It only takes one storm to change your life and community. Tropical cyclones are among nature's most powerful and destructive phenomena. If you live in an area prone to tropical cyclones, you need to be prepared. Even areas well away from the coastline can be threatened by dangerous flooding, destructive winds and tornadoes from these storms. The National Hurricane Center and the Central Pacific Hurricane Center issue watches, warnings, forecasts, and analyses of hazardous tropical weather.
Calculating Operating Budget Expenses
There are two primary ways the operating budget (expenses)for a community association can be calculated:
Historic Trend – In a Historic trend budget, you use
the prior year’s actual expenditures as a baseline, and add a percentage
increase for inflation to all accounts.
Historic Trend budgeting is the most common, and the easiest, although it is
not necessarily the most accurate method.
Zero-Based – In a zero-based budget, you start every
line item at zero and justify the amount for everything that goes into the
budget. While more accurate, going over every single line item can be quite
As a general rule, a Zero-Based budget is good to do when the community is new,
or if you have recently taken over management. If there was even a sniff of
mismanagement or fraud associated with prior years and you cannot depend on the
history being accurate, you’ll have no choice but to start from zero.
Hybrid Method (Recommended) - For most communities in
your portfolio, you will likely wind up doing a combination of Historical and
Zero-Based budgeting, where you start with the prior actuals for most line
items on the chart of accounts, and use a zero-base model for the individual
accounts you know will need to be changed next year.
An example of this hybrid model would be if you recently renegotiated a major
service contract like landscaping. The historic numbers for the landscaping
account in the community’s chart of accounts are invalidated because you have a
completely different vendor now, so that one account you would reset to zero
and calculate out the budgetary requirements for the year from scratch.
Budget Time: How much should you charge for assessments?
October officially marks budget season for many community associations across the country. And with budgets comes increases in regular assessments. That means not only is this a bad time for community managers and board members, it's also challenging to your homeowners, and can lead to major blowups over increases.
One thing we have seen time and again is communities that fail to plan their budget properly. Some communities increase assessments based on an arbitrary value like cost of living, or a percentage dictated in the community documents. Still more communities choose not to raise assessments at all - not because they don't need to, but because the board doesn't want to make an unpopular decision.
But perhaps the most common issue we have seen is community association boards that simply do not know what they need to charge for assessments, and so they carry on with one of the above two options.
So Lets Break It Down
A community association's budget needs to predict three basic things: Expenses, Reserves and Income.
At the end of the day, the amount of income the community generates has to cover the expenses and the reserve contribution. That’s why proper budgeting is so important. Nobody wants to pay higher assessments, including the board members, unless it's absolutely necessary.
At the same time, you need to make sure your community is covered for the coming year. Because the only thing worse than raising assessments is levying a special assessment mid-year.
Not all of your association's income may come from owner assessments. There are many other sources of income including late fees, vending machines, guest fees, parking passes and rental income that you will need to take into account. Any reliable source of income should be considered with an appropriate amount entered into the draft budget.
Look at the past year’s budget, the actual income generated by the community year-to-date and other known sources of income to identify the miscellaneous income. Like with expenses, this should be entered into the draft budget on a monthly basis in the months the income is actually going to be received.
Hurricane Matthew's path has shifted closer to Florida's east
coast and officials say residents should start preparing.
Association Management has already taken initiative by going over our
hurricane plan and securing our communities to make sure they are prepared to
weather the storm. Rest assured we will be there before, during, and
after the storm for all the communities that we manage.
Please stay safe and start preparing now!
HurricaneMatthew News Update
Hurricane warnings remain in effect for Haiti, parts of Cuba and
the Bahamas. Forecasters say parts of Haiti could see up to 40 inches of rain
by the time Matthew leaves the area. Southeastern Cuba could see up to 20
inches of rain, according to the Hurricane Center.
No watches or warnings have been issued for Florida, but
forecasters say those could be issued as early as today.
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency warningresidents there could be "massive destruction" if Matthew directly
impacts Florida. He urged everyone to start preparing by stocking up on water
and food, and by charging cell phones.
Making Smart Budget Cuts
What about cutting costs?
HOA Managers and Board Members are constantly struggling
with increasing costs, which they have to pass on to HOA members. For this
exercise, the reason why costs are increasing isn’t that relevant. The
important point to remember when it comes to increases is that they usually
increase, on average, at a rate greater than inflation.
But — how about instead of just passing those increases on,
we work on cutting costs? The difference can of course be put into the capital
improvement account should the Board so choose.
How “fixed” are fixed costs?
Just because you learned in business school that fixed costs
are not variable doesn’t mean that that’s the case in the “real world.” For
instance, every HOA needs and uses electricity. However, the cost of
electricity has two variables; the first being the cost per kilowatt and the
second being how many kilowatts your HOA uses.
Changing light fixtures or light bulbs and swapping out
hardware can often result in 50—100% reduction in electric use, depending on
what is currently being used. Yes, 100%!
Logically, a 100% reduction would require the HOA to produce
its own electricity. This is quite possible in today’s solar-society where
solar panels are becoming more and more cost effective to afford and install.
Cutting electric costs by 50% doesn’t require solar
installation; it frequently only requires an upgrading of the fixtures or the
lamps, installation of motion sensors, or a combination thereof. Either way,
there are huge savings to be realized that are often overlooked because they
are not initially considered “large.”
Is your HOA looking toward the future or stuck in the past?
There are an enormous amount of alternatives on how to lease
roofs or other common areas in HOAs to install solar that can be used either
for the individual units, or for the common space.
HOAs are often slow to embrace change. There are still HOAs
that do not allow their members to install solar panels. However, as solar
becomes more affordable and homeowners become more aware, they are more likely
to put pressure on boards to change policy and allow solar.
Every penny counts
When it comes to cutting operating costs for HOAs, every
penny counts. It is not just about that one penny, but the cumulative effect
and changing the mindset of boards and residents, to value reduced waste.
HOA Records - Save or Shred?
Many community associations maintain documents and records for many years, even decades. Most state laws require that owners be allowed to inspect records of the association under specific conditions, but the inspection right is broad. In some cases homeowners will request documents in an effort to conduct a witch-hunt against the HOA. So how long do you keep records, and what records need to be kept?
What's a record
The term “record” is not necessarily defined in most jurisdictions. Therefore it is presumed that any document that the association keeps in its file that relates to association business is a “record” of the association (this includes electronic records too). Of Course, certain information may be privileged and not available for owner review, but we must assume that if you’ve kept the document in your file, in a box, in your desk, or in your computer, and it relates to association business and operations, which could range from financial statements, receipts, contracts and to member correspondence, that is available for inspection by an owner.
Save it or shred it
In Utah, the declaration, bylaws, plat map, resolutions, articles of incorporation, minutes of meetings, and some similar documents are required to be kept permanently. Also, the most recent annual report delivered to the division of corporations is required to be kept for a period of 3 years. However, most associations don’t realize that all other records (be sure to review your state law) can and should be discarded upon being inapplicable to current operations of the association. For example, if you have an election and you have a ballot certification committee who tallies the results, why keep the ballots for the next year or two when you have certified results that are in a single document form? Discard the ballots as they are no longer needed. Hoarding the ballots will only give owners something to scrutinize when some scrutiny is not appropriate or necessary. Further, why keep receipts for items purchased years ago, unless you’re keeping it for a warranty purpose? It should be discarded because the cost of such will be reflected in the regular statements of the association anyways. Read More
2017 Budget Planning!
It's that time again: Prepare to start planning 2017 community association budgets. They have to be sent to owners and approved by the board before Jan. 1.
