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Understanding Your Association’s Governing Documents

Oh no, what can’t I do? 

Many people that purchase homes in an Association, regardless of if the dwelling is a condominium, townhome, or single-family home, are sometimes taken back by the restrictions set forth in the Governing Documents: Declarations, By-Laws, and Rules and Regulations. 

Most of the restrictions that are in the Association’s Governing Documents are to protect the investment of your home. Developers usually draft a set of Governing Documents for the Association through their attorney when they are developing the Community from the beginning. Some of the Governing Documents that are drafted can be boiler-plated and not specific enough for the Community they are developing.  

Although good news does exist once the Association is turned over to the homeowners, they have the power to do what is called an Amendment. An Amendment is a document that is voted upon by all the members to change particular items within the Declarations. It is important to review all your documents with your Board of Directors to make sure the language and restrictions within it coincide with the actual Community along with its needs and expectations. From time to time, it is good practice as your Community ages or even in preliminary stages that the Governing Documents are reviewed and changed if needed. It is strongly encouraged that from time to time, Associations review and update Governing Documents as a property grows or develops aged qualities.  

The Board of Directors may also wish to implement some general Rules and Regulations for miscellaneous items that occur throughout the year that do not contradict with the Declarations. Some items, for example, can be for the time frame for holiday decorations: when they can be placed up and when they need to be taken down. Associations can also ensure that the Common Area is to be left free and clear of any belongings, i.e., shoes, floor mats, shopping carts, bikes. As these are just some general examples, again, the Rules and Regulations need to fit the Community as a whole. 

Keep in mind that all the residents that reside in the Community have different ideas, as it is virtually impossible to please the entire Community. Associations don’t want to make any unrealistic changes that can cause animosity within the Community. 

Residing in a Community Association can be a rewarding experience: having the ability to work independently as a group to keep the property values and the community as a whole thriving through its existence. 

This information is not to be used as legal advice. If you plan on making any changes to your Governing Documents or drafting any kind of Rules and Regulations for your Community, we recommend consulting with your legal counsel for clarity and legalities.