A homeowners association (HOA), also called a condominium association, operates by a designated set of rules and principles. The three main documents that govern HOAs are: Rules and Regulations; Bylaws; and Declarations of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). These documents cover various aspects of the community, and changes to any of the documents could have a minor or significant impact on homeowners.
To make amendments to HOA rules, members of the HOA board must follow procedures. Although rules may vary from one association to another, there are some rules that every HOA must follow when making amendments, just as it must during any HOA board election campaign.
Amendments that have a minor impact on homeowners may not require a vote. Instead, the board of directors can discuss the matter, make a decision, and inform homeowners of its decision. If most board members are opposed to the decision, the issue may have to be reviewed.
Even though homeowners aren’t actively involved when making the decision, they must be informed before any changes are implemented. According to existing bylaws, members of the HOA must be informed of any proposed amendments within ten to thirty days before it’s implemented.
Sometimes, it’s unnecessary to go through the process of organizing an election. For example, board members can change the method of recycling trash if the existing method is ineffective, but they need to know how to change HOA rules so that they don’t break any of these rules and open themselves and the association to any liabilities.
In emergency situations, the board can amend HOA rules and implement changes before notifying the membership. For example, if there’s a potential threat to the safety and health of homeowners, the situation is likely too time sensitive to get members involved. The Covid pandemic, for instance, forced many HOAs to change their rules concerning the use of shared amenities, such as parks, swimming pools, and gyms. Of course, homeowners must be informed of the changes as soon as possible.
Another instance that requires immediate implementation of HOA rules is when the change is caused by emergency developments in state or federal laws. State and federal laws supersede any HOA rule, so the board must follow all relevant provisions. However, even though these are emergency decisions, deliberation may still be needed. The board may have to speedily discuss the matter at hand before deciding upon the best course of action.
Emergency rules often last for months, except when specific scenarios require longer or shorter time frames. The board must send its membership a detailed brief explaining the purpose and reason for the rule amendments and the duration of the change.
Amendments to declarations and bylaws of the association require a unanimous vote by members. Usually, the board of directors proposes an amendment to members after careful deliberations. This happens at regular meetings, or the board may schedule a special meeting to discuss any proposed amendments. After that, the amendment is put to the vote.
For a vote to be valid, it must be conducted per the relevant bylaws of the HOA; not complying with the bylaws can make the outcome invalid. For example, if the quorum for an election is 40% and the board conducts an election with a turnout of only 20%, the outcome may be invalid.
To avoid grumbling or mutiny from members, the board must put to a vote all major amendments to the bylaws and rules of the HOA. This way, even if some members don’t support the decision, they’ll have to accept it because the amendment was passed by a majority of the members.
Well before the day members are asked to cast their vote, the board must inform members of the date and the reason for the election. In addition, homeowners can propose changes to the HOA board. Then, if other members support the proposition, an election may be held.
In a nutshell, emergency, minor, and state- or federal-mandated amendments to HOA rules don’t require members to vote. Minor amendments can also be rescinded if enough members are unhappy. On the other hand, major amendments to bylaws and declarations of the HOA require a unanimous vote by the members. You can find the guidelines concerning what should be put to vote in the CC&Rs, Bylaws, and Rules and Regulations of the HOA.