Guiding communities: New resource for association governing documents

Two men go over documents during a meeting. There is a miniature house and a gavel on the desk.


by Kiara Candelaria | March 18,2021


Every community association requires a set of governing documents—often a declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions, articles of incorporation or organization, and bylaws—to provide its legal framework and operation. Governing documents define the rights and obligations of the association and its members. They also establish standards that protect the community and promote harmonious living.

CAI and the College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL) released Guiding Principles for Community Association Governing Documents: A Resource for Lawyers to assist attorneys drafting governing documents for newly built communities or those in developer transition. The new resource also will help board members and managers in making amendments to or restating existing documents.

Guiding Principles includes 25 sections with common governing document provisions such as use restrictions, insurance and risk management, assessment collectionsrules and regulations, and architectural control. Each section discusses the purpose and intent of governing provisions. These guidelines do not attempt to address every provision that impacts a community association and must only be applied after having a clear understanding of the community’s structure.

The guide applies to homeowners associations, planned communities, condominiums, housing cooperatives, and other common interest developments with differing governing statutes and distinct types of ownership.

Because association governing documents vary depending on the nature of the community, its legal structure, and the applicable statutes, the attorney and association leaders must understand the hierarchy of the law and these documents. In almost all cases, applicable state and federal statutes will supersede governing documents, followed by the formation document, declaration, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and rules, regulations or resolutions.

The guide’s main purpose is to emphasize the importance of organization, consistency, clarity, and brevity as the guiding principles for association governing documents. Simple definitions and uncomplicated language will aid association boards and residents by increasing understanding and reducing the likelihood of disputes about interpretation.

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