One thing that’s always constant in your associations? Change. The laws governing your community associations have endured so much change within the past few years alone that it may make your community’s governing documents unreliable. It only makes sense that these documents are updated to reflect current resident needs and modern law, but where do you start?!
Step 1: Evaluate the Existing Governing Documents
Reviewing governing documents is a daunting task—let’s make it manageable. Start by reviewing the documents and determine whether or not any provisions are inconsistent with current laws. Governing documents should be evaluated for clarity. One useful tool for clarifying maintenance responsibilities is a matrix or checklist. The purpose of this is to clearly set forth components within the community and allocate which party, the association or a homeowner, is responsible for maintaining same. Why is this important? Clear governing documents help reduce future, unbudgeted expenses. (i.e. attorney’s fees for lawsuits or legal opinions)
Step 2: Understand Approval Requirements
Generally, the method of obtaining lender or government approval is set forth in the governing documents. Otherwise, lender voting protocols are simpler than member voting.
Step 3: Be Proactive: Educate Members and Combat Voter Apathy
From the first distribution of documents to the owners for their review, until the ultimate meeting to tabulate votes, the board may consider encouraging owners to vote in favor of an amendment or restatement by including reminders in newsletters, flyers, mailings, or other forms of association media.
If the board, from past experience, anticipates that voter apathy will be a problem, some boards find it beneficial to offer incentives during the voting campaign to encourage owners to submit ballots. Perhaps the most useful tool is a town hall meeting in which members have the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns regarding the proposed amendments to the governing documents. The board should also consider having legal counsel attend the meeting to explain the amendment process.
Step 4: Be Persistent
The board should listen to the member’s concerns and evaluate the likelihood of a successful vote if the member’s requested changes are made. If the vote fails, the board may decide to make viable changes based on member comments or concerns and attempt a second vote. Remember—the board represents the people. Be persistent in advocating for their best interest.