How to Challenge (And Change) Your Condo’s Bylaws

How to Challenge (And Change) Your Condo’s Bylaws

March 17, 2020 Off By Glespynorson

If you’ve recently purchased a condo, you know that you were made to agree to a comprehensive set of bylaws set by the condo board. Most of these are probably fairly reasonable. Even so, what can you do if there are bylaws you disagree with? What recourse do you have when it comes to challenging them – and ultimately amending them? 

Owning a condominium is a little different from owning a home. For one, you probably don’t have a yard or lawn to take care of, nor are you directly responsible for maintaining stuff like plumbing and electrical infrastructure. You’re also subject to the rules and regulations established by your building’s condo board – the bylaws.

In most cases, these bylaws are fairly reasonable and pretty standard: Respect the common areas, respect your fellow owners, don’t do anything that would severely damage the value of the building. Sometimes, however, there’ll be a bylaw you disagree with.

Maybe your condo board hates dogs or pets in general. Maybe they prevent you from putting a barbeque on your patio. Maybe they require you to paint your walls a certain color.

In such situations, your first instinct might be to ignore the bylaw you disagree with. I would not recommend this. In the best-case scenario, you’ll be subjected to a hefty fine. In the worst-case scenario, you could be dealing with arbitration.

I’m not saying you should simply fall in line, of course. Condo bylaws can be amended. But how exactly can you inspire such a change on your own? 

Know the Bylaws

Knowledge is power. That adage especially applies when you’re dealing with contractual documentation like condo bylaws. Through extensive study of your condo’s rules and regulations, you’ll achieve a few things. 

First, you’ll gain a better understanding of the context in which those rules were created, and whether or not they’re justified. Second, you’ll gain a better understanding of the process your condo board has in place for amending existing bylaws, if indeed one does exist. And finally, if you compare them against your state’s own laws, you may be able to find legal precedent for challenging them.

Be Active in the Community

Make yourself known to your condo board as someone who has a vested interest in seeing your building thrive. Attend board meetings. Contact the board whenever you see that something is amiss. Help your neighbors out wherever possible.

If possible, pursue a position on the board yourself. 

The more active you are as part of your condominium – particularly where the board is concerned – the likelier it is that people will listen to your arguments when you bring them up. Additionally, it will give you a better understanding of your community. Of why things exist as they are, and who has an interest in the current bylaws as they are written.

As you form connections with your neighbors, talk to them about your perspective on the current bylaws. Get their opinion on it, and see if there’s the possibility of swaying them over to your side. The more people you convince, the better your chances of bringing about lasting change. 

You might even consider drafting up a petition that you can send to your board. 

Make Your Case

Finally, once you’ve become more established as a community member, it’s time to present a case to the board. Send a letter or email to your condo board with any relevant documentation attached. This includes petitions, relevant state and municipal laws, and any potential loopholes you’ve found in your condo’s regulations. 

Be sure to detail your precise reasons for wanting the bylaw changed, and consider the following in the process.

  • How will this impact other owners and tenants? 
  • How will this impact the value of your complex? 
  • Are there any issues that this change will solve? 
  • Are there any issues that this change could potentially create? 
  • What, in your opinion, would be the most significant benefit to this change? 

Once you’ve done this, it’s effectively out of your hands. All you can do is wait. Keep attending board meetings, and keep in correspondence with the association. 

Eventually, if the board agrees that a change should be made, it will put a special resolution in motion, an amendment that requires at least 75 percent approval to pass. Assuming you’ve laid the proper groundwork and gotten enough support, you should be in the clear.  Otherwise, just keep trying. 

Keep being a positive presence in your community, and eventually you might bring people around to your line of thinking.

It’s important to note, of course, that this isn’t a process that happens overnight. It could take months. Perhaps even years.

But if you’re truly serious about changing your condo bylaws, the time and effort will be more than worth it. 

About the Author:

Ryan B. Bormaster is the managing attorney at Bormaster Law. The law firm practices in a number of areas, including real estate law.