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Community Association Living [Part 2 -- Mandatory versus Voluntary Associations]

This blog is all about homeonwer associations. Condo associations are rarely invalidated or dissolved.

It is important to review your association's governing documents and research your homeowners' association for yourself. Your association will not admit to you it is not a mandatory association and may even lie to your face and claim it is mandatory when, in fact, it is not. You could spend $100,000 or more fighting with them over this issue and run the risk of losing some valuable defenses against mandatory membership if the problem is allowed to persist.

There are several ways an association can be a voluntary association rather than a mandatory association. They can even start out as a mandatory association and then lose their status if the Marketable Record Title Act extinguishes the deed restrictions after thirty (30) years. The Marketable Record Title Act, or MRTA (pronounced "Marta") will be the topic of another blog because it is a pretty complicated issue.

The first step to creating a mandatory association requires the declarant, usually the developer, to make such a proclamation in the Declaration of Restrictive Covenants (also called Decs, Covenants, CCRs, Restrictions, Deed Restrictions). There are a number of communities in existence which have recorded land use restrictions (no cows, no cattle fences, no mobile homes, etc.). These are not the same and,absent any language designating an association and declaring membership is a mandatory condition when purchasing property, these land use restrictions do not create an association.

An association must have its documents recorded and be properly formed before any lots are sold in the community. While lots sold after documents are recorded can create a duty on the owner to comply with those documents, a community in which not all lots are subject to mandatory membership loses its status as a mandatory association. The statutes define a mandatory association as one in which membership is a mandatory condition of lot ownership and each lot owner is responsible for paying their pro rata share of assessments. The very definition of a mandatory association fails under the statute if not all of the lots are required to participate.

An association can lack authority to enforce deed restrictions if the Declarations do not contain language for the rights and duties of the developer to pass to the association when the members are given control of the association or the developer fails to execute an assignment giving the association all the rights and duties held by the developer.

An association can lack authority to require mandatory membership if there are defects in the documents, such as the legal description of the property being omitted, signatures omitted, or an amendment that fails to state it was properly approved and executed.

Sometimes it is obvious an association is not mandatory, but sometimes it is a very complex issue and not easily determined.

Stay tuned for a later post which will include a checklist of provisions and clauses to look for in the governing documents.

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