Master-Planned Communities Associations vs. Sub Master Associations: Understanding the Differences

Master-planned communities are large housing developments that typically feature various neighborhoods, sub-divisions, recreational facilities, amenities, and possibly multiple builders. They also usually represent a blend of lifestyle, convenience, and quality living, offering residents a variety of housing options. Whether you are settling into a townhouse, a single-family home, a condo, or an apartment, these master-planned developments ensure you enjoy amenities tailored for different life stages, all under one community roof.

Below, you will find detailed descriptions of the components that make up Master and Sub Associations located in master-planned communities.

Master HOA Associations


Understanding Master Associations and Sub-Associations:

If you reside within a master-planned community, then you are a member of its Master Association.

The Master Association, or Master HOA, is the primary governing body responsible for maintaining shared community facilities such as roads, entrances, and recreational areas and ensuring uniform aesthetics throughout the community. Membership in this association means enjoying these communal amenities and adhering to its governance framework, which includes bylaws, articles, and CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions) and paying associated dues.

These expansive communities often offer a diverse range of housing, from single-family homes to townhouses to condominiums and even commercial zones. To address the unique needs and concerns of these different housing types, sub-associations or "subs" are formed. It is best to think of them as specialized governing bodies: for instance, a condominium segment might have its own Sub Master, also known as a Sub-Association or Sub-HOA, to address issues inherent to shared living spaces.

There is an intricate interplay between the Master HOA and its Sub-HOA. While the Master HOA ensures a cohesive look and feel across the entire community, the Sub-HOA focuses on the nuances of specific sections or neighborhoods.

For homeowners that reside in a Sub-HOA, this means a dual responsibility: following the regulations of the Master Association and their specific Sub-Association and sometimes paying dues to both to ensure the smooth running and maintenance of shared amenities and services.


The Master Association Fees:

A fundamental aspect of this financial commitment is the Master Association Fee. This fee is a well-recognized obligation for members within the community's purview. Collected periodically, it's instrumental in covering costs tied to preserving common areas, amenities such as swimming pools or tennis courts, and other community-wide benefits. You can think of it as a collective account, where every resident chips in to support the upkeep of shared resources.

Additionally, Sub Associations members may be obligated for additional financial responsibility. Beyond their segment-specific dues, which cater to their neighborhoods' unique needs and amenities, they are typically obligated to contribute to the Master Association Fee. This dual contribution system ensures that while individualized concerns are addressed, the broader community also thrives, supported by the combined efforts of all its members.


Navigating CC&Rs and Bylaws:

Living in a Sub Association within a Master Association adds another layer of complexity when determining the precedence of HOA Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs), and HOA Bylaws.


Master Association’s CC&Rs:

The Master Association’s CC&Rs set the foundation for the entire community, including any sub-communities or sub-associations. These typically address the broader framework for property rights, obligations concerning common areas, and overarching community standards. They're established to ensure a unified appearance and character throughout the larger community.


Sub-Association’s CC&Rs:

The Sub Association’s CC&Rs, on the other hand, tend to be more specific, addressing the unique needs and characteristics of that segment or neighborhood. For example, a Sub Association for a condominium segment might have specific guidelines about shared amenities or architectural nuances relevant only to the condos and not to single-family homes.



When there is a conflict between the Master Association's and the Sub Association's CC&Rs, the Master Association's CC&Rs usually take precedence. This is because the Master Association is the overarching governing body, and its rules are intended to ensure consistency and harmony across the entire development.

However, the Master Association’s CC&Rs often allow Sub Associations to have additional rules or guidelines as long as they do not conflict with the broader regulations. In such cases, homeowners in the Sub Association must adhere to both sets of rules, but where discrepancies exist, the Master Association's rules generally supersede.



HOA Bylaws, both for the Master Association and the Sub Association, pertain to organizational governance. A similar hierarchy often exists here, too. If there's a conflict between the bylaws of a Master Association and a Sub Association, the Master’s bylaws would typically take precedence.

However, it’s critical to review both sets of documents closely. Occasionally, Master Associations may defer certain governance aspects to Sub Associations, particularly if those aspects are highly specific to the sub-community.

The exact hierarchy and relationship between the standard governing documents, such as the CC&Rs and Bylaws of a Master Association and its Sub Associations, can vary depending on the specific community, its legal documents, and local and state law. When ambiguities arise, residents or Board members should seek clarification from the respective associations or consult legal counsel specializing in HOA law.

Subassociation Boards


The role of HOA Board Members in the context of Master and Sub Associations.

In the intricate framework of Master and Sub Associations, Board governance remains a cornerstone of effective community management. Typically, the Master Association and each Sub Association have their own distinct Board of Directors. Each Board is responsible for its jurisdiction's governance, management, and decision-making.


Master Association Boards

The Board primarily focuses on overarching community matters, ensuring that broader policies, aesthetic standards, and shared amenities are maintained for the benefit of the entire development. Their purview might include large-scale infrastructure projects, communal facilities, and setting standards that impact the community.


Sub Association Boards

Conversely, they tackle issues more specific to their individual segments. For instance, a Sub Association Board within a condominium community might address concerns related to shared living spaces, communal amenities exclusive to that segment, or even unique architectural standards relevant only to their particular type of housing.

While each Board operates independently, maintaining its own meetings, budgets, and agendas, there can be instances where collaboration is necessary. Joint meetings or consultations between the Master and Sub Association Boards might occur when decisions made by one Board have implications for the other or when larger community projects require buy-in and coordination across multiple segments. Nevertheless, Boards tend to function within their specified domains for most day-to-day operations and standard decision-making.

For those serving on these Boards, whether at the Master or Sub Association level, understanding the delineation of roles, responsibilities, and the interplay between the various Boards is crucial to ensuring harmonious and effective community governance.


Homeowners' Role in Master and Sub-Association Governance

Homeowners within the interconnected system of Master and Sub Associations are more than just residents; they're active participants in shaping the community's governance. Their investment in the well-being and evolution of their community signifies their position as essential stakeholders. The main focus of this involvement is their right to attend open Board meetings, both overarching Master Association and their specific Sub Association. This participatory right helps ensure homeowners remain informed, are able to voice their concerns, and can actively contribute to the community's trajectory.

Many homeowners also have opportunities for leadership roles. Those in Sub Associations may seek positions on the Master Association's Board of Directors. This eligibility, although rooted in the notion that every homeowner, regardless of their specific segment, is an integral part of the larger community, is still bound by specific guidelines. The bylaws or foundational documents of the Master Association outline the eligibility criteria, nomination processes, and election procedures. The underlying idea is simple: homeowners from diverse Sub Associations that serve on the Master Association's Board can offer community benefits that include varied perspectives leading to well-rounded decision-making.

However, there might be restrictions, like a cap on representatives from a specific Sub Association or requirements related to tenure or prior Board experience. Potential conflict-of-interest evaluations are also not uncommon to factor into the equation. Homeowners who would like to serve on the Board should be motivated and well-informed, consulting the association's governing documents or seeking advice from their HOA management company or legal experts. Through such active roles, homeowners collectively foster a community that thrives on transparency, shared responsibility, and mutual growth.



Navigating the intricacies of HOA governance requires both comprehension and diligence and we are here to help in all facets. At AAM, a professional Community Association Management company, we pride ourselves on being industry leaders. With our extensive history working alongside both Master and Sub Master associations, we are dedicated to providing customized solutions that cater to each community's distinct needs, ensuring cohesiveness and strict adherence to established rules.

If you would like more information about the management of Master and Sub-associations and how AAM can provide full-service support to your Board, contact us today.