HOA Bylaws and Regulations: Everything you need to know

HOA Bylaws and Regulations: Everything you need to know

A component of governing documents, homeowners’ association (HOA) bylaws serve as an indispensable compass for steering day-to-day operations, charting a course for present efficiency and future triumphs. Whether you're starting your HOA management journey and want to learn how it functions, or you’re a leader seeking to refine operations, thoroughly reading and understanding your HOA’s bylaws is always wise. Read on to learn all about HOA bylaws, including what they are, how to form them, why your HOA needs them, and more.

What are HOA bylaws?

HOA bylaws are legal documents that revolve around operational issues, mainly pertaining to the board of directors. They’re the specific rules that explain how an HOA runs on a daily basis. Within the bylaws, you’ll find information about:

  • Board member election processes.
  • Board member term restrictions.
  • Quorum details.
  • Meeting protocols.
  • Board member duties.
  • Voting methods.

Why are HOA bylaws necessary?

HOA bylaws are like the rulebook that states how the HOA operates behind the scenes. They provide communities with communication on how exactly the board members that preside over them function and hold members accountable in their positions.

Without HOA bylaws, an HOA risks a lack of structure, hindering clear communication between board members and residents and undermining board member accountability, which is essential for a well-organized community.

In larger communities, organizing an HOA without bylaws offers little benefit, making bylaws an integral component of any efficiently run HOA.

Are HOA bylaws a legal must-have?

Absolutely! Because HOAs are legally seen as non-profit corporations, it's necessary to have bylaws in place.

Bylaws are created after a development is completed, and the developer forms the HOA by submitting a Articles of Incorporation to their state’s Secretary of State.

Once the legal status of an HOA is registered, bylaws are established, along with other documents like covenants, conditions, & and restrictions (CC&Rs) and rules and regulations.

Without bylaws, an HOA can be prone to a structureless system with no accountability.

Who enforces HOA bylaws?

Typically, the board of directors oversees the enforcement of HOA bylaws and CC&Rs, with potential delegation to committees for specific tasks.

Alternatively, HOA management companies can offer a neutral third-party approach, taking direction on behalf of the board.

10 things to include in your HOA bylaws

While it varies by association, the following elements are often included in HOA bylaws:

1. Name and purpose

The very first bylaws are the ones in which the association states its:

  • Official name.
  • Location.
  • The fiscal year in which it was established.
  • Which laws have priority, and in what sequence (state laws, articles, bylaws, etc.).

This aims not only to explain the official details of the organization but also to ensure that various regulations, including the bylaws, CC&Rs, and state laws, are consistently followed in order.

2. Membership requirements

While your CC&Rs and rules and regulations outline member rules, bylaws will establish membership parameters and fundamentals such as:

  • Criteria for membership within your association's jurisdiction.
  • Rights and limitations of members.
  • Dues cost and payment schedules.
  • Voting powers.
  • The process of becoming a member.

3. Board duties

HOAs must have an elected board of directors to represent homeowners. The HOA bylaws will cover:

  • Roles and responsibilities (e.g., the secretary managing meeting minutes and essential documents).
  • Powers and duties.
  • Minimum and maximum number of board members.
  • Duration of service.
  • Nomination and election procedures.
  • Frequency of elections.
  • Compensation.
  • Terms of and procedures for removals.
  • Resignation processes.

With these provisions, your HOA bylaws will equip board members with a thorough understanding of their roles.

4. Officer duties

In addition to board members, your HOA will have officers. Your HOA bylaws should detail officer information, including:

  • Roles (president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, etc.).
  • Vacancy management procedures (usually a board member stepping in temporarily).
  • Term of office.
  • Duties breakdown by role.
  • Election processes.

5. Board member meetings

Bylaws will have inclusion of board member meeting details such as:

  • Meeting frequency.
  • Types of meetings (regular, special, etc.).
  • Quorum requirements.
  • Actions permissible without meetings.

These meetings are key to getting things done in an HOA. From discussing ongoing and future projects to reviewing any problems that need to be solved, all board members are encouraged to share ideas to reach an ultimate solution.

