The fair and wise governance of a residential community is not always easy. While you may strive to act with consistency and comply with the governing documents of your community, you may frequently field questions about the practicality, fairness or relevance of the existing covenants and rules. On the other hand, circumstances may arise that require the addition of new rules for the safety and comfort of the neighborhood. Changing those rules is not easy, but it is possible.
While some may believe that the governing documents of a community are etched in stone, this is not the case. However, since these rules are legally binding at the state and federal levels, it is necessary to follow the correct procedure, and, before making any changes, it is always wise to seek the advice of an attorney who understands Maryland’s community association laws.
To begin with, you and other board members will want to do a careful review of your existing by-laws and rules to determine if these laws outline a process for amendment. The more serious and far-reaching the change, the more important the input of a legal professional may be. Unless the change you are considering involves an imminent threat to the safety or wellbeing of the homeowners in your community, you will likely follow these steps:
- Draft the amendment using clear language and including all necessary actions and details, such as forms residents should use or steps they must follow.
- Notify all residents of the details of the proposed change no later than 10 days before your next meeting.
- Include discussion of the rule change on the meeting’s agenda.
- At the next board meeting, open the floor for homeowners to ask questions and express concerns about the new rule.
- Vote on the rule but be sure to check your by-laws to see if you also need owner votes for approving the change.
If the vote approves the change, your next step is to send a notice to everyone in the community. The notice should provide residents with as much information as possible about the new change, including when the policy takes effect. You have a limited amount of time to make this notification, so it should be high on your board’s priority list.
As always, you will want to be sure to enforce the new rule consistently to avoid disputes between the owners and the board. However, should such disputes arise, have had an attorney guiding you through the process of amending the rules may provide you with solid legal backing.