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An HOA Guide to Rules and Regulations

Understanding the Governing Documents of Your Community Association

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Free Rules and Regulations Guide for Board Members

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Introduction to Rules and Regulations

The purpose of the governing documents for an association is to provide the legal structure and operation of the community association. They do this by:

  • Defining the rights and obligations of both the community association and its owners
  • Creating a binding relationship between each owner and the community association
  • Establishing the mechanisms for governing and funding the association’s operations, including the establishment of the automatic lien
The governing documents also set forth rules and restrictions for:
  • Protection of both owners and the community
  • Enhancement of property values
  • Promotion of harmonious living
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The Document Hierarchy

The general hierarchy is important because on occasion there may be conflicting information in the documents. For example, the declaration may state there will be five board members, while the bylaws may state seven. The document that is higher in the hierarchy would prevail. The general authority follows in order of importance.


The map is recorded before the first parcel is sold, and it sets the boundaries of the development. It shows the precise location of units, lots and/or common areas and defines an owner’s or a community’s title to the property.

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In community associations, deed restrictions are recorded in one document instead of the deed/title for each lot or unit. An understanding of these documents requires comprehension of the rights of ownership.

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Incorporation may or may not be a legal requirement for a community association. If
incorporated, it is typically as a not-for-profit, or nonprofit, corporation.

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Bylaws are formally adopted regulations for the administration and management of a community association.

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A resolution is a motion that follows a set format and is formally adopted by the board of directors. Resolutions may enact rules and regulations or formalize other types of board decisions.


 The public offering statement is simply a disclosure statement that provides information on the community association to the first prospective buyers in a new development.

Rule Development

Generally speaking, the courts recognize the following list as characteristics of a valid
rule. In addition, people are more likely to accept and cooperate with rules that meet these

Criteria for Valid and Enforceable Rules

Generally speaking, the courts recognize the following list as characteristics of a valid rule. In addition, people are more likely to accept and cooperate with rules that meet these characteristics.
The six criteria for careful rule development are:
  •  The rule must reasonably relate to the operation and purpose of the community.
  •  The rule must be consistent with applicable federal, state and local statutes and the community association’s governing documents.
  • The rule must not violate a fundamental constitutional right.
  • The rule must be reasonable. A reasonable rule is one that is just, sensible, and not excessive.
  • The rule must be fair. It must not create a separate class or group of people. (For example, a rule that treats resident owners and nonresident owners differently).
  • The rule must be capable of universal enforcement. There must not be selective enforcement or exceptions.
  • The rule must be necessary. Do not make rules as a knee-jerk reaction to a single instance that has little possibility of recurrence.
When in doubt about the legality of a rule, consult an attorney. It is always a good idea to have your community’s attorney review the wording of all rules and regulations – as proposed and as adopted – to ensure that they are legally sound and avoid conflict with other governing documents or the law.

Steps for Developing the Rules

DETERMINE THE NEED FOR A RULE IN THE SPECIFIC AREA — Ask and answer the question, “why?” Then check to be sure that your community association’s existing rules and governing documents are inadequate to address the issue.
CONSIDER THE IMPACT  — How is the rule likely to be received? Will it create a solution to a current problem or create future issues for the community?
AUTHORITY — Identify the source(s) of your community’s authority to make a rule in the specific area(s) involved.
DEFINE THE SCOPE OF THE RULE — Specify “who” and “what” will be covered by the rule. The “what” of a rule includes:
  • Requires steps, procedures, acts of prohibitions a person is expected to follow
  • Enforcement procedures
  • Penalties for violations
  • Due process procedure

It is a general rule of law that if something is omitted from a list of items, it was intentionally omitted. An acceptable solution is to use language such as “…to include, but not to be limited to…” It is important to keep the language of a rule simple and specific.

