Bylaws, CC&Rs and Rules & Regulations
Whether you are a homeowner living in an HOA, a recently elected Board member, or an aspiring Community Manager, it is important to understand the differences between the multiple governing documents by which an HOA operates. If you are a homeowner, for example, becoming familiar with your community's rules, knowing what is and isn’t permitted concerning to your home, and knowing where and how to find this information, will prevent you from having to deal with the consequences of non-compliance, which in most cases, can include fines and other types of penalties.
Typically, all associations have the following governing documents: Bylaws; CC&Rs, which stands for Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions; and Rules & Regulations. In essence, these documents contain the rules, policies, and other contractual terms that a homeowners association, including Board members and homeowners, must adhere to.
All new owners moving into a property within an HOA will be given access to these documents for their review, and as soon as they close escrow, they are also agreeing to abide by the rules and policies contained in the documents mentioned above.
In most cases, these documents are initially drafted by the community's developer and are then enforced and modified as necessary by the Board of Directors.
In a nutshell, here are the main differences between your HOA's governing documents:
The Bylaws of an HOA contain all the information and rules specifically related to the operations of the association and how it is run. In most cases, they outline the Board of Directors governing structure, layout the procedures for matters such as Board elections and membership meetings; and outline the rights and responsibilities of the Board.
More detailed examples of what you can find in your HOA Bylaws are:
- Membership Requirements
- Board Requirements
- Meeting Notices
- Board Meeting Frequency
- Quorum Requirements
- Voting Requirements and Frequency
- Term Limits for Board Members
Generally, the CC&Rs are the most extensive governing document of an HOA. They contain the rights and responsibilities of homeowners and also outline the architectural guidelines of the properties within the association. One of the main purposes of the CC&Rs is to regulate a homeowner's ability to make architectural improvements and/or modifications based on their specific interests versus what the community has approved and specified. The reason behind this is fundamentally why an HOA exists: to protect, preserve, and enhance the value of the homes within the HOA.
For example, it might be required in your community's CC&Rs that all homes be painted tan for aesthetic reasons. If your neighbor decides to paint their house red, they might be fined by the HOA until they comply. Fines and other types of penalties for non-compliance will vary from association to association. Nonetheless, all should be clearly outlined in the CC&Rs.
It is important to note that if any conflict exists between a provision stated in the CC&Rs and a "rule" generated by the Board, the one outlined in the CC&Rs will always precede, and the latter will become invalid.
Common HOA CC&Rs can include:
- HOA Dues and Assessment Obligations
- Association and Homeowner Maintenance Obligations
- Architectural and Design Standards
- Vehicle Restrictions
- Pet Restrictions
- Rule Enforcement Procedures and Penalties
- Short-Term Rental Restrictions
Rules & Regulations
Many associations adopt additional rules to help enforce or clarify the guidelines outlined in the CC&Rs, these are known as Rules & Regulations. They’re commonly referred to as a catch-all for items that were not specifically addressed in the other governing documents of the association. Typically, these rules will be more detailed compared to the CC&Rs and also more likely to be modified over time based on the community’s current needs. For example, pool hours, gym hours, visitors’ parking hours, pet policies, and others. All of these are things that could change based on seasonality, membership demographics, the community's current state, current events e.g. Covid, etc.
Rules & Regulations can be modified through a vote by the Board of Directors. However, community members should always be informed of any changes or additions to the Rules & Regulations or any other governing document.
Understanding the difference between the various governing documents of an association, as well as familiarizing yourself with your community’s governing documents, Bylaws, CC&Rs and Rules & Regulations, is an important element of making living in an HOA more harmonious.