Many collections of townhouses, condominiums, and similar structures are set up to operate as community associations. It's important to understand the legalities of an association before setting one up or trying to redesign one. An association attorney will tell you to pay close attention to the following 5 issues when dealing with this process.
Every community association is expected to serve a stated purpose. The purpose shows up in the initial articles of incorporation for the community, and it should be repeated throughout the bylaws where appropriate. Likewise, the purpose of the association should guide the creation of covenants, conditions, and restrictions within the association.
Defining the Community
It's also wise to clearly define what makes a property and the people living there a part of the community. This is usually a simple statement of facts, such as the geographic area where the community exists and which properties are zoned to the association's purpose.
A lack of subtlety in this process is ideal. Don't be afraid to include maps and supporting documents to ensure anyone involved in a future dispute will understand how you defined the community.
One of the biggest worries an association attorney has when helping a community is to avoid running afoul of anti-discrimination laws. In addition to concerns about fair housing laws, the association should also address concerns about employment discrimination among its employees and potential hires. Similarly, best practices need to be in place for handling issues like debt collection, medical leave, insurance requirements, workplace safety, and complaints.
You should look at anti-discrimination practices through the broadest view possible. While people often focus on federal laws, you should also take a close look at local and state regulations.
Likewise, don't assume that discrimination only refers to issues of race. Age discrimination, for example, can be a tricky issue for an association to handle even if the community is meant for older citizens. If an association is aimed at older residents, make sure it meets your region's requirements for the composition of such a community.
Legally Binding Membership
An association has zero power if it isn't able to enforce its rules. Consequently, you need to ensure that membership is mandatory and legally binding. This should include a lien-based system for assessments.
Common Elements of the Community
One of the main benefits of an association is that it provides benefits to the community. These benefits can include things not attached to the living units, such as a pool, park, or building lobby.
Reach out to an association attorney if you want to create a community association.
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