The Letter of the Law The Ins and Outs of Governing Documents

Even the best-running engine–or the most well-built house–needs an occasional tune-up or a fresh coat of paint. So too with governing documents which are so vital to the operation of the place you call home. As times change and people come and go, the documents that direct and guide the course of your building may need to be adjusted or reassessed to best serve the community they govern. The key to making these changes smoothly and with minimal disruption lies in understanding the documents themselves and how they relate to–and differ from–each other.

How It All Stacks Up

Lawyers and brokers will often refer to a "hierarchy of documents"–their term for the various papers and forms that delineate the who, what, where, when and why of co-op and condo operations. The hierarchy differs slightly between the two types of residences. A co-op, for example, is established through the Certificate of Incorporation. The certificate indicates how many shares the co-op corporation will be divided into and establishes all other corporate aspects of the venture.

For condos, the rules of establishment are slightly different. To create a condominium, a Declaration of Condominium must be made with the county clerk’s office. This document establishes the number of units which individuals are going to own and also defines common elements.

Next down on the ladder are the bylaws, which form the basic guide for how the co-op or condo will do business. Bylaws lay out everything from the organization’s purpose to its form of government and method of elections to a description of the directors and number of officers.

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