Foundational Documents for Co-ops and Condos The Words That Get it Started

From the Magna Carta to the U.S. Constitution, written documents have helped shape the way people live and interact with one another for centuries. The fundamental documents that establish community associations and HOAs have that same importance in building a well-oiled, well-functioning community albeit on a smaller scale, of course. That is why it is so important to ensure that these materials are up-to-date, accurate and fully reflect the association community and people who live within it.

The Words

Before the first beams are raised or the first unit converted, community associations and HOAs need some basic documents drawn up and in place for the community to become a reality. For community associations, those fundamental documents include the master deed and bylaws, says attorney J. David Ramsey, a shareholder with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff in Morristown, New Jersey.  

For homeowner’s associations, those documents include a certificate of incorporation and a declaration instead of a master deed.  And who draws up these documents? “The developer or sponsor for the community association,” says Ramsey.

“And attorneys like me,” says Wendell Smith, a partner in the real estate department of the Woodbridge, New Jersey-based law firm of Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis LLP. The entities are established as non-profit organization for condos and homeowner’s associations, he says. Smith is a co-author of the law book New Jersey Condominium and Community Association Law.

Accuracy is Everything

As with anything made by human minds and hands, there is the potential for error in these foundational documents. Sometimes these mistakes are literally just typos or transpositions. “It can be a competency issue or a typographical problem, or people just didn’t coordinate with each other, so what the developer wanted is not accurately reflected,” says Ramsey. For example, the “bylaws and certificate of incorporation may be inconsistent with each other.”


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