Before prioritizing the expenses and locking in numbers, consider these financial planning tips from industry pros:
Protect the building envelope. Allocate enough money to keep the roof and exterior tight. Association attorney Stuart Fullett suggests factoring in landscaping to keep water from flowing toward the foundation. "Water infiltration complaints typically lead to some of the more costly lawsuits facing associations," said Fullett, managing shareholder at Fullett Rosenlund Anderson PC, with offices in Chicago and Lake Zurich.
Take an all-at-once approach to big projects. If you are facing an expensive, multipart task like rehabbing decks or replacing dying trees, don't do it piecemeal. Negotiate a contract for the complete job and lock in the pricing. You'll save money in the long run by avoiding future price increases, according to Beth Lloyd, president of the Association of Condominium, Townhouse and Homeowners Associations. "Contracts for bigger jobs are usually priced more reasonably than frequent work orders or small proposals," she said.
Establish and follow maintenance schedules. Fixing a small problem now is less expensive than fixing a big problem later. "It is very easy to understand how sometimes communities get a bit behind the eight ball and defer maintenance either because of a cash shortfall or because some projects just simply creep up," said Mark McLallen, president at Condominium Insurance Specialists of America, based in Elgin. "But catching up almost always comes at a premium, and sometimes that cost can be significant."
"Too often I hear of a place that touts it lowered assessments or maintained the same level of assessments for years," Fullett said. "What that generally tells me is that the association is deferring maintenance."
Shop carefully for contractors. The lowest estimate may not include all the necessary items or expertise for the job. "Hire experienced, licensed, insured and quality vendors," McLallen said. "When someone says, 'I have a guy who can do that for nothing,' run. Don't walk." McLallen notes that some projects require specialized contractors, so it's helpful to explore options a year or more ahead of the desired project start date.
Swim with solar power. When the swimming pool's hot water system goes kaput, replace it with a solar unit. "The payback time for solar hot water is reasonable — approximately five years," said architect Daniel Baigelman at Full Circle Architects in Highland Park. "There is money to be saved here, and many of the unit owners will appreciate the more environmentally friendly approach."
The Superior Team Hopes You Enjoy Your Labor Day Weekend!
Who's Meddling with Your HOA Contractors?
There seems to be at least one in every neighborhood. The neighbor who feels the need to mind your business, other neighbors’ business, and the association’s business. When vendors are working in your community, Meddler wants to direct the work or at least give an opinion about what’s being done. The Board should establish a few prevention rules before Meddler gets too involved in the association’s business.
Does Meddler have extra time? Perhaps Meddler has recently started working part-time, stopped working or had another lifestyle change that resulted in extra time. There’s always plenty to do in a homeowner association, so ask for some help with a specific task that will keep Meddler busy doing something productive. Then, there’s less time to interfere with maintenance and other HOA issues.
Are homeowners aware of HOA responsibilities? Take this communication opportunity to remind all owners about their responsibilities and the areas that are managed by contractors and vendors. Developing a simple responsibility matrix with topics and names can help set expectations and ensures owners know what is expected of them. A matrix can also include names of point persons for vendor management, and specify that all vendor communication must come through the designated point person.
Do vendors know the chain of command? When multiple people provide input and/or direction to a contractor, it almost always leads to misunderstandings. Creating a maintenance process that includes a vendor point person can streamline vendor communications. It’s also important to include a channel for owner requests and feedback to help curb owner communication with the contractor. Share the process with vendors so that they know that direction comes only from their point person, and they can help you maintain control.
Do HOA policy documents spell out vendor communication? Most associations develop policies that reference communication with vendors and contractors, but they may be vague. Creating or revamping vendor communication guidelines is time well spent by the HOA Board, even if you don’t have a Meddler in your midst. Include details about how homeowners, point person and Board members work and communicate with vendors. Ask for input from homeowners, and then communicate and enforce the guidelines.
Consistently enforcing vendor communication guidelines is key to managing a Meddler’s behavior.
The first case of locally-acquired Zika virus has arrived in Palm Beach County.
Gov. Rick Scott said Monday the infected person recently traveled to Miami-Dade County, ground zero for an outbreak of Zika acquired through domestic mosquitoes. State health officials are attempting to determine where the unidentified person contracted the virus.
What we know
- Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters. They can also bite at night.
- Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.
- There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
- The Florida Department of Health has identified an area in one neighborhood of Miami where Zika is being spread by mosquitoes.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is urging people to take immediate steps to precent mosquito bites, and ultimately infection:
- Wear long sleeved shirt and long pants to cover skin
- Use EPA-registed insect repellent
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items
- Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitos outside
- Make sure all screens are in good working order
- Eliminate sources of standing water in surrounding areas
If you have any questions on how to protect yourself and your family, please refer to the information published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at www.cdc.gov/zika
Feedback From HOA Members
And a great way to continually find out how residents are feeling is by offering community surveys. They are a great way to ask members about specific topics and find out how residents generally feel about possible changes. Plus, it reminds residents that you care about their input and are taking it into consideration.
How to Conduct an HOA Survey
You might be a little turned off by the idea of a survey for fear or bringing up negative feedback or revealing unknown problems. However, this may be just the reason you need to do it. Part of being a board member means accepting to responsibility of understanding and working to resolve sources of problems and negative attitudes.
The flip side of this is that surveys can also reveal your board is headed in the right direction! You might find the majority of members are supportive of a difficult decision or understand it better than you think they do.
Set Clear Intentions
It’s also important to note that surveys are not the same as voting. Just because you bring up something in a survey and ask members about it, it doesn’t mean you have to respond to every single issue—in fact, that is usually impossible. The purpose of surveys is to help you in figuring out what’s most important to focus on, in making the best decisions for the community, and in identifying any problems. Even though you can’t address every problem, you’ll be made aware of it.
To make sure residents understand the purpose of the survey too, include a message from your board at the beginning explaining why you are doing the surveys.
Know Your Duty As The HOA Treasurer
Your HOA board is responsible for many important decisions, but one of the most important responsibilities is maintaining the financial health of the association. Although each board member needs to participate in sound financial decision-making, no one is more responsible than the HOA treasurer. It is the treasure’s responsibility to protect the association’s assets, and while these duties and the authority to exercise them are detailed in the HOA’s governing documents and state law, it can still feel like an overwhelming responsibility.
Even though we encourage most associations to use a community property management company to help with the details, we wanted to help jump start process by identifying six things to help every treasurer with their decision making process.
- Records. Having accurate and detailed financial records is critical. Without them it’s impossible to know what funds you have to operate the upcoming year with. If keeping detailed records isn’t your thing, an experience HOA management company can help.
- Internal Controls. A treasure’s job is to keep a watchful eye on how and where money is spent. When something seems off, voice concern and get to the bottom of it before things become truly mismanaged.
- Budgets and Reserves. Just like you can’t operate your HOA without proper finical records, you can’t plan for the future without a vision and detailed budget. Every budget should also include a reserves study to make sure community reserves are adequately funded. While budgets take time and attention to detail, they are necessary. Work with the association’s CPA and or property management company to ensure the community needs are accurately reflected in the budget.
- Audits and Taxes. Don’t let these words intimidate you. Every association needs to be periodically audited and taxes are just part of doing business. A treasurer’s job is to liaison between the association, its CPA, and property management company to make sure these processes run smoothly.
- Assessments. While the HOA management company usually collects dues and monitors delinquent accounts, the treasurer needs to be an active participant. Since the treasurer is also a resident in the community, he or she will always have a better idea of what is going on with residents than a management company.
Congratulations TJ Scarborough on becoming a Property Manager!!
