Not a lot of homeowners associations go through an HOA name change. But, there are some reasons why an HOA’s members would want to replace its name. And, should that time come, the board must know how to do it.
What Situations Elicit an HOA Name Change?
Most planned communities obtain their association names at inception. Developers would lay down plans to build a condo or HOA community and give it a name right from the beginning. Other communities form on their own, without developer assistance, and come up with a name together. But, not all names stick. While uncommon, it is not completely unheard of for an association to change its name.
One might wonder, what exactly would compel an association or its members to swap out its old name for something new. Here are four possible reasons:
1. Another Entity Has a Similar Name
Sometimes, two or more communities may have similar names. This often leads to confusion, not just among members, but also among other parties such as vendors and utility companies. Your HOA might get marketing materials or phone calls aimed at another community with the same name. This is one of the most common reasons why an HOA changes names.
2. It Is Associated With Something Negative
There are some communities that choose their name without giving it much thought and end up with an unpleasant name.
Other times, HOAs don’t notice how their association names can be misconstrued until someone else points it out. And then there are names that rhyme with something nasty or distasteful. Such an HOA and its members may want to change the name to let out a more positive image.
3. The HOA Has No Legal Right to the Name
Many associations are formed and given names by developers. Most of the time, the developer transfers the right to use the name to the association. However, there are times when the developer decides not to transfer the name during the transition phase. And, due to the developer having trademarked the name, the association will need to go through a community name change.
If the main issue is with the developer, associations can try to negotiate their way into keeping the name. There is such a thing as common-law rights, which should give the HOA the rights to the name if it has been used with the developer’s knowledge. If that does not work, then it is time to change names.
4. There Is Stigma Behind the Name
It is unusual for a condo or homeowners association to change its name after appearing negatively in local or national news. For example, the Retreat at Twin Lakes infamously became a trending topic after Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, at the Sanford, Florida gated community. Although that community remained with the same name, it is easy to see how such an event could trigger the change.
A more recent and prevalent example would be communities wishing to remove or replace the word “plantation” from their names. Due to the word’s historically negative connotation, associations throughout the United States have undergone an HOA name change, and many more are following suit.
How to Change HOA Name
There is a good amount of work involved if a condo or homeowners association wants to change its name. Here are the steps to follow:
Step 1: Look to Your Governing Documents
The first thing associations should do is check their governing documents. Some associations have it written within their bylaws that a name change will require a certain percentage of votes from the membership. Other times, associations can proceed without an owner vote. It is best to consult a lawyer to determine what authority the board has on this matter.
Step 2: Understand State Laws
State laws should also come into play here. Some states, such as Florida, allow associations to file a name change without amending the governing documents. This is relatively inexpensive and rather simple to achieve.
In other states, there are certain rules that associations must follow. For instance, Georgia law requires communities to include certain terms in the corporate name of the association. Those under the Georgia Condominium Act must have the terms “condominium association” or “unit owners’ association” appear in the corporate name. For those under the Georgia Property Owners Association Act, “homeowners,” “association,” “community,” “property owners,” or “club” should appear in the corporate name.
Step 3: Decide on a New Name
Next, the board should come up with a new name to replace the old one. This will require input from all the members of the community. After all, they are the ones living there.
Boards can get suggestions by conducting a survey of community members, asking them for name ideas. Be wary of names that are often associated with negative things, as those might prompt the HOA to go through the name change process all over again in the future.
Step 4: Reserve the New Name
If the decided name is available for the association to use, your next step is to reserve it with the Secretary of State. Reserving the name will prevent another party from taking the name as you go through the process of changing the HOA’s name. Keep in mind, though, that the Secretary of State will not hold the name for the association forever. Generally, the reservation only lasts for 30 days.
Step 5: File the Amendment and Publish the Change
After formally approving the name change, the board should file the amendment with the Secretary of State. This will let the association officially change its name to the new one. At the same time, the association should publish the corporate name change in an official legal newspaper of the county.
Step 6: Update Everyone and Everything
Finally, the last step is to update all community members and vendors of the HOA name change. The board should also update its name on all materials, including bank accounts, community signs, website content, letterheads and templates, newsletters, and the like. It is also imperative to get a new corporate seal.
All Things Said
To the uninitiated, changing an association’s name might seem troublesome because of all the paperwork involved. But, an HOA name change is not hard to do if you know the proper steps. Of course, a good reason must exist behind the name change. Capriciously changing the community’s name every few years will only serve to confuse and annoy.
Undergoing an HOA name change may be easy, but not all boards have the time for it. Consider hiring an HOA management company like Cedar Management Group to handle the job for you. Call us today at (877) 252-3327 or contact us online to request a free proposal.
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