Did you just fall in love with a Great Dane puppy only to find out your association has a 50-pound weight limit on dogs? Are you expecting a long-term house guest who won’t be able to park overnight on the street during their stay? Your homeowner's association (HOA) has rules for a reason – don’t break them; change them!
Here are three ways to get started:
- Read your documents – all of them! Before you can make a change, you need to know what you’re trying to change. Typically, associations have three main governing documents: the Declaration (or CCR – Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions), the Bylaws, and the Rules and Regulations. All of your documents are interconnected, but there is a hierarchy; your Declaration will supersede your Rules and Regulations and there may even be city or state laws that overrule your association’s documents. (Not sure where to find your governing documents? Here are a few places to look.)
- Understand your documents. Once you read your documents, you should have a better understanding of what will be easy to change and what might be a little more difficult to achieve. Remember that there are costs to updating documents. Typically, Rules and Regulations can be changed by a vote of the Board or Directors, but the Declaration and Bylaws require a vote of the homeowners—often a significant percentage, such as 2/3 or 3/4 of all owners. If the change you want is in the Declaration, it will be much more costly and difficult to update, so consider whether the change you’re proposing is important enough to the community to garner enough interest, to make the effort and cost worthwhile. The other important part of understanding your documents is understanding the reasons certain restrictions were applied in the first place. These documents aren’t established overnight, and a lot of thought has put into developing your community’s guidelines that you may not be aware of. Attend a board meeting and ask questions – you may find that these types of changes have already been discussed. While the Declaration and Bylaws are typically prepared by the developer when the property is built, the Rules have usually been prepared by the homeowners and there should be more insights available to you. Perhaps you will find that a 50 pound pet weight limit was a compromise between proponents of breed restrictions and community pet owners; if this was a recent change, then likely the concerned parties are still residents and would not want to see a revision. You may also learn that your city is the one regulating street parking, and that the association may be able to remove their rule, but it won’t make a difference for your visiting guests.
- Propose your changes. Now that you have the proper background, you should be able to decide if the change you want is something worth pursuing. If it is, write down your proposed Rule and present it to your Board of Directors. Keep in mind that your rule must be reasonable, enforceable, and something that the association has authority over – protecting and enhancing property values. It’s best to submit this type of request in advance and ask for time on the next board meeting agenda to present your idea. Keep in mind that your association is also a business, so present your suggestions from that perspective – explain why the change is practical for your community. Speak with your neighbors and if they are also interested in this change, ask them to sign a petition showing their support or attend the board meeting with you.
Your Association is in place to benefit all homeowners. If the change is something the homeowners want, and will impact the community in a positive manner, it’s likely achievable.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lea Marcou, CMCA, AMS, PCAM has worked in customer service for over 15 years. She started with Associa Chicagoland in 2008, and then transitioned from Customer Care Representative to Community Association Manager in 2010. She has worked with a diverse portfolio of properties, including mid-rise condos, townhomes, single family homes and developer and commercial properties. She is an active member of the Community Associations Institute, where she attends industry events, seminars and trade shows. Lea has obtained her CMCA® and AMS® designations, and was recently awarded the prestigious PCAM designation. Contact her at 847-490-3833 or Lea.Marcou@associa.us.
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