Governing Docs 101 Understanding & Amending Your Community’s Documents

Homeowners associations and co-ops alike are governed by a set of specific documents that lay out the administrative structure of the community, its rules and regulations, and protocols for decision-making. The certificate of incorporation, the declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R), the master deed, bylaws, rules and regulations—as well as the proprietary lease, in the case of co-ops—are the fundamental documents that govern condo and co-op buildings. In many ways this foundational paperwork acts as a contract between managers, boards, and unit owners, certifying that all parties will conduct themselves in a certain manner and adhere to certain regulatory expectations.

For the most part, these documents are drafted to stand the test of time—but from time to time however, buildings and HOAs may need to re-examine their documents and rules to make sure they’re kept current, fair, enforceable, and relevant to the community they serve.

The Master Deed

If you live in a co-op and want to see changes occur, it won’t be easy, but it is possible. You just need to have strong numbers in favor of your position.

According to Gemma Giantomasi, an associate with the law firm of Genova Burns Giantomasi Webster in Newark, who works on the firm’s real estate team, the criteria for changing a governing document for a condo or co-op will be set forth in the document itself. “However, when drafting these provisions it is important to consider protecting the interests of the unit owners or shareholders, while at the same time providing the flexibility to meet needs for change,” she says. “For example, if a change is going to adversely impact unit owners or shareholders, the consent of said unit owners or shareholders should be required in order for the change to be implemented.”

“The association would be required to have a vote by the owners as stated in the current governing documents; this could be a majority vote, or another percentage required such as two-thirds, etc.,” adds Marie D. Mirra, president of CAI-NJ and a CPA with Mirra & Associates, CPAs, LLC, located in Hillsborough. “Once the required votes are obtained, legal counsel would need to be engaged in order to amend the documents.”


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  • Is there any NJ laws that were used as a reference that can back up the claims that bylaws can be changed? We have a resident that will want to know which laws were used to back up our decision to add a new bylaw.