All communities, be they nation-states, municipalities, or co-op or condo buildings, have rules. Respect for -- and adherence to -- these rules is essential for many people to coexist peaceably in the same communal space. In the co-op and condo setting, rules come in two forms: bylaws and house rules.
Bylaws concern the procedural requirements for operation and governance of the cooperative corporation or condo association. These include stipulations and parameters for elections and meetings, as well as determinations on who has authority to act on behalf of the board and shareholders -- to hire someone to fix the elevator, say. Bylaws also define the relationship between shareholders and the co-op or condo association.
House rules, on the other hand, are less technical, and involve primarily quality-of-life issues. They are easier to amend -- but harder to enforce -- than bylaws, and are at the root of many conflicts a board may encounter.
Lawrence F. DiGiovanna, the current president of the Brooklyn Bar Association and an attorney with his own private practice in the borough, puts it this way: “House rules are a code of conduct; bylaws are an operational guide.”