6 Steps to Amending Homeowners’ Association Documents

HOA-Docs-420-x-290-3.jpgPeriodically, it may become necessary to update the governing documents of your homeowner association. This is especially relevant when transitioning from developer to homeowner control but could also be just an update t that will improve the community. In the State of Florida, amending the governing documents requires a large percentage of homeowner approval.

Amending the governing documents can be a time-consuming process, and it’s important to make any applicable revisions in the correct manner and order. This article details how to amend your homeowners association governing documents, including the practical logistics required to do so.

1.    Check current applicable laws

To start, you’ll need to make sure the changes you want to make are governed by the governing documents.  

For instance, the declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R) dictates the day-to-day guidelines for the association. Fencing, pet restrictions, and short-term rental rules would all fall under the jurisdiction of the CC&Rs.

The bylaws, on the other hand, determine how the association operates, such as membership voting and meeting regulations. Pinpointing specifically what you’d like to change, or update will help lead you toward the correct documents to address. Consulting your association attorney throughout this process is recommended.

It may also be helpful to determine the extent of changes you want to make ahead of time. Are you looking to adjust one or two provisions? Or will the alterations demand a complete overhaul of the governing documents? Knowing the scope of the work can help determine how much resources to allocate to the process.

2.    Create a committee

The association board of directors governs the community’s bylaws. Instead of taking up valuable board meeting time and the collective attention of all members, the most efficient way to adjust the bylaws is to establish an ad hoc committee to oversee the process. Set a timeline. Ask the committee to meet regularly and return with suggested revisions in a month, to help expedite the process and prevent it from dragging on over the course of many months, explains May Mokdad, regional director, FirstService Residential.

The committee will establish a chairperson and secretary, as well as dole out the work evenly. For instance, it can parcel out sections of the bylaws piece by piece for committee members to work on individually, and then return to the committee to synthesize the work.

Once the committee makes its recommendations, they should bring it back to the full board.

3.    Get legal input

At this stage, it’s strongly suggested to run any proposed changes by the association’s attorney. The attorney will have a firm grasp on applicable law   that may affect the proposed amendments.  Involving the attorney throughout the process will help prevent legal headaches in the future, as well as make sure not to waste time and effort when having to redo the changes after a member vote. Only licensed attorneys can prepare changes to the governing documents within Florida.

Also, consider having the attorney attend a committee meeting to answer any questions as well as outline legal guidance for the proposed areas of change.

4.    Get feedback from community members

Not only is giving community members ample time to review any proposed changes good policy, it’s also required. Check the governing documents  to determine  if there are any special notice requirements, such as number of days members must be given to review changes or format regulations. Typically, the association  should mail or email the proposed changes to all members and then schedule a hearing to gather feedback. Members may have concerns or questions the board and committee have not yet considered.  Involve the attorney in the process of determining the notice requirements and proper procedure.

The issues raised in the feedback may  be incorporated into the proposed changes which may require another round through the committee and then back to the full board. It’s crucial to get the community on board with any new changes to the bylaws, so including community input will always prove beneficial.

5.   Vote

Once any feedback has been rolled into the proposed changes and the attorney has signed off, you’re ready to put the proposed amendments to a vote. The  governing documents  and state laws will set the threshold for enacting the  changes, which will likely be at least  the two-thirds minimum required by the Florida Homeowners Association Act. This ensures that any amendments meet the approval of a healthy majority within the community. Each property gets one vote. Some specific changes, such as ones that affect the voting interests of certain parcels, must be adopted by all affected parcels.

Condominium associations usually have even stricter regulations. There are provisions to protect leasing in the Florida Condominium Act that don’t appear in the Homeowners Association Act. Any leasing changes in a condominium only affect the condominiums whose owners vote for the changes, or new owners who enter after the amendment passes.

6.    Adopt and register the changes

Assuming the vote passed, congratulations, you’re almost there. The hard work is done and all that remains is implementing the new changes. Your governing documents will outline how to officially adopt the changes. . For instance, they may need to be adopted in a meeting or require written consent. Either way, notice of the amendments must be provided to the owners.. Clearly communicating with all members is sound practice for any board, and will also smooth over any transitions as the changes are rolled out.

Your association attorney should provide a final legal review to double check all applicable work and file and record the amended documents where appropriate. As of 2018, all adjustments to governing documents must be recorded in the public records of the county where the community is located. (Previously, this stipulation didn’t apply to bylaws.)

At this point, the ad hoc committee created to amend the documents can be disbanded.

Overall, the process of updating governing documents can be stressful and take a fair amount of time. But it’s worth it to make sure any changes to the community work for everyone involved, follow legal regulations, and are communicated clearly to make sure the entire association is on board. Plus, the updates to how the association runs will hopefully improve the entire neighborhood for all your homeowners.