HOA rules and regulations: How do we change them? 

Q: How do we change our HOA rules and regulations? I am a member of a common interest community of 12 individual homes. We are discussing making changes in our association documents, including our declaration, rules and regulations. We can make these changes with a membership vote. My question is do we need to submit our changes to our town? Also, do we need an attorney to sign off on any changes?

HOA rules and regulations change doesn’t need local municipal approval

A: Most likely you don’t need your local town’s approval when changing your governing documents for your homeowners association. But let’s talk a bit more about your governing documents and how they apply to an association.

When a developer or builder sets up a condominium association or homeowners association, the development needs some documents to govern how all of the owners and their units will interact and deal with common ownership issues and questions. The documents also must contain provisions for how the unit owners will govern themselves. This includes how to elect members of a board of directors, how people will vote for those members, and how they will deal with the big issues that come along.

New HOAs may need to go through local municipality approvals

When a development is brand new, the documents may go through an approval process with the local municipality. However, the vast majority of condominium and homeowners association governing documents don’t require governmental review or approval.

HOA docs include the declaration and bylaws

Most governing documents are made up of the “declaration” (or some other document under a different name) that creates the association. The second important document is the association’s bylaws. The bylaws provide for the method of electing the board members and lay out the duties and responsibilities of the board and the officers of the association.

Most governing documents also contain requirements for loans that will be sold through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the secondary mortgage market leaders, and they have rules that govern the lending process. For example, a condo may only have a certain percentage of units that are not owner occupied. These provisions are important because lenders need to make sure that when they approve loans to buyers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will buy the loans from them. Finally, the declaration will contain information that may affect lenders when they foreclose on units within an association.

Changing HOA rules and regs must meet requirements of governing docs

So when you say you want to amend your governing documents, you need to make sure you comply both with the requirements of your governing documents and the lender requirements for all homeowners that have mortgages now and going forward.

Once the association decides to amend a rule, you need to figure out how many owners need to vote in favor of the change. You must also check whether the proposed change needs to be approved by a majority of the board members. You then must find out whether you need to get each homeowner’s lender to also approve the change. There are a lot of approvals and sometimes this process is so overwhelming that an association might just give up.

Owners must vote on most HOA rule and regulation changes

Let’s say you want to allow owners to rent their units. You find out that every board member and all the owners are on board with that change. You might then be willing to get the amendment approved by all of the lenders that have loans on homes in the association. At this point, you’d want to make sure that you get it done right the first time.

While you could go off and make the change yourself, you’d probably want to hire an attorney to assist you in putting the paperwork together. Make sure that attorney concentrates their practice in common interest, condominium and homeowners association law issues.

HOA rule and regulation changes must be recorded or filed with local recorder’s office

Any paperwork you draw up will need to get recorded or filed in the local government office that deals with recordings or filing of real estate documents. In some cases, you might need to file or record multiple originals and you’ll need to make sure your document is put together in the right format for filing or recording.

©2023 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. C1603