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What Are Governing Documents

What Are Governing Documents

When living in a Community Association, odds are at some point you will need to reference the Associations governing documents. For many, this begs the question “What Are Governing Documents?”

The Associations governing documents provide for legal structure and operation of the community. Additionally, they define the rights and obligations of homeowners and the Association, create binding relationships between the parties, and sets forth rules and restrictions. 

It should be noted that there is a general hierarchy of authority amount documents which consists of:

  • Recorded map, plat, or plan
  • Declaration, CC&Rs, master deed
  • Proprietary lease or occupancy agreement
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • Board Resolutions. It should be noted that Board resolutions should not conflict with documents above it in the hierarchy

In addition to the Associations governing documents, it should be noted in many cases that federal, state, and local laws trump the Associations governing documents. Below is a brief recap of what each governing document is used for:

Declaration, Master Deed, or Proprietary Lease and Their Covenants and Restrictions

Planned communities are created by declarations (also known as master deeds). Cooperatives are created with proprietary leases (also called occupancy agreement). These contain the restrictions that regulate residents’ behavior, they define owner’s rights and obligations, and establish the association’s responsibilities.

Articles of Incorporation

Most associations, and all cooperatives, incorporate and have articles of incorporation that define their purposes and powers. They may specify such things as the number of directors and their terms of office.


Bylaws address association operations such as procedures for meetings and elections and specifying the general duties of the board.

Resolutions—Rules and Regulations

Board members adopt rules and regulations, and sometimes members have to approve them. Rules and regulations are recorded as board resolutions. Resolutions must be consistent with the declaration or proprietary lease, the bylaws and state law.