When you buy a home in a condo or homeowners association you will receive a set of the "governing documents" of the association, and part of the paperwork that you sign includes an agreement to abide by these documents and pay the association fees.
In Florida, the three key documents that constitute the "governing documents" are:
- Declaration - establishes the community association, the concept of members and the relationships between association, the members and the land.
- Articles of Incorporation - defines the association as a corporation and establishes the board and it's governance role.
- Bylaws - defines the way the association operates with regards to meetings, elections, quorums, other processes and the powers and duties of board members.
The sequence above is very important as it defines the hierarchy that exists among these documents, in the event of any conflict. This means that if there were a conflict between the bylaws and the declaration, the declaration would over-rule the Bylaws (or the Articles of Incorporation).
In these documents owners may also find information about lease restrictions, parking, guests, pets, approved paint colors, landscape requirements and many other topics. It is very important for owners to understand these documents, because they are agreeing to abide by these documents when they buy a home in the community. It is even more important for board members to read and understand these documents.
MANAGER TIP: If possible, acquire a .PDF (electronic) version of the documents in a SINGLE FILE - in a form where it can be searched for key words. This makes it really easy to look-up areas of interest in the documents by simply using a "search" tool in the document. This saves a lot of reading!
It is also important to understand that the rules and regulations of the association, although not a component of the governing documents, are typically acknowledged in the bylaws and owners are also subject to conform with the content of this document as well.
One other important point to remember is that the law (federal, state, local) is superior to the governing documents as well. This means that if there is a conflict between a law and the documents, then the law prevails.
Legal disclaimer – I am not an attorney and I do not play one on TV. This should not be considered legal advice.