What You Can and Cannot Change About Your Condominium and HOA Bylaws

At Trident Management, our extensive experience working with community associations in Miami and the surrounding area helps us know how to navigate through most bylaws, declarations, CC&Rs, rules and regulations. We’re not attorneys, however, so if you have a specific question about a bylaw you’d like to challenge, you should consult an attorney.

Today, let’s explore why you can’t just bend that one little rule that you think no one would notice.

Follow the Current Bylaws for Your Community

When you live in a building or a community that is governed by a Condominium or Homeowners Association, you agree to follow the rules, regulations, and requirements set forth by that association. Sometimes, a particular rule may not make sense to you. After all, does it really matter if your mailbox is painted lime green, if your door matches everyone else’s or if your car is parked on the grass?

It does matter, usually.

HOAs have bylaws in place to establish the standard operating procedures and behaviors of the community. Sometimes that can feel overwhelming, but they help to preserve the appearance of the community and keep the property values up for all owners. That alone is a good reason to read, understand, and follow your bylaws.

Do you understand the difference between rules and bylaws? The main difference is found in scope and outcome. Bylaws are designed to be procedural and all encompassing. They are usually impossible to change without both board and ownership approval. The rules are specific, administrative and often clarify or enhance a particular section of the bylaws. Yes, you DO have to follow both.

Consequences of Violating Bylaws

When you violate the association’s bylaws, you may not do 10 years of hard time in prison.

But, you will face penalties and other consequences that may lead to a lawsuit, a civil injunction or even foreclosure. It’s probably not worth the risk.

The penalties will often start with a warning and time to correct. If a correction is not made then an Association typically moves to a fine. For example, if you paint your garage an unapproved color, you might get a notice instructing you to repaint the garage. If you don’t repaint it, the HOA will likely assess a fine. It can be an expensive fine. Some associations will charge you per day. So if you don’t paint your garage for a full month, that $100-per-day fine could really add up. Some associations will take corrective action themselves, meaning they’ll go onto your property and paint the garage themselves, and then charge you for the work. You might also face suspension of privileges or use of common facilities like fitness centers or pools.

If you don’t pay the fines or come into compliance, things can escalate quickly. The Condominium or Homeowners Association can file an action for injunctive relief or file suit against you or even put a lien against your property. They might hire attorneys to get a personal judgment.

One Solution: Suggest a Change to Bylaws

Instead of raging against the bylaws that are in place and intolerable to you, it may be wiser to take action by changing the bylaws and the rules that are currently in place.

Your specific association will have a process for this. It usually looks something like:

  • A homeowner will draft a rule amendment. State your proposal in clear language and back it up with any documentation or research that will help you make your case for why the rule should be changed.
  • The board will propose the amendment to the community.
  • At a future board meeting, there will be a discussion in favor of or against the new amendment.
  • The rule or amendment is approved or rejected.

In short, get involved. If you don’t have time to be on the Board of Directors, join a committee. Propose a committee review of your Association’s bylaws and rules. Then bring those suggestions to the Board. Always make sure the Association’s attorney reviews any proposed amendment to bylaws or rules to avoid any potential pitfalls.

What You Can and Cannot Change About Your Condominium and HOA BylawsLet us help guide you and advise you through this process. Contact us at Trident Management and we’ll work with your Condominium or Homeowners Association board of directors.