Commercial owners’ associations (COAs) in Arizona present both unique challenges and opportunities for property owners in the commercial real estate landscape. As managers of shared spaces and community guidelines, COAs — like homeowners’ associations, their residential counterparts — play a major role in shaping the environment for businesses within a given property.
Unraveling the intricacies of a commercial owners’ associations requires a keen understanding of its governing documents and their impact on businesses. Whether you’re a seasoned investor or a newcomer to commercial real estate, this guide aims to shed light on the key considerations that can contribute to a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with your commercial owners’ association.
What Are Arizona Commercial Owners’ Associations?
Commercial owners’ associations are not-for-profit groups in Arizona that manage communities of businesses. They typically oversee the development of non-residential properties for corporate centers, complexes or other places of business.
Similar to homeowners’ associations (HOAs), members of commercial owners’ associations have duties and responsibilities to maintain and are offered specific benefits in exchange. Also like HOAs, they operate according to official documents that explain how the community functions. But there are key differences between residential and commercial owners’ associations.
Residential HOAs vs. COAs
HOAs primarily oversee residential communities like neighborhoods and condominium or townhouse complexes with the goal of preserving property values and providing communal benefits. The rules they enforce aim to maintain aesthetics and pleasantness among neighbors. Conversely, commercial HOAs manage multi-business spaces like commercial campuses, office buildings or retail areas, focusing on preserving commercial appeal and functionality. Their goal is to attract new businesses to the property, as well as keep the leases of current businesses.
Both residential and commercial owners’ associations operate under a similar governing board of directors composed of property owners or representatives. However, commercial associations can see more complex decision-making processes because so many businesses are involved. Legal obligations for these associations can also differ; residential HOAs are subject to state laws, while COAs may have additional regulations like zoning ordinances and building codes.
Unique Issues for Businesses in Commercial Associations
Commercial properties have distinct needs compared to residential ones, leading to unique challenges in commercial communities that must be addressed in the association’s governing documents.
Use Restrictions: Commercial owners’ associations have governing documents (similar to the CC&Rs that govern an HOA) that dictate how property units can be utilized. As an example, some properties may prohibit cannabis businesses, while others may exclusively lease to establishments in one category: restaurants, retail, etc. This means landlords and tenants must carefully review their lease agreements to ensure they maintain compliance with the association’s regulations.
Signage: Although HOAs tend to limit signage to homes that are for sale, commercial properties require visible signage that tells consumers what business is inside. However, the commercial owners’ association can dictate the type, size, colors and fonts on these displays. Leases, therefore, should include these details so businesses can align with association terms and prevent conflicts.
Parking: Most residential communities provide a dedicated parking space for each home, whether a driveway or a spot in a garage, but commercial properties can see conflicts over parking involving both owners and customers. This is why COAs may allocate a specified number of parking spaces per unit for smaller lots to ensure equal access to each business.
Compliance with Laws: While all properties adhere to basic property and zoning laws, commercial properties face additional scrutiny. Certain businesses, depending on their nature, may be subject to additional rules and regulations. Commercial owners’ associations often place the responsibility on each business owner to research and comply with these ordinances, which is another reason lease agreements should include instructions for aligning with association requirements.
How a COA Can Affect Your Business
A commercial owners’ association can affect your business by shaping the operating environment through its governing documents, influencing accessibility and directly impacting the overall appeal and functionality of the commercial property. Therefore, it’s crucial for commercial property owners to include all relevant details in their lease agreements to ensure tenants are aware of and comply with the association’s regulations. For assistance with commercial leases in Arizona, our experienced real estate attorneys can guide you through every detail.
Consult an Experienced Commercial Real Estate Attorney in Arizona
Plenty of challenges come with owning commercial property, but maintaining a working relationship with a commercial owners’ association does not need to be one of them. The attorneys at Gottlieb Law can help you understand and comply with the governing documents of your property’s COA. We are prepared to protect your interests within the association’s framework.
Contact us today at 602-899-8188 or schedule an initial consultation using our contact us page.