Pokemon Chasing In Your Community
People roaming around your front yard at all hours of the day and night with their cell phone in tow? Have you seen carloads of adults and kids pulling over, getting out, and scattering in your neighborhood?
Don’t be alarmed, it likely isn’t burglars casing your home or a zombie apocalypse. This suspicious activity is probably coming from the the new latest cell phone game craze called Pokémon Go. A game that turns peoples phones into a camera on a parallel universe in search for an imaginary creature on their.
This new app has taken America by storm with over 60% of people who download it, using it every day. This game was released less than a week ago already ranks among the most downloaded and top-grossing Smartphone apps out there. Americans of all ages find themselves chasing the creatures through neighborhoods, yards, cities, and rural areas by using the GPS on their cell phone that is connected to the app. The goal is to find as many Pokémon’s as you can.
This gaming craze has created stories and news all over the U.S. It’s even impacting HOA’s and homeowner association management companies. Homeowners are calling in concerned about the activity they are seeing go on in the community. After further research community manager and board members have found the activity was not dangerous but rather it was people out on the hunt for Pokémon.
What do we suggest?
- As always we encourage you to stay safe out there. If you are chasing Pokémon in your community be aware of your neighbors and your surroundings.
- Keep a heads up for those who may not be paying attention.
- Send an email: let your homeowners know what they may be witnessing and remind them of the association’s safety guidelines.
- If you are in doubt about suspicious activity a call to the police is always a safe bet.
If you are participating in the craze, then be safe and Happy chasing!
What To Do If You've Been Sued
“You’ve been served” is a phrase no one ever wants to hear. While lawsuits against board members are usually unsuccessful, it’s still important to protect yourself and your board from the threat. Since we hate legal speak as much as the next guy, we’ve boiled down the must-know things when dealing with lawsuits into five pointers.
- These lawsuits happen and are usually unsuccessful. A disgruntled homeowner may attempt to even the score by suing the board or by targeting individual board members. Usually, the homeowner is hoping the HOA will rescind their policy and in return the homeowner will drop the case. Here are two examples – one of a lawsuit with merit and one the judge would likely dismiss.
If the board member, Jimmy, decides to shut off the outdoor water to his neighbor (Peter) because he doesn’t like the new flowers/shrubs that Peter planted, the judge will likely rule in favor of Peter.
If, however, Peter didn’t get approval on his new landscaping and has ignored the HOA’s attempts to rectify the situation though proper channels, then Peter’s lawsuit against the board and any individual members will likely be dismissed.
- Good Insurance can make for a good defense. Individual members of the board are protected by the association’s directors and officers insurance (D&O insurance), and while legitimate lawsuits against individual board members are unusual, D&O insurance is necessary to protect them. In some cases, the association’s general liability coverage will also protect board members. Before you just assume officers are protected under your association’s current insurance, review your policy.
- Don’t stick your head in the sand. No matter how “out there” a lawsuit sounds, don’t ignore it. Immediately contact your insurance provider and lawyer if you or the board is being sued. Quick attention to these issues is often the best way to diffuse and solve the problem(s). Ignoring it NEVER makes it go away.
- You may need your own lawyer. While the HOA’s insurance will likely provide an attorney for a board member, an individual member will need his or her own lawyer when/if it becomes obvious that their interests are not the same as those of the board.
If you do need your own lawyer, make sure you review the HOA’s insurance policy because it may or may not cover separate counsel. If it doesn’t, your individual umbrella liability policy might offer coverage for lawsuits stemming from a nonprofit capacity. Or, as another option, you can hire your own attorney and based on the indemnity provision in your association’s bylaws, insist the association indemnify.
- Protect yourself down the road. Take the time to make sure your insurance has D&O coverage, that your bylaws contain an indemnity provision, and always strive to conduct work in good faith and within the set boundaries of your HOA and its legal documents.
Hopefully these five tips help you navigate any lawsuits your HOA encounters. However, this is not intended as legal advice and the circumstances of your case may vary. Remember, often the best way to protect yourself is to be proactive and cover your bases.
Happy 4th of July!
Happy Father's Day To All The Dad's Out There!
Hurricane Season 2016
Help Your Community Get Ready
- Publish a special section in your local newspaper with emergency information on hurricanes.
- Print phone numbers of local emergency services, American Red Cross, and hospitals.
- Work with local emergency services and American Red Cross officials to prepare special reports for people with mobility impairments on what to do if an evacuation is ordered.
- Stage a simulated evacuation to show your community what can happen-invite the media.
- Distribute a community newsletter that reviews disaster preparedness and safety issues appropriate to the season or your community's disaster potential.
Develop an Emergency Operations Plan
- Maximize the efficiency of your community's response to a disaster.
- Ensure that community leaders know their roles and responsibilities during a major emergency.
- Create support structures between local government, rescue personnel, businesses, schools, hospitals, Extension agents and relief agencies.
- It doesn't require a major commitment of time and money to put a plan in place.
- Contact your County Emergency Management Office for help in developing a written emergency operations plan.
5 Landscaping Tips to Increase Your Property Value
One of the most obvious benefits of living in an HOA community is that it helps preserve property value in the neighborhood. Most HOAs enforce appearance guidelines through the HOA Management Company for homes and community areas, which means that in most scenarios, your neighborhood stays looking well-kept and inviting for residents and guests.
But even in an HOA community, homeowners still have some control over how they maintain the exterior of their home and property. It’s safe to say that most homeowners—whether they want to sell their home in the near future or plan on staying for years to come—want to keep it looking at its best. Landscaping plays a big part in that. We’ve put together a list of 5 simple ways you can boost your home’s value with landscaping improvements. And in the meantime, you’ll improve the appearance of your neighborhood, too!
- Add Potted Plants
What better way to add some color and variety to the exterior of your home than with potted plants? Outdoor planters are great because they are mobile and fairly easy to care for. Add potted plants to your porch, driveway, or other walkways (in accordance with any HOA policies, of course) where a company enters your home. Planters don’t have to break the bank, either! Save money by opting for resin planters instead of concrete or ceramic planters. Or, you can even upcycle planters from second-hand stores with the help of some spray paint.
- Make Your Porch Inviting
Depending on what your HOA allows, consider adding an inviting door mat, tasteful door wreath, or even chairs or swings with comfortable, colorful cushions. Everyone in the neighborhood loves to see a porch that seems to say “welcome home” rather than “stay away!”
- Add Lighting
Landscape lighting can take the appearance of your yard to a whole new level. There are a whole host of options for outdoor lighting depending on what your HOA bylaws allow for and what fits in with your budget. A well-lit yard is also an effective security feature! If hard-wired landscape lighting isn’t the best fit for your yard or budget, you could even consider solar-powered accent lighting placed around specific landscape features or paths. These types of solar landscape lighting kits can be found at almost any big box store and are a more affordable way to add accent lighting to your yard.
- Plant Shrubs and Trees
A few shrubs and trees can go a long way in making your front yard look lush and inviting. This can also be a good way to add privacy to your home and property. Adding vegetation to your yard doesn’t always have to mean extensive maintenance, either. There are plenty of options out there for trees and shrubs that look great without requiring much TLC. Be sure to check the HOA guidelines about any varieties that aren’t allowed before you make your purchase and especially before you plant your new shrubs or trees.
- Add Fresh Mulch
If your yard has planting areas not maintained by the HOA, adding a fresh layer of mulch can do wonders for turning a tired, dull yard and into one that looks inviting and well-manicured. New mulch is fairly inexpensive which means you’ll get bang for your buck with this landscape improvement. Plus, there are a variety of shades and textures you can choose from to best fit the style of your home.
Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 15-21, 2016) is your time to prepare for a potential land-falling tropical storm or hurricane. Learn how with the daily tips below and related links. Share these with your friends and family to ensure that they're prepared.
Sunday, May 15thDetermine your risk
- Find out today what types of wind and water hazards could happen where you live, start preparing now. Hurricanes... Read More
Monday, May 16th Develop an evacuation plan
- The first thing you need to do is find out if you live in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone or if you're in a home that... Read More
Tuesday, May 17th
Secure an insurance check-up
- Call your insurance company or agent and ask for an insurance check-up to make sure you have enough homeowners insurance... Read More
Wednesday, May 18th
Assemble disaster supplies
- You're going to need supplies not just to get through the storm but for the potentially lengthy and unpleasant aftermath... Read More
Thursday, May 19th
Strengthen your home
- If you plan to ride out the storm in your home, make sure it is in good repair and up to local hurricane building code specifications... Read More
Friday, May 20thIdentify your trusted sources of information for a hurricane event
- NOAA's National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center are... Read More
HOA Security: How Safe Is Your Community?
Saturday, May 21st Complete your written hurricane plan
- The time to prepare for a hurricane is before the season begins, when you have the time and are not under pressure... Read More
We Hire The Best To Give You The Best
Safe neighborhoods are desirable, a safe AND desirable community is what every HOA strives to accomplish and maintain. While everyone knows living in a safe community is important, it isn't always as easy to know how to make and keep a community safe. No matter where your community is located, the following tips are guaranteed to improve safety and hopefully deter would-be bad guys.
Know your weak spots. Don't let burglars be the only ones canvassing your community for weakness. Take the time to walk the community looking for overgrown landscaping, dark areas, unlit houses, unlocked gates, or broken security cameras. Getting together with your HOA management company
to do regular walkthroughs of your community to find and reduce vulnerabilities will dramatically improve security.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Don't assume that because you live in a gated community that you don't need any other security measures. Using multiple methods of security is ideal. Consider gates, monitored security cameras, (make sure you read our next post on security cameras!), security guards, motion detected lights, and whatever else makes sense for your community.
Enlist the help of residents. The best way to protect your community is the old fashion way - have neighbors watch out for each other. Burglars prey on neighborhoods where residents keep to themselves and aren't looking out for one another. To build neighborhood camaraderie, host events where residents can mingle and build relationships.
At the end of the day, the best way to keep your community safe is to eliminate places for bad guys to lurk and to make sure residents are vigilant. If you have questions on how to secure your community, don't hesitate to contact Superior Association Management
. We would be happy to chat with you about the best security options for your HOA.
Here at Superior Association Management, we believe in keeping our commitment to customer service through hiring the very best employees who have the same passion for service. We know firsthand that happy employees lead to even happier customers.
Prepared To Give You The Best
We really value our employees because we know they’re the people who ultimately keep you happy. We work hard to make sure they look forward to coming to work every day and providing the best for our clients.
We make sure we choose the best from the start, and we hire only the most outstanding applicants for Superior team! We make sure our employees complete are trained to give you the best service possible, which helps them become experts in the industry. We help them adopt the same mantra of providing unbeatable service that is refreshingly different for each and every one of our clients. We’re proud to be different to the core—it’s what makes us the type of management company you not only want to choose, but one you want to stay with for the long haul.
While we expect a lot from our employees, we give a lot in return. We know that when our employees are happy, you’ll be satisfied with the unbeatable service they provide, too. Do you have a great experience with our employees you want to share? We’d love to hear from you.
Are Your Reserves Protected By The FDICWith the recent stress in the financial market, many boards and property management companies are beginning to more closely monitor the insurance of their funds. For many years now, leaders in the HOA banking and auditing industry have stressed the importance of following established laws and adhering to their fiduciary responsibility that governs the insurance of these funds, and the recent financial stresses further emphasize this need. One of the most widely accepted and valuable tools for ensuring full insured funds are a program called CDARS.
What is CDARS?
CDARS or the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry System allows a Homeowners Association to receive up to $50 million in FDIC protection through a participating bank, such as Community Association Banc. CDARS can be a valuable and secure cash management or longer-term investment tool for you or your business.
By being a member of this special network, a participating bank can place your funds into multiple bank charters in quantities below the FDIC insurance maximum. In other words, when you place a large amount with a participating institution, they place your funds into certificates of deposit issued by other banks in the network — in increments of less than $250,000 — so that both your principal and interest are eligible for complete FDIC protection.
This altogether eliminates the need to run around opening multiple accounts at multiple banks, managing various interest rates, organizing interest disbursements from various sources, or manually consolidating monthly statements. It also means your HOA receives one regular bank statement, manages one relationship and receives one 1099.
CDARS has become the predominant tool used by HOAs that manage reserve accounts in excess of $250,000. The CDARS system ensures full safety and convenience while allowing your HOA to earn CD-level returns which may compare favorably with other investment alternatives, including Treasuries, corporate sweep accounts, and money market mutual funds.
One thing to remember is the interest rate for your CDARS CD is set by the bank that you are working with. In other words every bank that uses CDARS sets their own interest rates, which are usually very close to the interest rates on that banks own CD’s. Making CDARS not only a safe investment but also a higher interest earning investment.HOA Insurance - What You Don't Know, Can Hurt You!
The purchase and annual renewal of the Master Insurance policy for most homeowner associations (HOAs) is probably the quickest and least understood decision an HOA board makes each year.
Since most of us know nothing about insurance, other than we pay for it and rarely use it, we can only hope our insurance broker is advising us correctly, but how can we be sure?
1. Buy Your Policy from an HOA Insurance Expert
The first thing to understand is that your HOA Master Insurance Policy should be written by an agent that has expertise in HOA insurance.
You probably take your car to a mechanic that specializes in your type of vehicle, and you select a doctor who specializes in your personal medical condition. HOA Master Insurance Policy coverage should be viewed the same way — go to the expert that specializes in the issues that arise in homeowner associations, particularly condominiums and townhomes.
IMPORTANT: Your insurance broker must review the CC&R for your association to understand the scope of the association’s responsibility. If the broker does not ask for the association’s governing documents, they are the wrong person to write the Master policy.
Wishing You A Happy Hanukkah!
Are your board members feeling fatigue?
Most management companies claim to perform the “same tasks,” but the approach they take and whether or not they actually perform those functions are another question. Every day we get phone calls and emails from HOA board members who are frustrated with their current management companies. Often, they’ve been with one company for years, and have watched their service deteriorate over time, while their management fee continues to increase.
The number one complaint we hear from Board Members is that they feel like they are handling too much of the work because they are not receiving the support they need from their management company.
Is your management company suffering from these items?
1. Communication Carelessness
Getting a hold of the right person at your management company should not be a chore for a board member or any community member for that matter. We hear from HOAs all the time who say their community manager fails to return their phone calls or reply to their emails quickly. They leave a message for the community manager, but it takes several days for them to respond, if they respond at all. Homeowners and vendors routinely share the same experience.
2. Prolonged Projects
Nothing is worse than having a neighborhood project in desperate need of attention only to find your management company is not doing anything about it. Whether it’s helping you get the bids, planning the project or seeing it through to completion, your management firm should handle each of these items within a reasonable amount of time. Further, as your manager and agent, this service should be included in your base management fee.
3. Compliance Apathy
Compliance apathy is a symptom fatigued board members regularly deal with. This symptom rears its head in the form of inconsistent compliance visits, failure to spend time reviewing the condition of the property, or a cursory visit where the manager fails to handle compliance in the way that the board has asked. Your management company should collaborate with your board to customize your compliance oversight and then update you regularly with your community’s progress.
