Community Association 101: Decoding Rules And Regulations

HOA Rules and BylawsCC&Rs. Bylaws. Rules and regulations. These terms get tossed around freely, causing a lot of confusion about them and how they relate to the proper governance of an HOA community.

As a new HOA or condo association board member, finding your way through an unfamiliar forest of legal and community documentation is a big challenge. There’s a learning curve, for sure, and we’re here to shorten your ramp-up time as a new board member, so you can hit the ground running.

So, let’s take a look at what delineates CC&Rs, bylaws, and regulations.

What Are CC&Rs?

CC&R is short for Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. CC&Rs are actual legal documents that are submitted to the county and state and map out the obligations of the board to the community and residents to the community at large. These are the rules for how your community is run and how residents need to operate. They cover areas, such as the following:

  • Property use restrictions for homeowners
    • These restrictions include anything from fencing restrictions to covenants surrounding home businesses, signage, and more
  • The dispute or rule enforcement process
    • The CC&Rs outline a clear, step-by-step process for resolving conflicts, assessing violations and levying fines
  • Community and property maintenance expectations
    • These apply to the community association for properly maintaining shared spaces and the grounds and to homeowners that need to take care of their homes and yards
  • Lender protections
  • Property assessment obligations
  • Insurance obligations

It’s helpful to think of CC&Rs in this way: Covenants represent a promise from the HOA and the homeowner to abide by the rules; conditions are the events that make CC&Rs applicable, i.e. paying your dues or assessment fees; and restrictions are the limitations placed upon property use.

It’s critical for board members and residents to remember that CC&Rs are legal documents and violating them has serious repercussions for the board that breaches them or a resident that’s non-compliant.

What Are Bylaws?

Your community’s bylaws pertain to how your community is governed. In other words, as a board member, these are the rules you must follow to legally manage the community.

HOA Leader quoted attorney Michael S. Hunter on the subject of CC&Rs and bylaws: "I see people confused about their governing documents all the time. People all the time talk about bylaws, saying, 'Our bylaws say this,' and what they really mean is their CC&Rs.

I know it's really more of a matter of semantics, but a lot of board members don't grasp the concept that their association is a corporation and needs to be operated as such."

Just as the HOA restricts the number of pets you can have or how high your fence can be, the HOA and its board must follow specific governance processes.

So, what do bylaws cover?

  • HOA board election timing
  • Board member nomination and election processes
  • Number of board members
  • Board member term length
  • Quorum requirements and board meeting frequency
  • Board member responsibilities

CC&Rs and bylaws can be differentiated in this way: CC&Rs are outward-facing toward residents while bylaws pertain to the HOA board. Residents and board members need to be well-versed in the ins and outs of the community’s CC&Rs and bylaws.

Interestingly, CC&Rs and bylaws are similar in that they're difficult to change once filed with the appropriate government agencies.

What Are Rules and Regulations?

Your HOA’s rules and regulations cover what’s not included in your CC&Rs and bylaws. Because CC&Rs and bylaws are typically created and filed by the community developer early in the process and are very difficult to alter, flexible rules and regulations exist to fill this gap. A developer or development group does their best to anticipate a community’s CC&Rs and bylaw needs, but circumstances change and more pliable rules and regulations fill this need.

The process varies state-by-state, but the implementation of rules and regulations are done by a board vote. Typically a 30-day comment/response period is provided to residents and is triggered by a letter of explanation sent out to the community.

Rules and regulations cover, for example, parking rules at a community or when children under a certain age can use the community pool. Mainly, rules and regulations include items that aren't in the CC&Rs and bylaws and that are more minor and could require regular alterations, if there’s an influx of younger children to a community or construction that limits available parking.

In some cases, HOA communities include CC&Rs and bylaw information within a rules and regulations document to provide a quick “cheat sheet” for residents who don't want to dig into the CC&Rs or governing documents. There’s no harm in doing this, but it’s critical for every HOA board member to understand the legal differences among these three forms of documentation.

Important Notes on CC&Rs, Bylaws, and Rules and Regulations

Every HOA community is legally bound to create and file its governing documents with the appropriate county, state, and federal authorities, as appropriate. That’s a must. Where some HOAs run into problems is in their lack of investment in educating their board members and residents about their governing documents.

New board members like you, or new members you'll eventually bring on board, need to be trained and educated on the differences between these important documents. Your residents need to be kept informed and educated as well.

Creating a transparent, open governance process within board activities and among your neighbors is critical to navigating change, effectively resolving disputes, and protecting property values.

At Comsource, we help hundreds of HOA boards and HOAs with expert community management, including the facilitation of CC&Rs, bylaws, and rules and regulations. We’d love to hear more about your community and the challenges you face. Reach out to us today!

Tags: HOA and condo associations, Rules and Regulations