Updated November 20, 2021
Homeowners’ associations evolve over time as the world around us changes. For example, a new law gets enacted (e.g., marijuana legalization), or new safety or communication needs arise. Sometimes in response, an HOA must create a new rule or amend a bylaw. Boards must know how to change HOA rules properly. You’ll want to be legally compliant, and manage the concerns of HOA members. This guide tells how to add 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 and must agree to prior to moving in. See the pyramid to the right, which shows the hierarchy of document authority. Federal and state law trump all else, while board rules and resolutions are at the bottom. If you are amending HOA covenants or bylaws, you must get your required association votes before the change goes into effect. In other cases, rules may not need association owner approval, and 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 reviewed by a legal professional. If the amendment is too complicated or detailed, we strongly recommend consulting an attorney. However, if the proposed change is minor, like “no reversing into your parking spot,” then the board may be able to 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. Here’s how to know if your change is a rare case where you do not need an attorney… 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 Rules Change
1. Draft your amendment to the rules
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 will want to disseminate a form, or some other mechanism, 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, written as it will be in the document
- description of the purpose
- effect the rule change has
The only instance where notice is not necessary is if the rule is urgently addressing:
“an imminent threat to public health or safety or imminent risk of substantial economic loss to the association”.
3. Board meeting approval
At the meeting where the board will seek to approve the rule, board members must open the floor to homeowners for discussion and questions. The rule change proposal 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 meeting where the board approves the rule proposal, it must send notice to the whole community with 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. You may use this as a rule change notice template.