HOA Governing Documents: What Are These?

looking through documents | hoa governing documents

HOA governing documents are a crucial part of running any community association. Homeowners associations use these to guide their operations and understand the limits of what they can do. But, they can be tricky to differentiate and comprehend if you’re unfamiliar. 

What Are HOA Governing Documents?

HOA governing documents are various declarations and documents that govern the community. They essentially act as the community’s laws, constitutions, and regulations. Governing documents also establish what residents and board members can expect from the HOA and how it is run.

What are the governing documents of an HOA? There are many different types of governing documents that dictate an HOA’s rules and regulations. Here’s an overview of what each document contains and why they exist. 

1. Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions

The first and most important governing document is the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). They take precedence over all other governing documents. This means that if they conflict with other HOA documents, the community must follow the CC&Rs first. Other documents containing conflicting provisions will become invalid.

Given how important it is, it’s no surprise that the CC&Rs are usually lengthy. They establish the rights and obligations of the homeowners association and its residents. Each community’s CC&Rs will vary in what they contain, depending on what the HOA decides. However, these typically include the boundaries of each lot, unit, and common area to distinguish property ownership. 

Moreover, CC&Rs distinguish each owner’s maintenance responsibilities and those of the HOA. For example, the document may require homeowners to mow their lawns at least once a week. The CC&Rs also describe the operating costs to the owners and how these will be claimed. They also dictate mortgage holders’ protections and rights.

Furthermore, CC&Rs state what powers of enforcement the HOA has and what dispute resolution procedures there might be. It also dictates the limitations on owner usage like the rules regarding pets, common area usage, and property alterations.

2. Community Plan

The CC&Rs sometimes include the community plan. This document indicates the divides between lots and units through a visual representation. Licensed professionals usually make the community plan to mark the official boundaries. Moreover, HOAs have government agencies review the plan before filing it with county authorities. 

Community plans are typically filed when the developer first forms the properties. They’re also linked to each mortgage or deed on the parcel. Homeowners associations use community plans to make zoning guidelines and standards and set limits for future changes or developments.

3. Articles of Incorporation

Just like a corporation, homeowners associations have Articles of Incorporation. These set the HOA’s name and state that the association is a non-profit mutual-benefit corporation. It also identifies the HOA’s initial agent and the person authorized to accept legal notices on behalf of the association.

The articles of incorporation are what make the HOA a legal entity. It usually comes first when a community forms an incorporated HOA. But, it is not necessary for unincorporated homeowners associations. 

4. Bylaws

The HOA bylaws talk about the mechanics and decision-making process of HOA management. It states director and officer positions, how many positions exist, and how the association elects them. The bylaws also talk about the role of each board member and how often they hold meetings.

Most homeowners associations draft the bylaws by consulting a legal professional. The government also reviews the bylaws during development. But, HOAs don’t need to file the bylaws with any government agencies so they’re easier to change than other documents.

5. Rules and Regulations

The rules and regulations of an HOA are the internal rules they enact. These rules usually tackle alteration restrictions for lots, waste disposal, and pets. They also outline how homeowners can use parking spots, signages, and recreational amenities.

These rules often get into the specifics of each action. For example, they may not only let homeowners put up fences but also indicate how high fences can be. If your HOA allows pets, the rules and regulations can implement restrictions on breed or pet size. They also dictate minor things like if residents can put up basketball hoops in the driveway.

You might think that HOA board members have free rein on the rules because they’re internal. But, they are still subject to city, state, and federal laws. For example, they cannot completely prohibit homeowners from displaying the American flag. Another example is how HOAs cannot ban satellite dishes. This is because the FCC has a rule about over-the-air reception devices.

Most of these rules and regulations are internal so the CC&Rs take precedence when it comes to disputes. Moreover, because they’re internal, they are often the most controversial part of an HOA’s governing documents. They are usually the source of disputes and conflicts between homeowners and HOAs. 

Fortunately, the rules and regulations are changeable. Homeowners often identify inconsistencies, vague terminology, and missing information in the rules and regulations. Once discussed properly, HOAs can easily alter and amend them following the procedures stated in the bylaws. 

Are Governing Documents Legally Binding?

Yes, the governing documents of an HOA are legally binding. Homeowners and residents immediately become members of the association once they purchase a home. This automatically means they’ve agreed to all of the HOA’s rules, expectations, and guidelines. Homeowners should receive these governing documents during the closing process.

Are HOA Documents Public Record?

It depends on the state. Certain states consider HOA bylaws to be public records while others do not. For example, the state of California requires HOA bylaws to be available upon request. Meanwhile, states like Virginia don’t have such requirements. 

What Is the Hierarchy of These Governing Documents?

Like federal, state, and city laws, governing documents have a hierarchy. This dictates which document takes priority over others and which conflicting provisions will be invalidated. The hierarchy of governing documents, from most to least important, are:

  1. Community Plan
  2. CC&Rs
  3. Articles of Incorporation
  4. Bylaws
  5. Rules and Regulations

Governing Documents for Successful HOA Management

HOA governing documents are an important part of forming any homeowners association. They may be boring but both board members and homeowners must be familiar with them. Doing so allows everyone to fulfill their responsibilities and know their rights.

If you’re having trouble establishing governing documents or implementing them, you may need the help of an HOA management company. We can help with that. Contact us for a quote by calling (512) 348-8821 or get in touch with us online.