We occasionally receive calls from distressed board members or managers when individual community members take steps to amend an association’s governing documents without going through a board process. Usually, a packet arrives in the board member’s or manager’s mail at the same time everyone else in the community gets the proposed amendment. This type of owner-initiated document amendment drive can result in substantial expense and, if not handled properly, can leave the association with vague, poorly drafted documents that make governance close to impossible

When confronted with an owner-initiated document amendment, an association must seize the initiative to guide the process and protect the association from potential liability for improper adoption or illegal provisions.

The association should immediately refer the document to its legal counsel to ascertain the impact of the amendment if passed and determine whether the proposal to amend the document complies with the currently-existing documents and controlling laws.

If the proposed amendment passes legal muster, the association may work with counsel to prepare and send a letter to all owners outlining the amendment process and the likely impact of the amendment. The association can use this opportunity to educate owners on how the amendment will affect them, and the board may make a recommendation for or against the proposed amendment.

The association should also seek to resolve underlying issues with the owner or group of owners proposing the amendment. Owner-initiated document amendments are typically symptomatic of owner disputes with the association and may trigger an association’s dispute resolution policy. Your association’s dispute resolution policy may address procedures for facilitated discussion to help prevent a situation from escalating to the point of an owner taking document amendments into his or her own hands.

All board members should review their association’s dispute resolution policy to familiarize themselves with the procedures and to ensure that owners adhere to the dispute resolution steps when they take issue with association actions. If you do not have a dispute resolution policy, or you wish to amend your dispute resolution policy to clarify procedures, please contact us at (303) 863-1870.