4. Lacking Guidance
HOA management companies aren’t just there to do the administrative work your board doesn’t want to deal with; they are also there to keep you updated on the current happenings in HOA law, guide you through difficult decisions that you may have to make, and to simply be the expert on all matters pertaining to the management of your association.
The best firms offer a variety of services and offer them in a way which makes your life as a board member easier.
That’s what we do here at Superior Association Management. Call Us today! Tips For Tackling Home Maintenance
Home maintenance is just part of the equation of owning a home. It’s important to keep up with regular, smaller tasks so you can best avoid having them turn into larger, more expensive problems down the road. In addition to being able to enjoy living in a nice, safe environment, you’re also protecting what is likely one of your largest financial investments. Working up the motivation to stick to a regular home maintenance schedule isn’t easy—after all, no one really likes having to do grown-up weekend chores—but with a bit of strategy and a plan of attack, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help:
Set Aside a Home Maintenance Fund
The definition of an investment is putting money into something that you’ll (ideally) get more money out of at a future date. That’s exactly what your home is, and you should expect to have to continue to invest some funds into maintaining it so that in the future you can get a good return. A good rule of thumb is to put away about 1%-3% of your home’s initial purchase price for upkeep and repairs. The U.S. Census estimates that average home maintenance costs are about $3,000 each year. The sooner you accept that this chunk of change isn’t really an optional part of home ownership, the easier it will be to pay for repairs and maintenance as they become necessary.
Create a Schedule
Have you ever heard the saying that to eat an elephant you just have to take one bite at a time? There probably aren’t any real elephants involved with your home maintenance, but the tasks can seem just as monumental with how much free time you don’t have in your schedule. Rather than overwhelming yourself with one gigantic to-do list, consider breaking home maintenance tasks into seasonal lists, and even separating the tasks into indoor and outdoor lists. It’s much easier to feel like you’re making progress with smaller, more manageable lists. Not sure where to start? Click here for a good example.
Every homeowner needs to have a notebook or a binder where they keep receipts and records of all of the maintenance and upgrades they complete while they own the home. This helps you remember what tasks were done and when, and also how much you spent on those tasks which can be worth its weight in gold when the time comes to sell your home.
Be Realistic About Your Skills
Let’s face it: some people were just not meant to DIY. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t have a crafty bone in your body, there’s no shame in that! Some may not have the skillset or the tools needed for certain home maintenance tasks. Even though there are endless resources online for learning how to do DIY home maintenance tasks, others just simply may not have the time. Whatever the case, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of hiring a professional for certain home maintenance tasks.
Hiring a professional can bring peace of mind as you’ll know that the job is done right and it can also save you the time of having to learn how to do it in the first place. But if you do hire a professional, make sure to always get written estimates (ideally two or more to compare pricing and services) and never pay for services up front. Also be sure to read through any reviews of their services to see what kind of experiences other people have had with their company. And finally make sure you’re happy with the completed work before you pay for it.
Volunteer Labor in your HOA: Worth the Risk?
HOA Board members face
a lot of decisions when it comes to finances. Usually those decisions involve trying to figure out how to be as responsible as possible to keep the HOA budgets in good shape. Sometimes, Boards will have the idea to rely on volunteer labor from community members for cleanup or maintenance projects as a way to save some money in the budget. After all, it can seem like a great way to save some cash while building a sense of camaraderie in the neighborhood. Before you jump to approve this idea at your next Board meeting, there are a few more things you should consider.
When Volunteer Labor Isn't Cheap
On the surface, volunteer labor seems like a great idea because it's essentially free when compared to hiring a contractor for cleanup or maintenance projects in the neighborhood. But it's not always that simple. Here are a couple scenarios to think about:
- The common areas in your neighborhood need to be spruced up so your HOA Board organizes a community cleanup day with the help of volunteers from the neighborhood. During the event, a nice middle-aged man who has been a homeowner for several years' volunteers to trim some low hanging tree branches while on a ladder. Something goes awry in the process and this man ends up accidentally falling off the ladder, sustaining a serious head injury, and spending weeks in the hospital to recover. To recoup the cost for medical bills and lost wages, he sues the HOA for tens of thousands of dollars and wins.
- To help save some money in the budget, your HOA Board appoints a few community members to help with the maintenance of common areas. While mowing the lawn, one of these volunteers accidentally passes over a large rock, which is projected toward the adjacent house and shatters the window. The shattered glass injures the resident who was just inside the home and they file a lawsuit for damages and for injuries totaling thousands of dollars.
Free labor? Not so much. Trying to save a little on labor now can end up costing a lot in the long run. Even though you might be saying, "Yeah, but that would never happen in our neighborhood," the point is that it certainly could, and it has to many other HOAs in the past. Is it really worth the risk?
Top 5 Ways We Can Improve Your Community and Make Your Life Easier!
1. You Call, We Call Back!
Do you ever call your HOA Management company? Of course you do. The real question is do they ever call YOU back? We've found that in most cases, they don't. That's just not right. With our Same Day Response policy, you never have to worry about not hearing from us.
2. We Work as a Team
Instead of assigning one lonely, overloaded person to handle every single task associated with your community, we work as a team. This team of specialists' works together to serve your homeowners. No wonder so much more gets done around here!"
3. Experience Refreshingly Different
At Superior Association Management, we have one goal everyday: provide our communities with Refreshingly Different service. We'll leave the poor service to others. We're out to make lives better and spread some smiles.
4. Getting Things Done
We're all about getting projects done. As a board member you're the volunteer, and we're the ones getting paid. You're paying us to get things done and there's no confusion around here about that fact. So Get ready for progress.
5. We Can Help you Learn Everything...
When it comes to HOA management, that is! Ever had to deal with community managers who just don't understand the finer points of the job? Well, with Superior Association Management, you won't have to anymore! Each and every one of our Association Managers knows exactly what they're dealing with in a variety of topics, so your questions won't go unanswered.
So, it looks like you have a pretty important decision to make. We know you don't like suffering from poor HOA Management? Let us help.
With SAM, Switching Management Companies is Refreshingly Simple!
If you’re unhappy with your current management company but just don’t want to deal with the hassle of switching to a new one, Superior Association Management is here to help! A lot of people ask us if it’s difficult to change management companies. When we answer, we can honestly say, “No! It’s actually pretty pain-free.”
The Best Part? It’sFree!
Yes, you read that correctly. Making the switch to Superior Association Management doesn’t cost your association a dime. Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t believe you should have to pay to be a new customer. We value long-term relationships with our clients, and we do everything we can to get you on board, but more importantly, keep you on board, for years to come.
A Seamless Transition
At Superior Association Management, we pride ourselves on offering the industry’s best customer service, and that starts from the very beginning. We work hard to make sure the transition from your old provider to Superior Association Management is anything but a headache. In fact, you’ll probably find that it was refreshingly simple! Once you’ve chosen SAM, we:
- Contact your existing management company to request all the documents and information you’ll need moving forward
- Send a letter to all homeowners in your community informing them of the new management company as of the transition date
- Give homeowners all the information they’ll need about our services in addition to payment and contact information
- Ensure that all data, records, files, and other needed information from your previous management company is gathered, boxed up, and turned over to us.
Get Started On the Right Foot
With each new Superior Association Management client, we get started on the right foot by hosting a Jump-Start meeting where we’re able to discuss the board’s preferences and customize your experience. We don’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all” approach to association management.
When you choose Superior Association Management , you won’t experience any loss of service when we take over. As the only management company with the Jump-Start system, we can ensure that there’s virtually no downtime in the process.
