Q&A: Setting Up a Charter for a Master Association

Q. I am president of a master association with 16 homeowner associations. Recently, our new attorney recommended creating charters for our master association and the advisory committees. What are the advantages of this over just creating policies and guidelines for them to follow? Should the master association also develop a charter? I have written one, but it so closely follows the declaration that I wonder about its worth. It does pull together the policies and guidelines, and I like the idea, but the board may need better reasons to go to this.

                  —Seeking What’s Practical

A. “In the context of a homeowner’s association,” says attorney James Erwin of the Chicago-based firm Erwin Law, “a charter is simply a written document that governs the conduct of a committee. It should define the duties, rights and obligations of the committee and its members. It should set out the committee’s relationship to the board of directors and should set forth a basic set of limits on the powers of the committee. And, it should be clear in that the committee has no independent management powers and merely serves in an advisory capacity to the board. Creating and using charters for committees is a good idea so that everyone is clear on the role and capacity of the committee.

“As for the master association (or any of the individual associations, for that matter), drafting and implementing a charter would be ill-advised and pointless. The master association can only be governed by the recorded declaration and bylaws, and those documents can only be modified by recorded amendments which have been approved in accordance with the amendment provisions contained in the declaration.” 

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