HOA Governing Documents Explained

All Property Management Staff
HOA Governing Docs

HOAs use several types of governing documents to guide their operations. Here's what you need to know about each of them:

CC&Rs

When dealing with a homeowners' association (HOA), it is important to understand their Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). These describe the rights and obligations of each owner and those of the association itself, and may vary significantly in both what they say and how long they are. CC&Rs typically outline the boundaries of each unit or lot and those of the development's common area. They will describe the maintenance responsibilities of each owner and those assumed by the HOA, the operating costs to the owners and how they will be collected and the rights and protections granted to mortgage holders.

Additionally, they usually lay out the HOA's powers of enforcement, procedures to resolve disputes and the restrictions on owner usage, which might include regulations governing pets, how an owner alters the property and the uses of the common area.

Community Plans

Sometimes included in the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions is the Community Plan. Used interchangeably with a few other terms, such as "subdivision map," this refers to a visual drawing or illustration of the way a property is divided into units and lots.

Prepared by licensed professionals, reviewed by government agencies and then filed with county authorities, these documents mark the official boundaries of a planned development. Typically filed when a development is first formed, they are connected to every deed and mortgage on the parcel. The agreement of others linked to the Community Plan may be needed in order to make any changes, although alterations are possible over time. References to a community plan may also mean future standards and zoning guidelines, which set the limits on further development and changes.

Bylaws

HOA bylaws, not to be confused with CC&Rs, describe the procedures and mechanics of homeowners association management and decision-making. This includes officer and director positions and how they are filled, the way meeting, voting and notification are undertaken for owners' and board members' decisions and the methods of record-keeping and reporting.

Bylaws are typically created by a legal professional and reviewed by the government when a development is created. They are not filed with any government agency, however, which can make them easier to change than some of the other documents.

Rules and Regulations

In addition to any regulations imposed by the state and local government, HOAs often have procedures for passing internal rules through the processes outlined in their CC&Rs. These rules cover things such as restrictions on how much a unit or lot may be altered, pets, waste disposal and the use of signage, parking and recreational facilities.

CC&Rs take precedence over rules in terms of legal importance, since rules are purely internal, governing owner activities that fall under the sphere of the HOA's concern. These would likely be changed through procedures outlined in the bylaws, such as by a vote of board members or the HOA members.

Articles of Incorporation/Association

Often called "the articles," these are typically short documents that set the name of the HOA, assert that it is a nonprofit mutual-benefit corporation and identify its initial agent, the individual authorized to receive legal notices on the HOA's behalf.

This creates the association as a legal entity, and is a necessary prelude to all the other steps when forming an incorporated HOA. Some are not incorporated but still draw up the articles, which is not technically necessary.

The Articles of Incorporation are sometimes made longer and more extensive through the inclusion of information about topics such as voting, directors and amendments, although these may also be left for later documents to fill in.

Return to Resources Home

April 2, 2012