6. Member meetings

HOAs are required to host regular meetings that include residents. This gives everyone the chance to be heard, share suggestions and feedback, and remain in the know about what’s going on in their community.

The following should be outlined in your HOA bylaws:

  • Meeting frequency (annual, special, etc.).
  • Quorum requirements.
  • Voting eligibility.
  • Rules for proxy votes.

7. Committees

Many HOAs form committees to support the board of directors. These committees serve various roles, including overseeing architectural changes, landscaping maintenance, financial matters, social events, rule enforcement, and community safety.

Guide this process by including a section on how committees are created, structured, and dissolved. Specify who can be voted on committees and outline the voting process.

8. Non-compliance to bylaws

Successfully handling non-compliance hinges on establishing a framework before it arises. Non-compliance in an HOA means that a homeowner isn’t following the community rules, like those about house appearance or noise, and it can lead to warnings, fines, or legal action by the HOA.

Including provisions related to non-compliance in HOA bylaws is crucial for:

  • Maintaining community standards.
  • Protecting property values.
  • Promoting fairness.
  • Resolving conflicts.
  • Fostering community cohesion.
  • Providing legal means to address violations.

Within the non-compliance section, you should:

  • Define non-compliance.
  • Write enforcement strategies.
  • Outline penalties and procedures.

9. Amendments

In an HOA, changes may sometimes be made to the community's rules and guidelines to adapt to new needs, comply with laws, or improve how the association operates.

To streamline the amendment process, include a part in your bylaws covering the following:  

  • Management of amendments for HOA bylaws, CC&Rs, and rules & regulations.
  • Effective date of amendments.
  • Procedures for HOA dissolution.

10. Certification

Certification is the ultimate approval by a designated board member, confirming the legitimacy of the bylaws and readiness for submission to the state government.

Can HOA bylaws be changed?

Changing bylaws is doable but needs a clear request for amendment and widespread support for the proposed change. The reason an HOA may need to change bylaws may be based on the need to:

  • Adapt to evolving community needs.
  • Comply with legal requirements.
  • Address shifts in local laws.
  • Improve governance.
  • Accommodate changing demographics.
  • Update language.

The key to successful bylaw amendments involves:

  1. A careful process of finding the documents to understand specific wording.
  2. Understanding existing bylaws in relation to the proposed change.
  3. Crafting a comprehensive proposal that addresses residents' needs and provides a solution to the identified flaw.

Bylaw amendments may also call for a majority vote from residents, typically demanding at least a ⅔ to ¾ majority in favor of the change. Consequently, proposing changes requires considering the broader community's perspectives.

Whether the goal is to modify board members' term limits or adjust membership requirements, altering bylaws initiates a big shift in the HOA's operation. Approaching proposals thoughtfully and precisely leads to more favorable outcomes.

Are HOA bylaws public record?

HOA bylaws aren’t mandated to be public records, although they often are. Since bylaws primarily address the operational aspects of the HOA and usually don't involve entities like real estate in the text, there's no legal requirement for these bylaws to be publicly documented.

However, many HOAs choose to publicly record their bylaws, along with the CC&Rs, to provide accessible information for outside entities such as attorneys or land purchasers. This helps prevent confusion about how the HOA operates fully.

Where can residents find the HOA’s bylaws?

There are a few places you can access and store your HOA bylaws, including:

  • HOA website: This ensures easy access for current and potential members, demonstrating a commitment to transparency.
  • Members forum: In addition to the external website, consider an internal space like an HOA app such as TownSq, to engage members actively within the community.
  • From the Secretary of State’s office: If applicable, homeowners can request the entirety of their HOA’s public records.
  • HOA management company: As a third-party source, asking for the HOA’s records from a management company is valid, as they would also have access to documents needed to maintain a community.

Streamline your bylaw distribution with TownSq

Organizing and making your HOA bylaws easily accessible is essential for a well-functioning community, benefiting residents, board members, and community managers alike. However, managing printed documents can become chaotic.

Utilizing an efficient HOA management platform, such as TownSq, allows you to streamline storage and organize folders systematically. Explore the TownSq 30-day free trial to experience improved bylaw and document management for your community today!