If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ll have heard this before: Board member education and training is a key to successfully running your community and keeping the peace. With a slew of regulations, laws, and processes that boards have to keep up with, it’s no wonder that a frequent cause of tension or disputes is really caused by confusion or miscommunication. Rarely is it the case that a dispute’s root cause is malice or bad intent.
Comsource is here to keep you informed with easy-to-use resources like our blog and our guides. Today, we bring you a cheat sheet of homeowner and condo owner rights of which every board member should be aware.
Rights of Condo Owners
- Right to distribute written information relative to the condominium. (11-111.3)
- Right to receive upon a written request most records of the condominium. (11-116)
- Right to review and comment on the proposed annual budget. (11-109.2)
- Right to be notified of any alleged rule violation. (11-113)
- Right to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses at a hearing. (11-113)
- Right to be notified of proposed rules, that an open meeting is called and the rule passed by a majority of the board if it has the delegated power. Right to disapprove any rule within 15 days of approval. (11-111)
- Right to nominate one’s self or any other person to be a member of the board. [11-109 (13)]
- Right to attend and speak at meetings of the board and committees. All meetings must be open with a few exceptions. If closed, the reason must be in the next minutes. [11-109 (7)(ii)]
- Right to use condominium common elements. (11-108)
- Right to assemble for the purpose of considering condominium matters. [11-108 (2)]
- Right to be informed of increases in excess of 15% of budgeted amounts. (11-109.2)
- Right to petition the circuit court for a receiver to manage the affairs of the condo if there is not a quorum on the board of directors. (11-109.3)
- Right to have all association officers, managing agents or employees indemnified. (11-114.1)
- Right to review the Maryland Condominium Act violations by the Division of Consumer Protection. (11-130)
Rights of Homeowners
- Right to distribute written information relative to the HOA. (11B-111.3)
- Right to receive upon a written request most records. (11B-112)
- Right to attend and speak on any matter at meetings. All meetings must be open with a few exceptions. [11B-111 (i), (ii), (iv)]
- Right to notice of all HOA meetings. (11B-111 (2)
- Right to assemble. [11B-111.4 (b)]
- Right to have all association officers, managing agents or employees indemnified. (11B-111.6)
- Right to an open meeting discussing the proposed budget and also in the case of budget increases in excess of 15% of budgeted amounts. (11B-112.2)
- Right to petition the circuit court for a receiver to manage the affairs of the HOA if there is no quorum on the board. (11-111.5)
- Right to OAG enforcement of election provisions in HOA documents (11-115.1)
- Right to the review of Maryland Homeowners Association Act violations by the Division of Consumer Protection, OAG. [11B-115 (c)]
- Recently Passed (2013) Rights of both Condominium Unit Owners and HOA Owners:
- The right to not be subject to foreclosure due to only fines and/or attorney fees. (Chapter 449) (Maryland Contract Lien Act, Section 14)
- In the case of a foreclosure, the right to be charged legal fees that do not exceed the amount of the money owed. (Chapter 449) (Maryland Contract Lien Act, Section 14)
As part of your board’s management process, you should regularly cross-reference both of these acts and the rights therein with your existing bylaws and governing documents. It’s critically important to keep the community’s governing documents and existing law and regulatory details aligned to avoid community tension and legal issues.
According to lawyer Lisa A. Magill via HOA Leader, "Old language can also expose the association to liability. Many older governing documents contain provisions that are now illegal and unenforceable. Age restrictions prohibiting persons under 12 or 16 from residing in the community aren't enforceable unless the community qualifies as housing for older persons. In Florida, several associations are facing discrimination lawsuits as a result of these provisions, even if the community doesn't actively enforce the age restriction.”
While Magill sights an example in Florida, the same general principle applies: It’s always safest to put processes in place to keep all of your governing documents updated. Make it part of your annual process and most risks associated with antiquated bylaws will be removed.
What’s also important to remember is that open communication and fostering a community-wide perception of board transparency might create some leeway with mistakes when it comes to community member legal rights. If your board has created a transparent environment based on trust, the likelihood aggrieved community members will work with you--or even see things as a misunderstanding--is far higher. A community board that has skeptical home or condo owners that are already suspicious are far less likely to assume a mistake was innocent and might escalate the situation more quickly.
In short, HOA and condo boards that continually train and educate their members while remaining open and transparent with their community succeed more consistently. Provide your board opportunities to learn and stay informed by building legal education into your annual process and reap the benefits of a better run, more content community.
Comsource is here to help you do just that--we’ve helped scores of Maryland and Washington D.C. metro area HOA and condo associations perform better, more consistently. We bring a unique combination of experienced property managers, the latest technology and outstanding financial expertise to the table.