The central governing documents in condo ownership outline your control over your unit. They dictate the terms of your occupancy and your ownership rights, including who can live there, what activities may take place in the unit, whether the unit can be leased, and any restrictions thereon.
Governing documents are also unique in that they define the details of certain aspects of the relationship between the unit owner and the association as represented by the board of directors. Like all legal documents, governing documents have to be living, breathing, and evolving, adapting over time to reflect changes in the laws and legislation that relate to them, as well as the larger cultural and market climate.
When, and Why?
“You don’t want to fix something that doesn’t need fixing,” says Margery Weinstein, an attorney with Ganfer Shore Leeds & Zauderer, a law firm located in New York City. “But when the governing documents are not working, for whatever reason, it’s time to examine them.”
According to Ellen Shapiro, a partner with Goodman, Shapiro and Lombardi, a law firm based in Dedham, Massachusetts, “There’s really no hard and fast rule as to when governing documents should be updated, but [one should] look at them every 10 years or so, because issues relating to documents change. The law changes, and that’s why documents need to be amended.”
Jeff Reich, a partner with New York City-based law firm Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg & Atlas, adds that “human nature is such that documents usually get reviewed when one of two things happens: either some problem arises that can’t be satisfactorily resolved with existing provisions, or the board brings on a new attorney, and as part of the transition they look at the existing documents and suggest an update. Of course, there’s a third possibility: when owners or shareholders read this article.”