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3 things HOAs need to know about drafting and amending bylaws

by | Dec 19, 2023 | Condominium and Planned Community Practice |

Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs) can play a crucial role in maintaining and enhancing the value and quality of life within residential communities. One of the essential tasks for an HOA is drafting bylaws that govern the community’s operations.

This process requires careful attention to legal details and community needs. Below are valuable insights into three critical aspects HOAs in Pennsylvania must consider when drafting bylaws.

Tailoring bylaws to community needs

Every residential community is unique, with its own set of values, preferences and challenges. Therefore, bylaws should reflect the distinct characteristics of the community and cater to its needs. As such, before drafting, HOAs should engage with residents through surveys or meetings to understand their concerns and preferences. This information can then be integrated into the bylaws to create a comprehensive framework that helps promote harmony and community cohesion.

Enhancing clarity and precision

The effectiveness of bylaws depends on their clarity and precision. Vague or ambiguous language can lead to confusion, disputes and even legal challenges. A well-drafted bylaw should leave no room for interpretation, helping to ensure that everyone in the community understands their rights and responsibilities.

Technical terms or industry-specific jargon should be defined within the bylaws. This can help to prevent any misunderstanding that may arise due to differing interpretations of specific terms. Moreover, an HOA can establish a fair and transparent enforcement process by clearly outlining the consequences of violating the bylaws. Residents need to know what to expect if they breach the rules, whether it’s fines, warnings or other penalties.

Establishing communication channels

HOAs should establish effective communication channels to inform residents about updates, changes and community matters. This can include regular newsletters, community meetings and a dedicated online platform. By fostering open dialogue, residents may feel more engaged and invested in the community’s success. When drafting bylaws, consider including provisions that outline the methods and frequency of communication with residents.

Drafting bylaws for an HOA is a task that requires a combination of legal guidance, community engagement and effective communication. By understanding the legal framework, customizing bylaws to community needs and improving transparency, HOAs can create a solid foundation for a thriving residential community. HOAs which already have bylaws should have those bylaws reviewed periodically to make sure they meet the standards above and comply with changes in Pennsylvania law, like Act 17 which mandated mediation provisions for the bylaws of new HOAs and recommended them for existing HOAs. Often, with the opinion of counsel that changes are necessary to cure ambiguity or comply with PA law, the process for amendment is simple.

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