Strategize Before Holding Vote on Proposed Amendments

September 17, 2015
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Evolving communities must deal with various issues—such as an aging membership, wear and tear on buildings and amenities, changes to the law, and the need to adapt to new technology—that can make managing and living in the community easier, to name just a few. The governing documents that initially served your association well may not work anymore to keep the community operating efficiently or make members happy to live in it. Whether you’re seeking to amend your community’s declaration or its bylaws, there are bound to be members in favor of the change and members against it. But you can try to give your proposed amendments the best chance for success.

  • Amend the amendment clause. It’s a good idea to check your declaration to see what percentage of your members must vote in favor of the amendment for it to be passed. Most community associations’ declarations specify what percentage of members must vote in favor of an amendment to the declaration for it to be passed, and what percentage must vote in favor of an amendment to the bylaws for it to be passed. For instance, your declaration might say that 75 percent of members must vote to amend the declaration, and 51 percent must vote to amend the bylaws. If the percentages are very high, your chances of amending your governing documents are lower. So don’t waste time and money trying to pass an amendment when the percentage of members who must vote in favor of it to get it passed is unrealistically high. Instead, before trying to pass any substantive amendments, amend the amendment clause of your declaration to reduce the necessary percentage. For example, propose an amendment reducing the percentage from 75 percent to 60 percent. Taking this step will increase the chances of future amendments getting passed.

  • Confirm proposed amendment’s effectiveness. Think about whether the amendment you have in mind will really solve the problem at hand. Don’t propose an amendment unless you’re confident that it will be effective. If members intuitively doubt the effectiveness of the amendment, they’ll be less likely to vote for it.

  • Identify and eliminate “deal-killers.” Some boards try to include multiple changes to the governing documents in one proposed amendment. For example, a board may seek in one amendment to ban pets, ban recreational vehicles, and impose leasing restrictions. If you know that one part of your proposed amendment will strike a particularly sensitive chord in your community, consider removing that part from the proposed amendment so that what’s left of the amendment has a chance to pass.

    For more tips about how you can build community support for your proposed amendment before a vote using an educational campaign, see "Boost Chances of Proposed Amendments Being Passed," available to subscribers here.