Known as “HOAs,” homeowners associations (as well as condominium associations) are organizations created for the common benefit of their membership. Governed by a group of volunteers, each HOA (or condo) is elected by the membership into vital (sometimes thankless) roles on the Board of Directors. But the Board aren’t all-powerful despots. Like the rest of the members, they must abide by their association’s governing documents.
WHAT ARE THE GOVERNING DOCUMENTS?
If you’re in a position to be reading this article, you’re probably familiar with at least one or two of these documents. They include any or all of the following:
- The Articles of Incorporation/Association
- The Bylaws
- The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (AKA “CC&Rs” or “Declaration”; sometimes, these include Community Plans as well)
- The Rules and Regulations (“Rules”)
Any action taken by the Board must be authorized in some way by the governing documents (or by statute, but that’s another article)—usually by the Bylaws. This includes the Board’s ability to adopt or enforce any rules for the association. The governing documents also set forth any requirements and obligations imposed on the membership in exchange for the benefits of living in an HOA (or condo)—usually in the Declaration and/or Rules. All very important stuff!
WHY AMEND THE GOVERNING DOCUMENTS?
The document amendment process takes time and money, but it is worth it to avoid complicated enforcement disputes and to ensure that your association is operating per current law and the membership’s best interests. Founded decades ago, Many associations and the provisions in their original governing documents may no longer reflect the modernized operations or preferences of the membership. Additionally, if you are an HOA/condo in the State of Ohio and you haven’t updated your documents since 2022, they likely no longer reflect current law.
With the rise of the digital and internet age, the association’s voting, notice, or meeting processes might require an amendment to allow for modern communication technology. Amendments may also include or revise: rule enforcement processes, the liability of board members, maintenance rules, aesthetic architectural controls, pet rules, rules for solar panels or windmills, tenant rules, and many other items. It might even be time to update the amendment process itself.
THE AMENDMENT PROCESS AND ATTORNEY REVIEW
Every HOA/condo will have its own amendment process outlined in its governing documents, but usually, the process is thus:
- Somebody proposes the amendment—often, the Board or legal counsel for the association.
- The Board reviews the amendment and solicits input from the membership.
- The membership votes on the proposed amendment.
- If there is enough support, the amendment is approved.
- The amendment is recorded with the county auditor.
Rather than do this work themselves, we suggest that HOAs/condos seek the help of an attorney familiar with HOA/condo law to draft any amendments or new documents. Generally speaking, the governing documents are lengthy and detailed legal writings. An experienced attorney can ensure that the amendment process is followed, and help prevent any disputes that may arise. Your attorney can also find any contradictions between proposed amendments and existing governing documents or applicable law. Having properly-drafted governing documents will better protect the association’s interests and can save on enforcement-related costs.
The EQUES Law Group has one of the few Ohio HOA and condo law specialists, Lindsey Wrubel, on our team. Drafting and amending governing documents is one of many services we offer our community association clients.
So, for all of you HOAs and (condos) out there—are your governing documents looking a bit rusty? Let’s see if it’s time for an update!