Introduction to Governing Documents for Community Associations

In the hierarchy of what laws and rules govern community associations, federal and state laws are the top dogs. However, every association, whether it’s a condo or an HOA, also has governing documents that supplement the laws about how its community is run. Following is a list of possible governing documents, in order of their authority (from most control to least).

The primary document is often called a “Declaration” or “CC&Rs” (that stands for Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions). The Declaration is kind of like an operating agreement for a business; it lists the details of the property included in the development and contains restrictions on use of your individual properties or units. It specifies what authority an association has and how it can/must do certain things (like collecting delinquent association dues, for example). It also defines the rights and obligations of the individual owners and the Association.

There may also be Amendments to your association’s Declaration or CC&Rs, which can change the terms of the original document.

The next document in the “hierarchy” is the Bylaws. Bylaws are intended to cover the procedural aspects of how an association is run. This document should include information on electing a Board of Directors, calling association meetings, voting procedures, and more.

Third are Rules and Regulations, which every association should have (some do not, and if your association is one of them, your board should move to adopt rules and regulations for living in your community). Rules and Regulations are usually adopted by the Board of Directors to further clarify the rights and obligations of owners.

Every community association is different, and there may be additional governing documents that have been adopted by your Board of Directors, including Policies and/or Board Resolutions. It’s important to remember that the Declaration “trumps” everything else (besides the law), so any provisions in your Bylaws, Rules and Regulations, or other documents that conflict with the declaration are probably invalid.

Understanding the contents of your association’s governing documents is an important step towards being an informed homeowner and/or board member. You should have received a copy of all governing documents for your association when you purchased your property/unit. If you have misplaced them, contact your Board of Directors or Association Manager and request a copy for your records. When future questions come up about rules enforcement, special assessments, or any other community issues, you’ll be glad you have your association’s governing documents as a resource to help you understand your rights and responsibilities.

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions we can answer, please feel free to leave a comment or contact us directly.