The Three Documents Every HOA Should Have

Condos and planned living communities are increasingly popular places to live, but they come with many unique challenges. Because of shared space, shared structures, and shared resources, they require special management and guidance and individuals dedicated to providing such oversight.

Homeowners associations are the most common governance structures used to address the overlapping needs of those who live in shared spaces or shared communities. Anyone who has lived in a condo can attest to the fact that while some HOAs are robust and thriving, others suffer significantly from the lack of investment or input from the community.

Whether you are looking to buy a condo or a home in a planned community or are interested in becoming more involved in your local HOA, there are three fundamental types of documents that all HOAs should have in order to ensure good governance.

Have You Reviewed the Bylaws for Your University Place Residence?

Bylaws are a fundamental document for any HOA. HOAs are typically created through Articles of Incorporation that set forth the basic details of the association including where it is located and what its purpose is.

For the nitty gritty details of how the HOA should operate, you must look to the bylaws. The bylaws set forth the procedures of how an HOA should run and what its rights and responsibilities are. For example, bylaws will often give the Association the right to collect dues or make special assessments when necessary and give the Association the ability to enforce the rules and regulations of the HOA.

HOAs are usually governed by a Board of Directors. The Bylaws will set forth the procedures for selecting and voting upon potential Directors as well as the nature of their duties and their term.

While the Bylaws don’t always have an immediate impact on your day-to-day life as a condo owner or participant in a shared community, they are an important document to review in order to fully understand how your HOA works and how you can become involved in the process.

Getting Down to Details

For prospective purchasers of a condo or home in a planned community, the biggest question is often what sort of restrictions or requirements the HOA imposes on you as a property owner. Details about these types of requirements are contained in the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R).

The CC&R is the ultimate governing document for an HOA. If the HOA creates any other type of document that conflicts with the CC&R, the CC&R’s provisions will always win. The CC&Rs contain restrictions on how property can be used and conveyed under the HOA’s requirements.

For example, a CC&R may require that a full-time owner live on the property rather than allowing rentals, or that the property must be maintained as an affordable housing property. The CC&Rs may also contain more minute requirements such as no visible external features on a house, no satellite dishes, or no pets within a condo community.

HOAs can impose virtually any type of condition or restriction that they want on a building or planned community as long as those restrictions do not violate other laws. The conditions or restrictions cannot discriminate against those with constitutionally protected rights or impose requirements forbidden by Washington state law.

Often times when an HOA is in existence for a long period, certain covenants or restrictions will become outdated or no longer practical. Also, the interests of the community might change and want to get rid of certain restrictions so as to allow for things like short-term rentals. CC&Rs usually set forth the amendment process that must be followed to change the CC&R, and potential buyers should be careful to review how difficult those requirements are.

Also Look to Rules and Regulations

Some HOAs may have requirements for their members so as to maintain a certain appearance within their community. They may not allow certain paint colors or finishes, prohibit cars from sitting in driveways, or require that lawns be maintained on a monthly basis.

Often times, these types of requirements become too onerous to be contained within the CC&Rs. So instead, the HOA will promote rules and regulations that expand upon the general restrictions contained within the CC&R.  These rules and regulations will cover the full gamut of what residents can and cannot do on their property.

Rules and regulations will also set forth what can happen when they are violated. Homeowners may be subject to warnings or fines for noncompliance. And in extreme circumstances, legal action may even be threatened.

Rules and regulations are, unsurprisingly, the most controversial of HOA documents. While they are meant to maintain a community that is in the best interest of all homeowners, the reality is that different individuals will have different opinions as to what the “best interest” really is. Some may believe that the ability to rent is an important freedom to allow, while others feel it will degrade the feeling of community.

Before you purchase a condo or home within a planned community, it is imperative that you closely read the CC&R and the rules and regulations to better understand the requirements of the community where you may end up living. If the rules and regulations conflict with your values or interests, you should not suppose that they can be ignored or changed. Instead, the community may simply not be the right one for you.

Washington Attorneys Advising You on HOA and Real Estate Matters

Whether you are a potential purchaser or a seasoned homeowner looking to improve the governance of your HOA, the real estate attorneys at Bolan Law Group can guide you through the process of obtaining the documents you need, drafting documents that your HOA lacks, or modifying existing documents that have become outdated and inefficient over time.

Getting the documents right the first time around can help you to avoid future headaches or misunderstandings and conflicts down the road.  For more information or to schedule an initial consultation, contact us online or at (253) 470-2356.

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