Condominium Bylaws and Homeowner Associations

Condominiums—along with gated communities and residential projects within a hotel resort—are usually governed under condominium bylaws that are registered in the national registry. Some developments, however, don’t function according to a set of bylaws but instead have a homeowners association that outlines a set of rules and that residents agree to abide by: you should be aware that the rules established by homeowners associations don’t carry quite the same weight in a court of law as do condominium bylaws.

In these kinds of developments—with or without bylaws—a resident owns as private property both his or her home and the land it sits on. Residents of the development collectively own the common areas. Condominium bylaws—which differ from development to development—include regulations concerning personal conduct within the project, building codes and ecological practices, pets, and waste collection. They also include a number of administrative rules that set out how the condominium administrative body is to be formed, duties of administrators, voting processes, frequency of meetings (and how residents are to be notified of meetings), and—very important—agreed on processes for resolving conflicts. The purpose of having such bylaws are manifold: in addition to giving prospective buyers a clear idea of what kind of development they are buying into, these bylaws also provide for an orderly process for changing bylaws, should residents see a need to do. Third, bylaws (in theory) help insure the peaceful co-existence of all members of the development.

Condominiums and other similar developments require that residents pay monthly fees, which go toward administrative expenses, guard fees, insurance, building maintenance, municipal taxes on common areas, and maintenance of lighting and sprinkler systems. Some developments also require the creation of a reserve fund, which is used to cover any unforeseen, large expenses.

The Condominium Owners Assembly (COA) acts as the governing body of the condominium. Residents vote on certain proposals laid out by the COA, with the number of votes proportional to the amount of ownership in the development. In some developments, the developer maintains a high percentage of ownership and may therefore hold sway on the outcome of any proposal put to vote. It is always important to understand the ownership ratios—and the exact terms of the bylaws—before buying.

For more information on condominium bylaws and homeowner associations, see Chapter 11, Legal Issues.