Homeowners associations are governed by a set of documents, among which are the bylaws and the CC&Rs. There will come a time, though, when you will need to amend those documents. Continue reading to learn how to change HOA bylaws and CC&Rs.
In this article:
How to Change HOA Bylaws and CC&Rs: Is It Even Possible?
A homeowners association’s bylaws define how the community operates. It consists of stipulations such as how many board members can serve at any given time, how often to hold board elections, meeting requirements, and the responsibilities of each board member.
On the other hand, the CC&Rs, short for Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, define the rights and obligations of an HOA towards its members and vice versa. It consists of provisions such as property-use restrictions, the enforcement of covenants, and dispute resolution. It also covers obligations relating to maintenance, dues, and insurance.
Typically, these governing documents are established upon the development of the planned community. Given the perception that these documents are set in stone, you might wonder, “Can HOA change bylaws?” or “Can HOA change covenants?” The short answer is yes. Homeowners associations can change their bylaws and CC&Rs, though it often involves a pretty lengthy process.
How to Amend HOA Bylaws and Covenants in 6 Steps
Before proceeding with the process, HOA boards must first consider why they want to change the bylaws or CC&Rs. If there is no justifiable reason to do so and the board simply wants to alter the documents “just because,” then it is unwise to proceed. Remember that amending HOA covenants and bylaws is a time-consuming and often financially demanding process.
After you have done your due diligence and considered the matter carefully, you can then initiate the amendment process. This process may vary depending on state laws and your governing documents. Generally, though, here is how to change HOA covenants and bylaws:
1. Proposal of Amendment
The first step consists of a proposal describing the changes to the bylaw or covenant. The board will receive this proposal and then submit it for review.
2. Meeting to Discuss
The board will then discuss the proposed amendment at a board meeting. During this meeting, the board must allow homeowners to provide their input on the proposal. In some cases, the board may call a special meeting to confer.
Following review, the entire membership will then vote either for or against the amendment. Certain requirements may apply here, too. For instance, in California, HOAs must use secret ballots to vote for these changes. The process for changing HOA covenants will also need secret ballots. Some associations may have trouble with voter turnout. In that case, the HOA board may extend the voting period.
4. Counting of Votes
The next step in the process of how to change HOA bylaws and covenants is counting the ballots. The tallying of the votes usually takes place during an open meeting. This way, homeowners can watch their votes being counted. Doing this not only ensures transparency but also gives members peace of mind.
5. Approval of the Amendment
Homeowners associations require a majority vote from the membership to approve the amendment. What counts as a majority will depend on your governing documents. Usually, though, HOAs need two-thirds or three-quarters of members to approve the change.
6. Recording and Effectivity
After approval, changes to the CC&Rs must be recorded with the county recorder’s office. Bylaws, on the other hand, don’t need recording. Instead, bylaws become effective when notice is given to the membership of the change. Of course, that does not mean the board can skip the notice when it comes to covenant changes.
Changing HOA Bylaws and CC&Rs: Why Should You Do It?
Bylaws and covenants don’t stay relevant forever. Certain changes in society and the community might trigger the need to amend an association’s governing documents. Changes in state laws may also cause you to change your bylaws and covenants to remain compliant.
Another reason to amend your bylaws or CC&Rs is due to overwhelming demand from homeowners. For example, if a majority of your members want to change quorum requirements for a meeting, then your board should consider it. Of course, it goes without saying that your decisions must be based on sound judgment and rational thinking. Don’t just change your governing documents because you can.
How often do bylaws need to be updated? There is no standard frequency for updating your bylaws and covenants. Generally, though, it is a good idea to review your governing documents every 3 to 5 years. During your review, make sure to check whether there are any provisions or stipulations that are outdated or are no longer in compliance with the law. It is best to have your HOA attorney help you with this.
Expiring Covenants and How to Revitalize Them
Believe it or not, HOA covenants do expire in some states. Covenants generally reach this point when they become over 30 years old. When covenants expire, you can no longer enforce them.
The subject of expiring covenants may agitate you because it means you will need to go through the entire amendment process just to enforce them again. But, there is a process known as Covenant Revitalization that makes it easier.
Through Covenant Revitalization, you can simply reinstate expired covenants and enforce them as if they never expired in the first place. To revitalize covenants, though, you will still need a majority vote from the membership. After that, you must seek approval from local or state governments.
How to Change HOA Rules and Regulations
You might think HOA rules is just another term for bylaws and CC&Rs. And while a lot of people do use these terms interchangeably, there is a difference. An association’s operating rules and regulations (HOA rules) are additional rules that are not covered in the bylaws and CC&Rs. Usually, these rules tend to be more specific and help homeowners comply with the covenants.
But, can HOA change rules? Similar to bylaws and CC&Rs, the HOA does have the power to change its rules and regulations. The process, though, is a little different.
It starts out the same, with a proposal of the rule change and a meeting to discuss the proposal. The board must provide notice of the proposed change to all homeowners within a specific time period. In California, it is 28 days’ worth. Boards also obtain input from homeowners. But, there is no vote from the members.
Can a HOA board change the rules without member approval? Typically, the board does not need approval from the members to enact a rule or make a rule change. The only vote will come from the board members themselves. If the board reaches a majority vote as defined in the bylaws or CC&Rs, then the rule will come to pass. The board must then send out a notice following the adoption of the new rule.
The process for how to change condo rules and regulations remains largely the same. As usual, though, it is best to check your governing documents and state laws to avoid potential liability.
Can Homeowners Change the Rules?
Even though the board typically holds authority when it comes to rule changes, that does not mean homeowners are entirely powerless. Homeowners who want to make a change in their rules should first review their governing documents. The process for submitting proposals will usually be outlined there.
Then, homeowners can draft a proposal and submit it to the board for review. If there are a lot of homeowners who feel the same way about an issue, it is a good idea to include that in the proposal.
Perhaps the easiest way to change rules in a community association, though, is to run for a position on the board. Sure, not everyone is cut out for governance. Plus, the entire campaigning and election process might scare off homeowners, especially if they just want a single rule change. But, there are plenty of other benefits and reasons to serve on the HOA board.
Follow Procedure, Avoid Liability
Every HOA board must know how to change HOA bylaws and covenants as well as rules and regulations. Familiarizing yourself with the proper procedures will enable you to make and adopt amendments smoothly. Failing to do so will render any changes you make unenforceable. Additionally, you may even find the association and your board in legal trouble.