Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Making Amendments

Amendments to Association Covenants and Bylaws are very important for keeping up with the needs of a community.   Every community is unique, so it is important that the Community Association Manager (CAM) and Board of Directors monitor for situations where an Amendment may be beneficial.  This is especially true with older communities.  Because of court cases, Association attorneys are constantly refining the standard language that should be included in governing documents.   Another goal in updating documents would be to make them more user-friendly - as many older documents have provisions couched in confusing language.

When considering an Amendment, the CAM and Board of Directors must be sure to cover all bases of the logistics of drafting and presentation.   The most important item to review is the voting process required for passage:  Many Association documents require at least two thirds of membership approval for adoption.  Another important consideration for HOAs and townhome communities is the Georgia’s Property Owners Association Act or POAA.  The POAA is a legal structure drafted specifically for HOA’s to provide protection and enable them to enact critical Association functions not secured under common law.  If your community is not already under the POAA umbrella (not applicable to condominiums), make this a part of your amendment package.  It should be enacted prior to any other Amendments you consider.
Your Amendments should cover all needed updates at once:  Obtaining member approval is a huge undertaking, so it’s important to get the documents as updated as possible - at one time.  For example, if an Association knows that it needs to update its leasing provisions or wants to be in compliance with lender requirements, don’t just stop at that one Amendment.  Contact your Association attorney to do a full review and provide recommendations of other items that may need updating.  Each Amendment item can be voted on separately by the membership, but have the choices listed together on one ballot!

The toughest part of the process is getting people to actually cast their ballots.  Homeowners often don’t want to take the time to read through the Amendment paperwork.  Include a cover sheet that sums up each Amendment, hold special meetings to educate homeowners on each Amendment, and start an Amendment Committee to reach out and encourage homeowners to read over this important proposal, as it will affect each and every one of them.  This will require a Board or committee going door-to-door to remind, answer questions and collect votes.

As an Association, take the time to periodically review items brought to your attention and ask yourself if each of these are enforceable, how they would ideally be enforced, and how often they may arise in the future.  If the same situation comes up on a regular basis, it may be time to think about an Amendment to address it as a unique community need!

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