How does a homeowners association work? What are the governing documents of a homeowners association?

Q: How does a homeowners association work? In Illinois, do changes to a condominium’s rules and regulations require approval from the condo association residents? And, how can homeowners change the association rules and regulations?

Governing documents in a homeowners association are like the laws and rules that govern the U.S.

A: Sam often tells his clients to think about homeowner associations differently:

  • The governing documents are like the laws and rules that govern the U.S.
  • The condominium declaration or homeowner’s association declaration is like the constitution of the United States.
  • And, the rules and regulations equal laws passed by the Congress.

Let’s say your association’s main document states that rentals are not allowed. Do you and your fellow owners want to change that?  You’ll need a majority (or even a super-majority) of homeowners to vote for that change. Does the governing document say rentals are allowed, subject to rules enacted by the board of the association? Then, the board can make those rules without the unit owner’s approval.

Generally, a homeowners or condo board association votes in the members of the board of directors. They govern the association. The board of directors has great leeway in making decisions on behalf of the unit owners. Typically, the board of directors does not need unit owners’ approval to enact rules and regulations for the association.

One additional comment: only owners have the right to vote for the members of the board of directors of associations and only owners get the right to vote for matters that come up in these meetings. If you are a renter in a unit in the building, you don’t have the right to make decisions or tell the owners or the board of directors on how they should run the building. You can make suggestions, but that’s as far as it generally goes.