We’re sure you’ll be impressed with how easy it is to switch to Superior Association Management
6 Ways To Maintain Curb Appeal
Neighborhoods with plenty of curb appeal tend to maintain property values better. Surprised? No, we didn’t think you would be. While it is obvious that well-kept homes, yards, and common areas help neighborhoods stay desirable, it’s hard work keeping neighborhoods in like-new condition!
Here are six tips to help you get started!
1. Tidy up!
Organize a spring cleanup with residents and provide a snack…free food is an amazing incentive! A neighborhood-wide clean up is a great way to build neighborhood camaraderie and keeps homeowners invested in their neighborhood’s curb appeal. This is also an ideal time to share guidelines related to landscaping and front-yard decorations (or clutter…no neighborhood wants to show up on an episode of Hoarders!).
2. Create a sense of community.
No, we’re not talking about the overly friendly neighbor behavior seen on some TV shows! Instead think beautiful outdoor spaces for residents to enjoy. Neighborhoods that boast some of the best curb appeal are also the ones who focus on giving residents beautiful outdoor areas they can enjoy. Hiring a landscaping company who can help you create outdoor ambiance will help ensure your common areas are so much more that poorly watered, weed-riddled-grassy areas.
3. Communicate with residents.
While snail mail may seem old fashion, sending a quarterly or semi-annual newsletter to residents is a great way to track them down (you know their address, after all), and remind them of policies related to outdoors improvements and changes. Oftentimes homeowners don’t purposely break HOA policies, they simply weren’t aware of them.
4. Check outdoor lighting.
Stumbling around a dark neighborhood isn’t generally something people like to do, unless they are a burglar. Take the time to make sure all common-area lights are in working order, and encourage homeowners to check their outdoor lights, too. Well-lit neighborhoods are more welcoming and safer.
5. Organize a neighborhood watch.
We know what you’re thinking, and no…it’s not just nosey old ladies spying out their widows. When residents watch out for themselves and their neighbors, it reduces the risk of shenanigans (think mischievous teenagers with a Costco-sized supply of toilet paper), and more importantly crime. A safe neighborhood is a desirable one.
6. Establish an architectural control committee.
An architectural control committee doesn’t have to be the dreaded neighborhood-big brother. An architectural control community is one of the best ways to keep homes looking beautiful and preserve the consistent look and feel across all homes. Not sure how one of these how you could use a committee like this? Here is an example of something it could oversee:
Painting of homes – this is an expensive project that most homeowners dread. Make it easier by identifying a reputable vendor and securing homeowners a discount! They’ll feel motivated to paint, and you’ll be maintaining curb appeal. It’s a win-win!
Leadership Requires Thoughtful Communication
Saying whatever comes to mind and slamming political correctness is trendy right now, especially for the self-described outsiders who are running for president. It’s their flavor of the day. Well, sorry to burst the politicians’ bubble, but the fact is… leadership requires thoughtful communication and — yes — political correctness, as well. This is important for leaders in many organizations, and most definitely for the volunteers on homeowner association boards and committees.
The Media Pitfall
Saying the right thing and exercising political correctness isn’t easy. It can be very challenging for HOA leaders who are volunteers by nature, not necessarily neighborhood diplomats. And you can bet that most of them haven’t signed up to field questions from the news media. That’s why it’s not surprising that much of the news about HOAs is negative.
Editors and reporters know a good thing when they see it. Just about anything involving HOAs is bound to be controversial. There’s the compelling, predictable drama of institutions ’victimizing’ individuals. In the case of HOAs, boards and property managers going after homeowners.
Say the Right Thing, or Say Nothing!
Unfortunately, people acting as spokespersons for associations often inadvertently say things that contribute to negative opinion of HOAs. Or they say way too much. There’s a carry-over effect from this. Negative opinion of one association can poison opinion of HOAs overall, just as negative opinion of a few companies can poison opinion of big industries. Even worse for HOAs, an unfortunate choice of words can cause legal problems.
Fully Funded Reserves - Is It Possible?
It’s well known throughout the HOA industry that a lot of associations don’t have enough money in reserves to cover the replacement of major components. An October 2013 report by Association Reserve showed, in an analysis of 30,000 reserve studies that 70% were underfunded.
The Cycle of Underfunded Reserves
If you manage communities you probably recognize the underfunded community a mile away. You know the one with the shingles that should have been replaced five years ago, a dozen pothole patches in the parking lot, and upset homeowner claiming, “the HOA does nothing”.
If you’re a new board member this story may be a new one, and now, you and your fellow board members are faced with the difficult task of deciding what to do. Well, You have a few different options.
- Increase dues by a lot to stop the bleeding.
- Plan out a series of special assessments
- Maintain the status quo and plan to move before the property values start to fall.
Unfortunately too many HOA’s choose the last option, causing the cycle to continue.
The Result of Underfunding
Well in the short term it may mean that you don’t have to face the homeowners to tell them the dues are going up. But the real result will be realized in the coming years. They will come in the form of deferred maintenance, Increased maintenance costs on dilapidated components, and the inevitable special assessment or loan. Not to mention the angry homeowners, depressed property values, and potential lawsuit for failure to fulfill your fiduciary duty.
Important HOA Lessons We Take From The Recession
The recession that began around 2008 hammered HOAs for years. Thankfully, the worst seems to be over, and each day looks brighter and brighter for today's HOAs. That doesn't mean, however, we should put the recession behind us just yet. Before we do that, we should mull what that awful economic downturn has—or should have—taught us. Here our HOA experts do that, offering some crucial lessons our smart boards will remember going forward.
Annual financial reviews are critical.
The recession reminded everyone how important it is to do a full annual review of all income and expenses, as well as what potential future capital projects should be performed, prior to preparing an annual budget. This will also allow for long-term planning and budgeting to take place.
As a part of that analysis, we suggest a review of all service contracts (scavenger, window-washing, boiler/HVAC, and so on), insurance policies, and energy contracts to determine what savings may be available for the coming years.
By doing all that, boards can make determinations on annual budgets along with what, if any, increases are necessary to the budgets and to plan for future expenditures.
Collections should be formalized and strengthened.
HOAs are required to have a written collection policy that defines the process by which an association will enforce assessment collections. It should cover things like the type of notices you'll provide and when you can file with attorney or collection agency. You should not open a collection account unless you are certain the association has fully complied with the requirements of its collection policy.
The biggest issue is that HOAs shouldn't let accounts stagnatein delinquency.
Out with the Old, In with the New: New Years Resolutions
SAM Wishes You a Happy New Year!!Happy Holidays!
Out with the Old
In 2015, you probably saw your share of conflicts and “why didn’t we plan for this?” moments. With 2016 upon us, it’s time to put all that to rest. First and foremost, resolve to begin the year with a clean slate, free of animosity. Then, decide what lessons can be learned going forward.
Gather as a board and assess what went well last year, and what could be improved. Talk over the issues that came up, and how they were (or weren’t) resolved.
Listen to your manager and maintenance staff and take their opinions and feelings seriously. After all, these are your “boots on the ground” and they might have a better feel for the pulse of the community.
In with the New
Once you’ve assessed 2015, make some goals for the New Year. Not sure where to start? Consider the following to get you started:
Go with what you know — Your HOA has governing documents. Review them carefully and ask the other board members to do the same. How well have the by-laws been enforced this year? Should any changes be made?
Follow the money — Consider areas that may need special attention around the community. Your budget may have planned for some of these expenses but try to consider items that can make a big difference without blowing the budget. Plan for these things NOW and set aside the necessary funding.
