Re: Group Forming need advice
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 27 Jan 2007 06:01:36 -0800 (PST)

On Jan 26, 2007, at 10:04 AM, nathan schomber wrote:

So does that mean that legally, in order to purchase a parcel in a condo assoc. one must agree to follow and be bound by the condo rules?

Yes. Some have the idea that a condo does not or cannot have rules but it can and does. Some have suggested that banks won't approve mortgages for condos that have unusual rules like requiring participation in a meal program or attending 3 membership meetings before joining. If you stop and think about all those condos in Florida attached to golf courses, you can image some very strange rules about observing tee-off times and proper dress on nine-holes. They are very expensive place and banks do finance them.

A standard clause in Bylaws is that residents must follow all community rules. Community rules are written over time and can change so they aren't usually included in the Bylaws but they are nevertheless binding on residents. Condos can levy steep fines on homeowners who do not follow the rules. The rules are supplied to potential community members before they buy in so they have no excuse not to abide by them. Rules written or changed after they move in are also binding, particularly in cohousing where everyone usually participates in making the rules.

The contradiction in cohousing is that people want rules but not Rules. Talk enforcement and you become a pariah. Somehow it is all supposed to work out. You get the right people and they just do the right thing. Cohousers are reasonable. Unfortunately, everyone has a different sense of the right thing and for some people doing as they please is reasonable -- regardless of what they agreed to do when they moved in.

In a condo (as far as I know in all states, but they may have different names) you have:

1. The Declaration which is required to establish and define the legal entity as a common interest real estate property with parcels that can be bought and sold. Without this you have no condo and rarely can it be changed.

2. The Bylaws which establish the homeowner association and say how the property held in common interest will work in terms of who has legal authority to make decisions, like setting community rules. State condo laws determine what is required to change the Bylaws but it usually requires the approval of anyone holding a deed (banks, co-owners, etc.)

3. The Community Rules that establish how people will maintain their property and otherwise live together. Often some of the community rules are written into the Bylaws -- regulations on noise and pets, for example. But since Community Rules are easier to change, this may be the better place for them unless you really want them to be harder to change.

Community Rules can include fines for failure to comply and if residents do not pay up, liens can be placed on their property, with interest accruing, paid at the time of sale or whenever the Homeowner Association decides to go to court over them. The Homeowner Association also usually has the right to enter apartments to fix or correct problems like leaking water faucets, etc. This will be written into the bylaws and is particularly necessary when apartment adjoin each other.

The usual qualifier -- I'm not a lawyer -- this is what I know from living in condos and reading literature related to condo laws and practices. And each state does vary.

Sharon Villines

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