HOA covenant regulations for new homeowners

The Hierarchy of HOA Governing Documents


Any homeowners association board member understands the overwhelming amount of documentation that is involved with operating an HOA. The governing documents of the association can be dense and multiple and sometimes their hierarchy can be confusing.

Which document takes precedence over another? What should a board member refer to when dealing with matters of violations – the CC&Rs or the Bylaws? These are all too common questions asked by HOA board members, who are themselves volunteers from the community.

So, what’s what when it comes to governing documents? Find them ranked below from top dog to bottom of the pyramid.

1. Laws of the Land

The laws of the land refer to legislation imposed by the governing bodies at the federal, state, and city levels. These laws take superiority over all other governing documents within the association. These laws contains a hierarchy of itself: federal legislation takes precedence over state, and state over city (local). The legislative laws may not be clearly stated to be at the top of the hierarchy in every association, but is universally considered to be. Enforcement of these laws should ultimately be handled by corresponding officials, such as police officers. However, individual community members may report illegal activity to a board member, who would then need to contact the proper authorities.

2. HOA Plan

The association plan, also referred to as the plat or map, outlines the jurisdiction of the association and the limits of properties and lots within that jurisdiction. The HOA plan is recorded with the county’s recorder office and can be used to determine if violations took place within the confines of the community, as well as to settle any property disputes among homeowners. This is usually one of the first documents that gets recorded when establishing a community and it’s association.

3. CC&Rs

The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, more commonly referred to as CC&Rs, follows the HOA plat in the document hierarchy. The CC&Rs are what provide the HOA board with the power to enforce certain rules of the association. The allowance of pets, restrictions on pet size or breed, the general usage of community areas, noise levels, exterior modifications of separate interests, landscaping, and even menial things such as whether or not a homeowner can have a basketball hoop in their driveway are all things outlined within the CC&Rs. Within the CC&R is the ARC, or Architectural Review Changes committee, which reviews any requested alterations to separate interests (building a fence, for example) and approves blueprints for new builds. Board members can elect to hire an association management company like Elite Management Services to help enforce the CC&Rs.

4. Articles of Incorporation

The Articles of Incorporation aren’t as high within the hierarchy of governing documents because it is rarely something board or community members need to refer to. It is a short document that establishes the homeowners association as a corporation, and is filed at the state level. Essentially, this document gives the association the legal right to act as a governing body over the community as outlined by the HOA plan. While it is important within the association, it doesn’t take hold much superiority over the other documents.

5. Bylaws

The bylaws established by a homeowners association set forth guidelines for the governing body, or the HOA board. Typically, the bylaws will state the number of board members, how each board member functions within the association, how often meetings should be held (usually dictated by the size of the association), procedures for annual board elections, and so on. While the bylaws sit on the lower end of the hierarchy, they are an essential document within any association and are often referred to. Community members (including board members) can refer to their bylaws for issues pertaining to the association, such as the removal of a board member.

6. Rules and Regulations

This document establishes all of the statutes of the association are created and enforced by board members via the CC&Rs. An example of a regulation could be how high a homeowner can build a fence, whereas the CC&Rs give the HOA board the power to enforce any violations of this regulation. The rules and regulations are important within the association, as is their enforcement. Elite Management Services will assist the board with enforcing violations, should the board be unfit to do so themselves. However, it’s vital for board members to continually review the rules and regulations and assess their necessity. The rules are not set and stone and can be amended or removed by the members of the HOA board.

The hierarchy of HOA governing documents is important to understand when board members need to establish which takes precedence. Commonly, a document is ranked higher or lower depending on when it was filed/created – older documents hold higher ranking over newer documents. If you find yourself and the other board members unable to establish a clear hierarchy or have problems governing other aspects of the HOA, you should contact EMS and request a proposal today.