APPLY AN ENFORCE-ABILITY TEST — Check to be sure the proposed rule has the eight characteristics of a valid and enforceable rule.
GIVE NOTICE OF ANY PROPOSED RULE — Build consensus and support for the rule before it is adopted in order to gain acceptance and compliance. Make owners aware that the board is considering a particular rule. Invite written comments or schedule a hearing on a proposed rule.
ACT PROMPTLY ON A PROPOSED RULE — Once a proposed rule has been published and input received, the board should act on it at its next regularly scheduled meeting. The board’s
options are to either approve or reject the proposed rule – as it is, or as amended. Failure to act will cause the board and the rule to lose credibility.
GIVE NOTICE OF AN ADOPTED RULE — Actual notice of an adopted rule is necessary if people are to voluntarily obey it. Send a notice to the owners’ last known address in the community records. Send a notice to the unit or lot address too, in case the occupant is a non-owner. Publish the rule in the community newsletter and website and post it in the common areas. Provide copies of the revised rules to all new owners and residents. Whatever notice you give, use a positive tone of voice. Avoid sounding demanding or condescending.
REVISE — Revise the Rules and Regulations document to include the new rule.
RECORD — If required or desired, record the newly-revised set of Rules and Regulations in the land or deed records in your jurisdiction to provide public notice to all future owners of homes in the community.

Development of Architectural Guidelines

Development of architectural guidelines should begin with a review of the governing documents to determine in what areas the board can allow a change. Usually, a community association’s declaration, CC&Rs, or master deed provides for architectural changes. It is in the community’s best interests for a board to establish written architectural guidelines for two reasons:
  • Written guidelines indicate to owners what types of changes will be allowed under normal circumstances.
  • Written guidelines are a way to avoid claims of arbitrary or selective treatment of owners.

It is in the board’s best interests to establish an architectural guidelines committee. A committee can concentrate its effort and attention on this major task alone. It can also act as a buffer between the requesting owner and the board.
Below is a list of a few things that would qualify for an established set of architectural guidelines. List as many details as possible, such as manufacturer, serial numbers, etc., to avoid misinterpretation of the pre-approved list and make it most convenient for your residents to locate the items:

 PAINT COLORS — Develop of a list of approved paint colors an owner can use to paint their
home, garage door, front door, etc. Include swatches; if the manufacturer discontinues it,
paint from another manufacturer in the same color might still qualify.
FRONT/GARAGE DOOR STYLES — Must the door be solid? Can it have a window? What style/color storm/screen doors are pre-approved? If the style installed by the
builder is discontinued, what replacement styles are pre-approved? List the manufacturer and model number of pre-approved styles.
WINDOWS — What style windows are pre-approved for window replacements? Must they be wood or vinyl? Must they be one specific color?
FENCING — What style, color and/or height fencing is pre-approved?
ROOFING — What material, style, color and lifespan roofing
material is pre-approved?

The more architectural guidelines you establish with pre-approved items, the more convenient the architectural
alterations process will be for your homeowners. You might
even elect to state that the owner can bypass the ACC approval process altogether if they use one of these pre-approved items, making it not just more convenient, but also more efficient, for all parties involved.

Basic Resolution Types

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Policy Resolutions

Policy Resolutions affect owners rights and obligations and usually address ambiguities and/or omissions in the declarations.

For example pool rules, architectural guidelines, and enforcement procedures

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Administrative Resolutions

Administrative Resolutions address the internal operation of the community association and usually address ambiguities and omissions in the bylaws.

For example, a collection policy, an email communication policy or a unit rental policy

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Special Resolutions

Special Resolutions set board decisions that apply a policy/rule to an individual situation.

For example a decision about an alleged architectural violation

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General Resolutions

General Resolutions typically involve routine events for the community association.

For example, the adoption of the annual budget


There may be special uses of resolutions to clarify ambiguous or vague provisions of the governing documents or to address areas not mentioned. In some cases, the community association may be able to use resolutions in lieu of amending the governing documents. However, if the documents are clear, such as the requirement to impose a $5 late charge, then the only means to change the amount is by the amendment process which involves a vote of the

Benefits of Using Resolutions

A resolution is a motion that follows a set format and is formally adopted. there are several benefits to using the resolution process to adopt rules as opposed to using the simpler process of making motions in a board meeting. The Resolution process provides a thorough, deliberate approach to making rules, provides consistency in making the wording and rules and, provides a formal record of all rules made. a resolution contains four sections, the acronym 'PASS' is a helpful mnemonic device.

States the reason and why the rule is being introduced and adopted for the community


Cites the primary sources of a community board's authority to make a rule on the specific topic


Addresses who will be affected, for what time period, the reach or range and extent of the rule, and penalties for non compliance


States clearly and completely what those bound by the rule will be expected to do

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