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Failure to draft enforceable HOA bylaws can lead to disputes

Being part of a condominium, townhouse or homeowners association comes with a number of perks and responsibilities. And just as residents are expected to comply with the rules set by an association, the association is expected to have in place enforceable bylaws and regulations. If this does not happen, costly and combative disputes between residents and the association can arise.

One example of this recently played out in another state, and it can serve as a reminder to folks right here in Minnesota that HOA bylaws must be taken seriously by both the association and its members.

As noted in news reports, the dispute is between a man and his HOA. At the center of the argument is a tree house the man is building in his backyard.

The HOA denied the man's tree house plans saying that it goes against the codes established in the bylaws. However, the man has countered this argument by saying that at the time he started building the tree house, the codes were not recorded or formally in place.

The confusion over the codes the HOA is trying to enforce stems from the fact that, according to reports, the HOA was not registered at the time the relevant codes were created. Between 1997 and earlier this year, there was no HOA corporation officially registered with the state.

However, during that time period, there was still an HOA in place and that HOA was enforcing rules based on codes drafted by a resident acting as president. Whether the HOA technically existed and could legitimately create rules at the time it was not registered will be up to the courts to decide.

This situation highlights the importance of ensuring HOA bylaws and rules are properly drafted from the very beginning. Making sure an association is appropriately formed and identified in the first place will also be essential.

Failure to follow proper protocol when it comes to forming and operating community associations can lead to confusion, frustration and even legal battles, so discussing the legal elements of these processes with an experienced attorney will be critical.

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