Association Living

February 18, 2016

Many neighborhoods have nice amenities and aesthetics – like the gate and monument that welcome homeowners and visitors to the community, or the community pool that provides respite on hot summer days, or the scenic walking and jogging trails. Most of the time, these amenities are provided because the neighborhood is part of a homeowners’ association. Homeowners’ associations offer wonderful perks and benefits for community living but, oftentimes, they also contain unfamiliar covenants and restrictions. If you reside in a homeowners’ association, here are a few basic things to keep in mind regarding community living:

  1. Most associations are non-profit corporations. As a non-profit corporation, the association will be subject to, among possible other laws, the Minnesota Non-Profit Corporations Act, Minnesota Statute Ch. 317A. Additionally, as a non-profit corporation, the association will have articles of incorporation and bylaws. These documents set forth the purpose of the association and many of the rules of operation. Among other things, they typically provide that the association will be governed and operated by a board of directors. As a non-profit corporation, the association is required to be registered with the office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.
  2. In addition to the articles of incorporation and bylaws, an association will typically have a document that declares the covenants, restrictions, and other provisions relating specifically to community living. This document is usually called the declaration. Collectively, the declaration, bylaws, and articles of incorporation are often referred to as the “governing documents.” Additionally, sometimes the board of directors is permitted to implement rules and regulations, which are then also part of the governing documents. All members of an association should have copies of, read, and be familiar with the provisions of the governing documents.
  3. In addition to the Non-profit Corporations Act, most associations are subject to the provisions set forth in the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act (MCIOA), Minnesota Statute Ch. 515B.MCIOA is a lengthy and sometimes complex statute with many provisions relating to establishing, governing, and residing in a common interest community. For associations that are governed by MCIOA, it is a very important statute.
  4. Associations exist to fulfill certain purposes. Sometimes the purpose is as simple as maintaining common property, like the gate and monument at the entrance to the community. Sometimes they exist to ensure the aesthetics of the community. In such cases, associations will typically have architectural requirements and review committees, such that if a homeowner wants to change the exterior of her home, she must do so in compliance with the association’s governing documents. In order to understand your association’s purpose, rights, and responsibilities, a homeowner should read her governing documents.
  5. Homeowners have rights and responsibilities under the governing documents also, which can be learned from reviewing the governing documents.
  6. Associations operate based largely, if not exclusively, on the volunteer efforts of those living in the community. If you are not involved in your association – through the board, or a committee, or regular board meeting attendance – consider becoming involved.

Association living has many benefits, but it also comes with responsibilities for both the association and the homeowners who reside therein. By understanding these basic points and brushing up on the governing documents, homeowners will be well-informed residents.