize the association’s existence. They play a vital role in the community’s everyday operations. Thus, board members and homeowners should know all the community’s HOA documents.
Homeowners association documents, or the governing documents, establish the association’s existence. They also dictate the association’s responsibilities, how it is structured, and what it can or cannot do. Moreover, they indicate how the board operates and contain HOA guidelines every member must follow.
There are several types of HOA documents in a planned community, each serving a different function. These include the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and Rules and Regulations. Community residents get a copy of these documents upon purchasing a home.
HOA documents are legally binding and enforceable on the association and the homeowners. However, because people write them, they sometimes contain conflicting provisions. Some may also contain vague language that can be interpreted in different ways.
As a result, board members may need clarification as to which governing document to follow. Should the bylaws come first, or should they follow the CC&Rs? This is where the hierarchy of HOA governing documents comes in. Some take precedence over others.
That said, let’s examine each HOA document, what purpose they serve, and how they fit into the hierarchy:
While homeowners don’t get a copy of HOA laws when they buy a house, these regulations are vital to communities. This is because the federal, state, and local laws precede every other HOA governing document. Hence, provisions within HOA documents in conflict with the law may be unenforceable.
For example, the community’s CC&Rs may restrict race or religion. This will violate the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing-related discrimination based on several factors. Even though the governing documents say otherwise, the community cannot ban people of certain races or religions from purchasing homes.
Homeowners associations should also note that these laws have their hierarchy. Federal laws are above every other law. Meanwhile, state laws outweigh local laws and ordinances. Both homeowners and board members should keep this in mind.
The community plat is simply a map of the whole neighborhood. It contains community and lot boundaries, allowing the association to establish property lines. Moreover, it shows each unit’s setback requirements, easements, and dimensions. This plat is registered with the county office.
Many community maps also include other information regarding the community. These include landscaping restrictions, trash enclosures, vehicle restrictions, lighting requirements, handicapped spaces, and parking restrictions.
The CC&R HOA communities possess the most important of the HOA documents after the community plat. It details the responsibilities of the HOA board and outlines the homeowners’ rights. This document also contains community obligations regarding maintenance, assessments, and enforcement.
Many CC&Rs also outline violation procedures and dispute resolution processes. They also contain architectural guidelines and outline what homeowners can and cannot do with their property. This is why many think of the CC&Rs as the community’s rules.
Any violation of the homeowners association’s CC&Rs results in certain penalties. Most communities send violation notices to homeowners, giving them time to correct the violation. However, homeowners who do not comply may face fines, a suspension of rights or privileges, and even legal action.
The articles of incorporation establish the homeowners association as an entity. Often, homeowners associations are incorporated as nonprofit organizations. Thus, the association’s developer may file the articles of incorporation with the state.
The articles of incorporation essentially give the HOA a legal right to govern the neighborhood. They can execute the association’s plan and enforce the CC&Rs through it. However, as the articles of incorporation only serve this purpose, residents don’t need to refer to this document as much.
The HOA bylaws establish operating guidelines for the board of directors. They typically outline how many board members there must be and how each board member functions. Moreover, they contain guidelines regarding meeting frequency, quorum, elections, and board member removal.
While the bylaws are not as high as the other HOA documents, they’re still quite important. Homeowners often refer to them when it comes to internal processes. For example, they may use the bylaws to hold the board accountable for not holding meetings. Furthermore, the bylaws prevail over the homeowners association rules and regulations.
The final HOA document is the association’s rules and regulations. These are not to be confused with the CC&Rs, as the covenants often contain only general rules for the community. The rules and regulations expand on the CC&Rs and go into detail.
For example, the CC&Rs might establish general architectural standards for the community, such as whether residents can build fences. Meanwhile, the rules and regulations may add specifics such as the height or paint color allowed.
Other examples of a homeowners association’s rules include pet restrictions, common area usage guidelines, and landscaping. They may even govern minor details, such as whether homeowners can add basketball hoops on their front lawns.
Given the nature of this HOA document, many homeowners and board members often conflict over it. It’s often the source of disputes, disagreements, and tension. Many homeowners see these rules as inconvenient or even restrictive. Thus, board members must consider the homeowners’ opinions while designing and implementing these rules.
A homeowners association has more documents than just its governing documents. Communities also have several other official documents that may not affect the community's operations. These include the following:
Most states have laws that require HOAs to provide these HOA documents to homeowners upon request. Homeowners can review them to gauge the HOA’s health and gain insight into how the community operates.
Both board members and homeowners should familiarize themselves with all the community’s HOA documents. These allow the HOA members to understand how the community should run. They define what board members should do and what rules homeowners must follow. However, drafting guidelines, managing documents, and enforcing the rules can be overwhelming tasks for just a few board members. A professional management company like Vanguard Management Group can help. Call us now at 813-930-8036 or contact us online for more details!