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When to Amend Your Governing Documents

Maintenance in your community isn’t limited to buildings and common areas – it also applies to your governing documents. Laws, technologies and responsibilities are always changing, and discrepancies between these items and your governing documents can crop up over time, making updates crucial for keeping your documents relevant and enforceable. But it can be difficult to discern whether certain adjustments should be priority, especially since changing your documents takes time and effort.

Here's a quick list of five common items that can quickly become outdated in governing documents. 

  1. Lack of proxy voting rights. Between jobs, kids, and everyday life, homeowners today are busier than ever and might not have time to cast their ballots in person. If your governing documents don’t give residents the ability to vote by proxy, it’s time to consider an amendment.
  2. Outdated communication requirements. With the technology we have at our disposal, there’s no reason to hand-deliver meeting minutes, send packets via snail mail, and keep homeowners from voting via email. Changing these points in your governing documents will result in higher efficiency and lower costs for your association as well as added convenience for your homeowners. 
  3. Ambiguous or missing information. Unclear information leads to unclear responsibilities. If your board ensures that owners know which maintenance tasks fall on them and defines the boundaries of each unit, you can prevent disputes before they start. And if your documents are silent on any items where clarification is needed, that’s another reason to make an update.
  4. Developer Declarant Rights. In most governing documents, there are many declarant rights from a developer’s standpoint. If your community has transitioned to self-governance, these are irrelevant, they’re worth removing to clean up your documents.
  5. Misalignment with State Laws. It’s very common for governing documents to contradict state laws. For example, the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act is the main law governing HOAs in Minnesota, and many older communities don’t have documents referencing that act – even though it was created to protect them and they would benefit from mentioning that they’ve opted into it. If your governing documents are outdated, you could be missing out on the full benefits of your own state’s regulations or risk legal issues with non-compliance. 

Updating your governing documents can take considerable effort, so knowing where to put your attention first can help you and your homeowners reap the most rewards. Seeing the difference these updates make in your community will also help your board prioritize additional changes in the future.

About the Author

Josie Flicek, CMCA®, AMS®, serves as the Business Development Manager at Cities Management, Inc. in Minnesota. She’s been in the community management business for ten years, beginning her career as a community association manager before going into business development. Josie holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Minnesota Duluth.

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