Sharpen your skills — Attend some CAI educational events, or training put on by attorneys, insurance companies, or other industry professionals. Many of these events are held locally but the national events are often worth the money. You might be surprised at what you will learn.
Be more transparent — Leaving homeowners in the dark on community issues can only causes discontent. Make sure the lines of communication open. Find ways to involve homeowners in community improvement plans.
No matter your goals for 2016, you can make this year more productive and harmonious than the last.
Wishing you the joy of family, the gift of friends, and the best of everything in 2016.
Our office will be closed on Thursday, December 24th & Friday, December 25th for the holidays. We will re-open Monday December 28th.
The Superior Association Management TeamHOA Monthly Financial Checklist
Any discussion on accounting for condo associations and HOAs often starts with the end result -monthly financialreports. There's all kinds of information for board members to help them understand the reports, but how can you head off questions at the pass by making sure the financials are correct before you give them to the Board?
Never fear! I'm here to give you all that month-end procedural goodness you need for pristine hoa financials, plus a handy-dandy checklist to help make sure you've got all your bases covered at the end of each month.
Step 1: Reconcile your bank accounts
Before you begin generating any reports, you needto match up your community association's bank statements to your accounting ledgers. This should include incoming receivables and outgoing payables.
Step 2: List delinquent owners and outstanding payables
Once you've determined what's come in for the month,you need to know what's missing. This should come in the form of an owner delinquency report that will list homeowners who have not paid their dues for the month.
From all of us at Superior Association Management, we would like to wish all of our Jewish clients and friends a very Happy Hanukkah!
May your candles burn long and your celebrations be joyous. May your table be filled with good food and surrounded by great friends.
The Superior TeamWishing You A Happy Thanksgiving
Wishing you the simple joys of tradition, the company of good friends and family, and all the happiness of sharing a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Our office will be closed Thursday and Friday. However, if there is an emergency, you will be able to reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sincerely,Management Company Over Self Management
The Superior Association Management Team
Homeowners Associations typically fall into one of two categories: they are self-managed by the community’s elected board, or they are co-managed with the assistance of a property management company such as Superior Association Management. Some HOA communities may think that they are too small to need outside help, or may question if the investment and collaboration is worth it. There are self-managed HOAs that operate very efficiently, however having the support and guidance of a professional management company can be beneficial.
Access to more resources: While members of the HOA board are volunteers and often hold full-time jobs, for a management company, the HOA is its job. These companies can provide communities with recommendations for affordable and reliable vendors and may be able to negotiate better rates if they have established a strong relationship with the vendor. This can help to save the HOA money and ensure that quality service is being provided. The board can more effectively make decisions on who to partner with since the management company has already vetted resources.
Access to more expertise: Training and knowledge may be limited among board members. There may not be someone with a strong financial background who feels confident in overseeing budgets and expenses. In addition, there are many rules and regulations to stay on top of, especially as legal requirements change. A property management company brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to the table and can provide effective assistance. They are available to answer questions, consult on problems, and update HOA boards on any changes to legal regulations. Furthermore, they will have more experience handling diverse situations and serve as a valuable resource.
Creates more stability: Board membership changes periodically and it can take time for new members to get up to speed. Each board may have its own approaches for running the HOA. Establishing a long-term relationship with an HOA management company can provide consistency when it comes to certain aspects of running the HOA. They know how things were done in the past and can help improve efficiency. Operations can continue running more smoothly with fewer disruptions.
Lightens the workload: There is a lot of time and energy that goes into running an HOA. Board members take on these responsibilities voluntarily because they care about the community they live in. However, it can be a lot to balance their personal and professional lives along with their board responsibilities. Hiring a property management company can help reduce this stress. The company can oversee numerous processes and procedures while also providing insight and guidance. Board members are not left on their own to handle anything that may arise.The Superior Team - "We've Managed To Get This Far"Now Managing Foxe Chase Community
Foxe Chase is an exclusive gated community located in theheart of South Florida's Delray Beach. Foxe Chase real estate appeals to those seeking a private and beautifully natural environment. With only 43 private one-acre residences, Foxe Chase homes provide seclusion and luxury. The elegant residences in this lovely neighborhood surround a beautiful and serene lake, with flowing waterfalls and lush landscaping to be found everywhere.Meeting Minutes Matter
As an HOA Meeting Recorder and Parliamentarian, I take the meeting minutes for many associations. My method is easy and simple. Here are some steps that I hope you will find useful in taking proper minutes.
You need a good agenda. — Create an Agenda Template and use it for each of your properties. You should also have a meeting minutes template (Open Minutes Template) for each association. Agenda and meeting minutes should follow the same format.
The board packet contains the backup information for items listed on the agenda. The bids from the contractors, reports from plumbers, homeowner correspondence etc., should all be in the Board packet. This is the information that is “pre-populated” into the minute’s template.Budget Season
As the end of summer starts to come into sight, believe it or not, the clock turns slowly towards fall and also to Budget Season. Yes, it's time to think about putting community budgets together again. Late summer is actually a great time to start working on the budget to avoid "crunch time" in October and November when traditionally budgets must be approved and distributed to owners.
FIRST, prepare a "business plan" for the community. This should be a list of all the goals you can think of that the community wants to accomplish in the coming year. Where possible, put this in outline form by month so that, if there is a cost involved, you'll know the month in which it should be included in the budget. Then review the plan with the board at the late summer meeting to reach approval of the plan. This should be your first step in getting the community budget together.
SECOND, prepare and send out requests for proposal (RFP's) for next year's recurring contract services.
, assess the maintenance needs of the community. To do this, look back at the actual expenses incurred so far for maintenance and repair items. You should also look at what utility expenses have been running from month-to-month. I would also assess the condition of the community and take into account projects the community officers wanted to accomplish from their approve "business plan" above. Read More
Creating a sense of community in your HOA
How to create a sense of community
If you don’t know your neighbors, you are missing out. A community can be a great source of friendships, networking and referrals for personal and professional opportunities. And when issues arise, your community’s connection will be invaluable.
Get some face time
No, not the app; the real thing! Get together with your neighbors. The Board can facilitate this by planning special events. It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal or cost a lot of money. Even a simple ice cream social can do the trick. Or have a potluck, costing the Association not much more than advertising the date. Another cost-effective event is a community garage sale. Recycle your treasures while visiting with neighbors, and make a little fun money at the same time.
Tell them about it
Newsletters, websites, and e-mail messages, oh my! Homeowners need to know the happenings of the community in order to feel included. Don’t keep it a secret. Share news, not just violations or rules, online or via a newsletter. Start a Facebook page for your community. And if you really want them to pay attention, send a text. Whatever method you choose, don’t forget to include the dates of the planned social gatherings.
When a new Homeowner moves in, welcome them to the neighborhood. Share the latest newsletter and extend an invite to the next Board meeting. Community connection starts with you. If you have an idea, do it.L'shanah Tovah From Superior Association Management
Wishing Everyone a Happy & Safe Labor Day Weekend!
Leading Change In Your Community
We’ve all done it. We walk through our community and see something that we’d like to change: a rule regarding hours of trash collection or maintenance, or a change to the facilities in a common area like the addition of a playground or swimming pool. So, how do we make change happen?
Putting to use the change models that are effective in large organizations can be your best bet to make a change in your community. Most HOAs are like those organizations, with the need to create awareness and a desire for change, and multiple layers of approval. In the early 80’s, Harvard professor John Kotter presented an eight-step change model for organizations that is still the one most widely used today.Superior Association Management Would like to Welcome Boca Greens!
