All homeowners associations are governed by a set of operating rules and regulations. Every once in a while, a need or desire will arise to change HOA rules. And, when that time comes, you must know how to do it.
In this article:
Want to Change HOA Rules? Here’s How
Can a homeowners association change rules? In a word, yes. Homeowners associations do have the authority to change the rules within the community. But, an HOA board may be bound by some conditions before they can change these rules. Before you can learn how to change HOA rules, you must first understand what operating rules are and the constraints that affect how you can change them.
The Difference Between Operating Rules and CC&Rs
Typically, an association’s operating rules do not belong to the original governing documents established by the HOA. Operating rules are also usually not recorded in the county recorder’s office.
Compared to the HOA’s Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), operating rules are easier to revise. They normally do not require help from an attorney and simply require a majority vote from the HOA board.
An association’s CC&Rs cover the homeowners’ rights and obligations to the community as well as the association’s rights and obligations to the homeowners. It also consists of legal provisions and restrictions.
Operating rules, on the other hand, consist of regulations not covered within the CC&Rs or regulations that support the CC&Rs. Typical HOA rules include pool use, parking regulations, rental guidelines, noise restrictions, holiday decorations, and the like.
What Does the Law Say?
Some states, such as Minnesota, are not very strict when it comes to HOA rule changes, only requiring that rules remain consistent with the association’s governing documents. Other states are more specific about rule change procedures.
For instance, in California, Civil Code Section 4360 contains provisions on how an HOA board must go about rule changes. According to these provisions, the board must provide the membership notice at least 28 days prior to changing the rules.
Before beginning your rule change process, it is imperative to look to state laws first. As you can see, some states already dictate exactly how rule changes should go. Additionally, failure to comply with state laws can deem any rule changes invalid. Worse yet, your association may find itself in legal trouble.
How to Change HOA Rules
Can an HOA board change the rules? Simply put, yes, the association’s board does have the power to change HOA rules. But, the HOA board is bound by rule change procedures. If your state does not have laws regarding rule change procedures, it is still advisable to adopt one. In doing so, you can set a precedent and create a standard process for future rule changes.
1. Determine If a Change Is Needed or Required
The first step in the procedure is determining whether or not a change is even necessary. Are there any existing rules that need clarification? Is there something your CC&Rs and operating rules failed to cover? Although rules keep the community in order, you must remember that having too many needless rules will just confuse the residents.
2. Provide Notice
It is essential to notify members of your association of any impending change in HOA rules. Again, not all states require this, and the notice period can also vary depending on your location. Even if your state does not require a notice period, it is best to just give it anyway. Your association’s members will appreciate it. After all, they have a right to know what is happening within their own community.
3. Ask for Feedback
Along with a notice, your HOA board should send a copy of the rule change to all association members. Make sure to include all the details of the change and the reason the association is undertaking it. Your HOA board should then ask the members for their comments and input. This way, you can gauge how your membership feels about the change and take their feedback into account.
4. Vote on It
Your HOA board should then come to a decision about the proposed rule change by voting on it. This vote should take place at a board meeting. Remember to consider the comments of the association’s members when voting on whether to adopt the rule change.
5. Provide Notice (Again)
The final step is to provide the association’s members with a notice of the rule change. The notice period will, again, depend on the state your association resides in. For instance, in California, the law dictates that the board must notify members no more than 15 days following the change. Make sure to check your own state or local laws for notice period requirements.
Understanding Emergency Rule Changes
In some cases, it is possible to adopt a rule change immediately without going through the normal procedures. This is called an emergency rule change. Under California law, an emergency rule change is typically only allowed if it addresses one or more of the following:
- An impending threat to public health and safety
- The association faces an imminent risk of substantial economic loss
For such a change, there is no requirement for the HOA board to provide proper notice prior to the change. Though, the board must still notify homeowners following the change. This notification should include all the specifics of the rule change, including its purpose and effect. Emergency rule changes do not last forever since the association only applies them to address imminent risk. Typically, such changes remain effective for 120 days or less.
Can Homeowners Reverse a Rule Change?
Homeowners are not totally powerless when it comes to rule changes. Although the board typically asks the membership for feedback, homeowners do not get to directly vote on the matter.
Some states, though, provide homeowners some sort of power to reverse or repeal a rule change.
For instance, under Civil Code Section 4365 in California, members of the association may call for a special meeting to reverse a rule change. They may call for this meeting provided they do so within 30 days of the board’s general notice of the change in rules. In addition to state laws, your association may also have standard procedures that homeowners can follow if they wish to repeal the change.
What About Unfair or Unenforceable Rules?
Of course, there are certain conditions the HOA board must follow when it decides to revise HOA rules. The first thing it should do is look at the laws of the land. Any changes to the rules must not come into conflict with federal, state, or local laws and ordinances. For instance, the HOA cannot prohibit the installation of satellites or video antennas on members’ roofs. Having such a rule in place would be in direct conflict with the OTARD rule. In addition to this, any discriminatory or unreasonable rule changes cannot be enforced.
Fair HOA Rule Changes
Whether your HOA board is making a new rule or altering existing ones, it is important to consider all factors that can affect this change. Refer to the laws of the land as well as your governing documents for guidance. Seek input from the association’s members and provide proper notice. When you take all of this into account, you will find it easier to change HOA rules in your community.
If your HOA board is having trouble managing the association, look to an HOA management company like Elite Management Services. Give us a call at (855) 238-8488, contact us online, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our services.
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