It happens in business, government, and industry every day: employees learn the rules of a new job, and before long they start going around them or taking shortcuts. Rarely is this done with malicious intent. More often, it is simply a matter of knowing the rules so well that they fade into the background, and solving the problem at hand becomes the priority -- not necessarily following protocol or best practices.
The same can happen with HOA and community association boards who may find themselves straying from the letter and spirit of the rules that govern the entity over which they have been given authority.
In other instances, the lapse in governing “by the book” could come from the fact that new members may or may not have fully familiarized themselves with those all-important governing documents. In these cases, ignorance rarely if ever leads to long-term bliss. Sooner or later, boards that fail to lead according to their condo or homeowner’s association governing documents will find themselves in a bind—the kind that may end up involving litigation.
Letter of the Law
For HOAs and condo associations, there are guidelines available to help a board efficiently, effectively, and legally lead their communities. For condo associations, those documents include first and foremost, the master deed, says Dennis Estis, a partner with the law firm of Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis LLP in Woodbridge. “Second, there are the bylaws. Third, any rules or regulations adopted over the years and fourth, the certificate of incorporation.”
For an HOA, these governing documents would be the declaration and bylaws. “The parts that the board really control are small, like the roadway, swimming pool or retention pond,” Estis continues. “Other than that, every homeowner has their own home.” It helps for board members to have a firm grasp of those elemental documents. “I have found over the years that many board members have no idea what documents they should be following,” he says.