Sometimes a situation arises that prompts a homeowners’ association to create a new rule. It is important to know how to change HOA rules properly. You’ll want to be legally compliant, and to manage concerns of HOA members. Here is a guide to adding rule amendments.
Understand HOA Document Hierarchy
Understanding the authority of an HOA’s governing documents is crucial to amending them. These rules appear in the form of declarations (or “decs”) or bylaws that every homeowner receives prior to moving in and must agree to. See the pyramid, which shows the hierarchy of authority. Federal and state law trump all else, and board rules and resolutions are at the bottom. If you are amending HOA covenants or bylaws, you must get your required association votes before putting it into effect. In other cases, the rule does not need association owner approval. In those cases, the board can simply approve it.
Importance of Attorney Review
If the board has decided to amend a rule or create a new one, you most likely will have to involve an attorney. Declarations and bylaws are considered legal documents, and any changes made to them must be looked over by a legal professional. If the amendment is too complicated or detailed, an attorney is highly recommended. Otherwise, it may not be necessary. For example, if the proposed change is small like “no reversing into your parking spot,” then the board can most likely forgo legal assistance. Additionally, an attorney will be able to point out any contradictions to the current declarations or bylaws as they supersede anything in the rules. The only instance in which you may not need an attorney, is if you are absolutely positive that your new rule is:
- very simple
- drafted properly
- doesn’t contradict any items on the pyramid above Board Resolutions
Implement HOA Rule Change
1. Draft your rule amendment
State in clear language what the rule amendment is. Anticipate if there are actions you need to take in order to get approval. For example, let’s say you want a rule stating that you can use email for association correspondence instead of paper letters. You’d want to disseminate a form, or some other way, to collect every owner’s email address.
2. Notice of Proposal
Once the board has proposed an amendment, they must send out a notice between 10 and 30 days before the next board meeting; no more, no less. The notice must include the:
- proposed rule change
- description of the purpose
- effect of the proposal
The only instance where notice is not necessary is if the rule is addressing:
“an imminent threat to public health or safety or imminent risk of substantial economic loss to the association”.
3. The Board Meeting
At the meeting where the board will seek to approve the rule, they must open the floor to homeowners for discussion and questions. This item must be on the agenda. As stated above, if you are proposing amending HOA covenants or other governing documents on the pyramid, it must get owner votes. Otherwise, the board can approve on their own.
4. After Rule Approval
Following the board meeting where the rule proposal is approved, the board must send notice to the whole community of the details. This must be completed within 15 days of the decision. Here is an example of an original notice with the details added post-approval.