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Common Interest Associations

Common Interest Development (aka Homeowner Associations)

As with the CC&Rs, amending the Bylaws or Articles generally requires an owner vote, and the number of votes required for amendment is specified in the document being amended. Bylaws typically only require an affirmative majority of the total voting rights for amendment.

The Declaration of CC&Rs is the most difficult of the governing documents to amend. In general, any amendment to the CC&Rs must be approved by a vote of the owners. An owner vote to amend the CC&Rs typically requires approval of a super-majority of the total voting power of the Association and may require approval from a government agency. There is usually a section of the CC&Rs that states the percentage of owner votes required to adopt a CC&R amendment, and sometimes the required percentage varies depending on which part of the CC&Rs is being amended. For example, the CC&Rs might state that at least 50% of the owners must approve an amendment in general, but that an amendment that would shift maintenance responsibility for some element of the property from the HOA to the individual owners requires a 75% vote. In another variation, the CC&Rs might state that to change the boundaries of someone’s lot, or to change the percentage of expenses someone pays, a 50% vote of the owners is required plus the approval of 100% of the owners who will be directly impacted by the amendment. Refer to your governing documents for specific percentages.

There are a few types of CC&R amendments that can be adopted by the board of directors without an owner vote. The board can amend the CC&Rs to delete provisions that illegally discriminate against or harass any person because of the race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, or genetic information. The board can also delete references to sections of law that no longer exist or have been renumbered.

If an owners’ association is unable to get the votes needed to adopt a necessary amendment, it is possible to petition the court to amend the CC&Rs without the required number of owner votes; however, a court will not grant such a petition unless there is a good reason to ignore the voting requirement spelled out in the CC&Rs.

It is common for CC&Rs to provide that some or all amendments must be approved by eligible mortgage lenders who hold mortgages on the lots or units within the property, or by a local government agency. These provisions are intended to prevent the owners from adopting amendments that undermine the lenders’ or local government’s rights or powers. Before adopting an amendment, owners should review the CC&Rs to determine whether the approval of lenders and/or a local government agency might be required.

Once a CC&R amendment has been approved, it must be recorded in the records of the county where the property is located. A CC&R amendment that has not been recorded in the county records is not valid.

The CC&Rs usually empower the homeowners’ association to adopt Rules, and give the Rules the same binding power as the other governing documents. The Rules often provide usage restrictions relating to alterations, signage, waste disposal, parking, pets, and recreational facilities. Where the same topics are discussed in the CC&Rs, the Rules may add to or explain the CC&Rs but cannot conflict with them. Association Rules are usually enacted after some of the units or lots have been sold and the owners have taken control of the association. They are not subject to any governmental review and do not need to be filed or recorded with any governmental agency.
The term “governing documents” is used as a general reference to the entire group of legally recognized paperwork that creates and controls a condominium project or planned unit development. The governing documents typically include a subdivision map and/or condominium plat, a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (or “CC&Rs”), Articles of Incorporation (if the project is incorporated), Bylaws, and Rules.
The term “Common Interest Development” (or “CID”) describes a form of real estate. This is where each owner holds exclusive rights to portions of the property called a unit or lot, and shared rights to portions of the property called the common area or common elements. The most numerous forms of CIDs are the condominium and the planned development. The two other types of CIDs, the stock cooperative and the community apartment, are far less common and are not discussed here.

The Articles of Incorporation or “Articles” are usually short and often contain only the name of the homeowners’ association, the name of the association’s initial agent for the service of process (the person authorized to receive legal notices), and a statement that the association is a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation. Sometimes the Articles also include language about voting, directors, amendments, and dissolution of the association. Articles are required only when an association is incorporated. (Unincorporated associations sometimes have Articles of Association, but these are not required.) Articles are prepared by the developer’s attorney and filed with the secretary of state. The Bylaws describe the mechanics of association decision making and management. Bylaws vary widely in content and length, but usually include the following:

  • Numbers and selection methods for officers and directors;
  • Notice, meeting and voting procedures for owner and board decisions; and
  • Association record keeping and reporting requirements.

The initial project Bylaws are typically prepared by the developer’s attorney and may be reviewed by a government agency at the time a condominium project or planned development is formed.

CC&Rs describe the rights and obligations of the homeowners’ association and of each owner. CC&Rs are recorded with the county recorder of the county where the property is located, and automatically bind anyone who becomes an owner of the property after the CC&Rs are recorded. CC&Rs vary widely in content and length, but usually cover some of the following topics:

  • The boundaries of the common area and of each unit or lot;
  • The legal description of the property;
  • The allocation of association operating costs among the owners
  • The mechanism for collecting owner payments;
  • Allocation of owner voting rights;
  • Any restrictions on alienation of units; and
  • The rights and protection of mortgage lenders.
The determination of whether a property is developed as a condominium project or a planned unit development is usually based on the physical characteristics of the buildings. Projects with only vertically-stacked units are always condominiums. Projects with only detached homes are almost always planned unit developments. Projects involving horizontally attached homes, or a combination of different home types, can be formed as either condominiums or planned unit developments. The most significant difference between condominium projects and planned unit developments is the distinct nature of the individually owned and group owned portions of the property. The individually owned portion of a condominium is called the unit and typically consists of interior space within a defined set of walls, floors, and ceilings. Condominium owners also frequently have exclusive use of decks, patios, and parking areas. The individually owned portion of a planned development is called the lot and typically consists of a piece of land and everything on it. Condominiums have common elements, which are usually all the structural elements of the building(s) housing the units, and all land and exterior areas. The common areas in a planned development are usually streets, open space, and recreational facilities.
Condominium projects and planned unit developments also differ with respect to the form of joint ownership of common area or common elements. Title to the common elements in a condominium must be held by the owners in percentage shares of undivided interest. By contrast, title to the common area in a planned unit development is almost always held by the homeowners’ association.
The Declarant is the original developer of the project, and he/she/it has special privileges and rights because he/she/it had virtually complete control over the content of the documents when they were prepared.
The law provides that the use of real estate can be restricted when a document (such as the CC&R’s) describing the restrictions is recorded with the county where the property is located. The restrictions “run with the land,” meaning they apply to each owner who acquires the property after the restrictions are recorded. The map or plat and the CC&Rs are different types of recorded restrictions which “run with the land,” and that is why they bind each owner of a unit or lot. The Articles, Bylaws, and Rules may not be recorded, but derive their binding power from the recorded CC&Rs. With the Articles and Bylaws, this binding power arises because the CC&Rs makes each owner a member of the homeowners’ association, and the law makes each member of the association subject to the association’s Articles and Bylaws. With the Rules, the binding power arises because the CC&Rs specifically empower the association to enact additional binding rules.

Ownership and Possession
Use of Common Area
Association Powers and Decision Making
Association Structure and Funds
Meetings and Decisions
Director Election and Term
Officers Managers and Committees
Owner Assessments
Maintenance Alterations and Defects
Insurance and Liability
Mortgages and Liens
Enforcement and Disputes

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