Updated November 26, 2022
There are several different condominium association rules and governing documents and it can be a challenge to keep them all straight. Nevertheless, association residents and board members will be empowered by understanding them. Likewise, knowing what happens when bylaws are violated is crucial for residents and board members alike. Here we summarize and simplify condo bylaws, declarations, and rules and regulations.
First, understand that the documents have an order of authority. The below document list is in order of authority. For instance, if a bylaw conflicts with the declaration, the declaration reigns. Check out the pyramid showing the governing authority hierarchy of association documents that we previously published.
1) Condominium declaration
A condo or townhouse declaration is the document that “declares” that the association exists, as a Not for Profit Corporation. It legally defines the common elements and the units, and gets recorded in land records for the county. Articles that define the association typically make up the declaration. For example, it names the percentage interest that each unit/owner has in the condominium, determining voting rights and condo fee percentage. It also defines:
- common area rights
- how the association handles maintenance
- how the board will use assessments
Think of the declaration as the governing legal document. Together with the condo bylaws, it acts as the “Constitution” for the association.
2) Condo bylaws
HOA and condo bylaws detail out the day-to-day operations of the association. This document defines:
- who association members are
- how and when members elect their board of directors
- when meetings will occur
- who can vote
- the legal requirements for quorum
- the role of the board
- the maintenance fund
The relationship between the condo bylaws and its declaration can be challenging to understand. Here are a couple illustrations:
- The Declarations loosely define the Board and its role. The bylaws go into detail about individual roles, terms, how to elect the President, and may list board powers one by one.
- The Declarations define the use and occupancy rules of the units and common areas. Condo bylaws outline the remedies for breach of these rules.
Association boards should evaluate condo bylaws every few years for to ensure they continue to stay relevant and modern, and amend them as needed. Condo bylaws also should contain an article describing how to amend them.
3) Condo association rules and regulations
Rules and regulations are the guidelines for owners to follow, and apply to their tenants and guests. They include pet rules, requirements for satellite dish installation, flags, and holiday decorations.
What happens when bylaws, rules, and regulations are violated?
Condo bylaws contain general guidelines for living in the association, and define what happens when association members violate the bylaws. By buying into an association, you agree to abide by the terms outlined in the governing documents. Since bylaws are legally-binding, the Association can take action against you for violating the them. Here are some examples of remedies the board may take:
- charge owners fines
- enter a unit, and remove any violating structure at the owner’s expense
- engage in legal proceedings to rectify, at the owner’s expense
- terminate the owner’s right to own (a board may have the right to sell the property, with proper warning)
Likewise, if owners or their tenants violate any rules or regulations, the association will likely fine the owner, with our without a warning first.
Owners can take pride in the governing documents in the way we take pride in our country’s constitution. The intention is to create a great community for everyone. Remember that you have an impact. If you feel your board should amend any documents or rules, read to understand the amendment process, and get involved! Show up to meetings, share your ideas with other community members and the board, or consider board membership.