skip to main content

Why Many HOA Rules May Not Be Enforceable

HOA RulesWhether they were drafted 10 years ago by a developer or amended last week by an HOA’s Board of Directors. No matter how meticulously they hew to the letter of the law. Regardless of how long and technical – or brief and simple – the bylaws and rules of every Maryland homeowner’s association, they all have one essential trait in common. None of them are enforceable unless they have been filed in one of the HOA Depositories set up by the State.

This long-standing requirement was enacted in Maryland so that the public could know where to access the regulations and policies of any particular association.

That’s not a problem with some legal documents. For example, when we create HOAs for our homebuilder and developer clients, we file their Articles of Incorporation with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. We also record the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions in the Land Records of the County where the HOA is located.

But other than the Depositories, there is no comparable official “home” for HOA bylaws and rules. According to State law, the bylaws and any rules – whether spelling out the association’s operating procedures and covering everything from the election of directors to fees collection procedures and architectural control guidelines – must be submitted to the Depository in the association’s County (or Baltimore City). And this is not a “one time only” requirement.  New or revised rules, policies, and guidelines adopted by the HOA’s Board of Directors must also be submitted.

This is where things can get interesting. It’s perfectly possible to publish bylaws and rules without putting them in the Depository. It’s also possible – and even likely – that Boards will add or change governing rules without updating the Depository’s records. The HOA may even function forever without consequence.

But if homeowners or other interested parties consult the Depository – and discover that a particular rule or regulation is not on record – they may have grounds to disregard it. It is conceivable that an association might be unable to enforce properly adopted rules. A supplemental fee levied as the result of an unrecorded Board decision may be uncollectable. A homeowner may even discover legitimate grounds to challenge a duly-held election.

While Maryland does not expressly require builders or developers to make these filings on behalf of the HOAs they establish, our experience indicates that new homeowners expect it to have been done. There is actually little reason not to do it because it is sound business practice and good public relations. During the time that the developer may hold or be selling property or homes in the community, the Depository also permits the use of the bylaws and rules to protect your interests. Our Firm coordinates these submissions for our clients.

And whatever your relationship may be to an HOA – as a founding developer, a Board member, or homeowner – it is crucial to add newly adopted bylaws, rules, policies, and other guidelines to the Depository so that they remain up-to-date and enforceable.

If you have questions about HOA Depository requirements, or if you have other commercial real estate or business legal needs, please contact Michael Faerber at 301-251-1180 or