Congratulations! You’re now a board member of your Maryland community association. No doubt you’re finding it’s a position with new challenges – along with a language all its own.
Not to worry – here’s a list of terms you can learn to make your transition a lot easier. Before you know it, you’ll be speaking the language of homeowner associations (HOAs) like you’ve known it your whole life.
Articles of Incorporation: This document, filed with the state of Maryland, establishes the association as a legal entity. The articles comprise a corporate charter that brings the corporation into existence, defines its purpose, outlines its powers and makes clear the structure of the Board.

Bylaws: Think of these as the rules, or formal regulations. Typical bylaws identify requirements for community membership, rules of conduct at meetings, voting rights, procedures for elections, what constitutes a quorum, what board members should do and how much power can be wielded by the board.

Community/Maintenance Fees: Also called “dues”, these are the monies paid by community members to the association. These funds are used for landscape maintenance, snow removal, swimming pool maintenance, tennis court upkeep, gym facilities, garbage collection, security, community events, insurance, and other things.
Community Manager: Sometimes called a Property Manager, this is the professional in charge of the daily management of your community. Typically hired and approved by the board, he or she will enforce bylaws, administer policies, and lend a hand with fiscal concerns – along with the management of maintenance, administrative and clerical matters.

Declaration, CC&Rs, or Master Deed: These documents outline the rights and limitations for community members. Different Common Interest Community types (i.e HOA, COA, or Co-Op) will use different terms for these documents. But no matter what name they go by, they:
  • Address what property (including common element percentage) is owned by the individual and what is owned by the community at large;
  • Create a relationship among all owners to each other and the community for maintaining, funding, and governing the development;
  • Set standards, restrictions, and obligations based on architectural control and other activities to promote communal harmony; 
  • Create administrative framework; and 
  • Provide transition of control of the association from the developer to the property owners.
Hierarchy of Authority: This is merely a term for a collection of documents that generally includes:
  • Recorded map or plat 
  • Declarations, CC&Rs, master deed, proprietary lease, or occupancy agreement
  • Article of incorporation
  • Bylaws 
  • Rules and regulations
  • And any other items necessary to the community
Local Laws and Regulations: Every town, city and county in Maryland has its own set of codes, laws, taxes and services – and all of these can impact your budget. Knowing these local laws and regulations can help you make the necessary adjustments to member fees. Look to expenses resulting from local fire code requirements, swimming pool testing and local taxes, among other things. Your community management representative can help you make sense of the local landscape.

Recorded Map or Plat: This is a document that shows the location of all the lots in your Maryland community before they are sold. It’s instrumental in identifying the owner’s or community’s title to the property. The recorded map or plan is also key to assigning responsibilities for maintaining property and ascertaining whether a property is located properly. This document should be filed with the county recorder’s office.

Resolutions: Think of “resolutions” as rules and regulations. They’re adopted by board members like you. Keep track of all of them in a Book of Resolutions (ideally ordered and indexed so information is easy to find). There are four types of resolutions:
  • Policy: Affect owners’ rights and regulations and address issues like common areas, architectural provisions, and enforcement procedures.
  • Administration: Address internal workings of the community such as operations, collections, location of meetings being held, and other matters.
  • Special: Rulings made by board members that apply to an individual situation, normally involving a rule violation or actions following a lawsuit.
  • General: Outline, ordinary events on a community’s calendar such as budgets or approval of contracts.
There you have it – you can now understand and use the language of your Maryland community association. For further information on how to strengthen your board member skills, contact FirstService Residential.
Monday April 18, 2016