Boca Greens is a gated community of 586 single family homes surrounded by an 18-hole golf course built on 175 acres. This beautifully landscaped community is located in the western part of Boca Raton on 441 just north of Glades Road.
Now Managing Tuscany In Delray Beach
Superior Association Management is very excited to announce that we will be managing the beautiful Tuscany community in Delray Beach.
Tuscany is Delray Beach's best new home value! Stunning new single-family homes meet the needs for families of any size. Tuscany is situated minutes from Delray Marketplace, which has dozens of national retailers and restaurants. Just seven minutes away from Tuscany is the famous Atlantic Avenue that offers everything from shopping and dining to an exuberant nightlife and even gorgeous beaches.
Reducing Liability In Your Community Parking Lot
Reducing potential liabilities in your parking lot is an integral part of ensuring safety for everyone, reducing insurance premiums and maintaining an aesthetically pleasing curbside appearance. Here are the six most important areas of your parking lot that can degenerate over time, creating hazards, and how to ensure they are properly repaired:
1) ADA Compliance - The Americans with Disabilities Act created a standard by which all properties must conform in order to provide accessibility to handicapped patrons. These accommodations include handicap parking and signs, access ramps with warning mats and guard/handrails.
2) Drainage - One of the most overlooked elements of parking lot safety has to do with drainage. Improperly designed or poorly maintained parking lots that have drainage issues can quickly become more and more dilapidated. As water sits unmoved on certain surfaces, it can stain, damage, or erode them.
3) Asphalt - Asphalt is generally found in parking surfaces and roadways. Asphalt is laid down on top of a base layer of lime rock that is graded to ensure proper slope and drainage. It is important that potholes, sinkholes, depressions, and unpaved areas are addressed as quickly as possible to avoid worsening problems.
4) Concrete - Concrete can be found in various locations on your property, from sidewalks to curbing, to dividers, to ramps and stairs, and in some cases, even the parking surface itself. Concrete is poured into specially designed forms depending on the shape of the concrete structure you want. Over time, sidewalks and curbs can become damaged by expanding tree roots, standing water, or vehicles.
5) Striping/Signage - The pavement markings and roadway signs on your property are an invaluable asset that helps keep vehicular and pedestrian traffic running smoothly. Making sure entrances and exits are clearly marked, sporting properly-painted lines and arrows, and having highly-visible signage will allow your residents or customers to feel safe in your parking area.
6) Car Stops - Car stops are concrete, plastic, or metal bumpers located between 18 and 36 inches from the front of parking stalls. They are pinned in place to prevent them from moving and occasionally need to be re-pinned after a run-in with a vehicle or heavy object such as a shopping cart. If the car stops were not pinned properly, the pins may be protruding from the top of the car stop which is a trip hazard.
With all of these opportunities for repairs on your property, it's important to find a parking lot and roadway solutions company you can trust. And even more important, is finding a company with the technical know-how to service ALL of the potential pitfalls on your property. Finally, make sure the vendor you choose for these repairs and maintenance projects has up-to-date insurance themselves, with limits high enough to handle the scope of your work. Be sure to request a Certificate of Insurance to verify these amounts.
Your Community Website-It Matters!
How much time, love and attention do you pay your community website? "Like any business entity, your website is your face to the world. When people are researching places to live, the first thing they do is go online for information. Your website is where those people will get the feel for what your community is all about, and what it might be like to live there."
Accounting Is Not That Scary
Keep it simple. The best accounting solution is a simple one that you take full ownership of, understand and grow over time. A simple plan is easiest to keep accurate, organized and timely; all of which are critical in an accounting function.
Understand the difference between trust accounts and operational accounts. Operational accounts are the accounts of your business: the balance sheet and the profit-and-loss statement. Any accumulated cash is yours to reinvest back into the business, pay down debt or draw to business owners. Trust accounts are accounts managed in trust, by you as agent on behalf of your clients and customers. Trust accounts must be held sacred, and in the state of New Mexico must be reconciled not only book to bank, but from book down into each individual customer’s account balance.
Weigh the options of hiring a bookkeeper vs. DIY accounting. If you choose the do-it-yourself route, remember to keep it simple and keep great records. Conversely, hiring someone does not mean the accounting function goes on autopilot. You should still review your financials monthly for understanding in order to make sound, forward-looking decisions in your business.
Choose software you are comfortable with. The worst accounting decision one can make is to purchase software that you do not understand and start using it. Accounting software are garbage in, garbage out systems, and if you do not understand how to enter the data, your monthly reporting will not be accurate and will prevent timely decisions. Consider using cloud-based software in order to minimize the need for hardware such as a server computer to authenticate users and files.
If you fall behind, get help. The longer it goes, the bigger it gets in volume and the more time it will take you (or someone else at your cost) to do it.
Do not do your own taxes. Hire a professional who stays current with all GAAP and tax laws who can advise you on the best tax strategy for your business.
Does your management company help increase your property value?
One of the greatest responsibilities of Superior Association Management is to protect the property values of the homes and the quality of the community that they manage. Homeowners association management duties can include enforcement of the community rules and regulations, coordination and management of vendors to maintain common areas and recreational centers, and collection of HOA maintenance fees. All of these duties combined help to maintain and increase the property values and quality of a community.
ENFORCE COMMUNITY RULES AND REGULATIONS
These rules and regulations are set in place by the homeowners association to help protect the assets of the community as well as the property values of the homes within it. If the rules are bent and regulations are not followed accordingly, the community will eventually spiral out of control causing the value and quality of the community to plummet.
MAINTAIN COMMON AREAS AND RECREATIONAL CENTER
Another responsibility is to coordinate with vendors on the upkeep of the community's common areas and recreational centers. Proper maintenance of these areas is crucial for increasing the property values of the community. Good HOA management companies will have vendors place bids for contracts or will have a list of preferred vendors to use to ensure that the community is provided with high quality services at a reasonable price.
COLLECT HOA MAINTENANCE FEES
Without the proper funding, homeowners associations would not be able to provide their community with the amenities that help to increase homeowners property values. Often times, HOA management companies will be given the responsibility to collect HA management fees. Just as failure to enforce community rules and regulations can cause the property values of a community to plummet, so can insufficient funding. This is why it is important for HOA fees to be collected in a timely manner.
Happy 4th of July From Superior Association Management
Schedule Your Annual Management Audit
What is a SAM Management Audit?
- Every year Superior Association Management Team meets to discuss their performance and how they are communicating with the communities they are currently managing.
- Does your management company do this?
Superior Association Management is a full service management company. Our emphasis on exceptional quality and service combined with our philosophy of "customer first" sets us apart from other property management companies. We are focused on fulfilling client objectives, providing pro-active management, constant improvement of the property, increasing the quality of our homeowner's lives, and providing all of this in a transparent fashion.SAM Crime Stoppers!
Today, Superior Association’s staff member, Scott, received a call from BB&T that a man was in the bank trying to cash a check from Mizner’s Preserve account for $4118.40. The check, originally made out to Hartzel, had been washed and new payee typed in. Due to the bank teller’s and Scott’s quick thinking, the man was apprehended and is now in P.B.C. jail.
Score one for the good guys!What do experts say about hurricane season 2015? The Weather Channel is predicting a hurricane season that's slightly less active than the average, with nine named storms, five hurricanes and one major hurricane this year. Colorado State University is predicting that 2015 will be one of the least active in decades, with seven named storms, three hurricanes, and one major hurricane of Category 3 or higher. North Carolina State University's Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences is also predicting a quiet season, with four to six named storms, one to three hurricanes, and only one that may become a major hurricane. Tropical Storm Risk from the University College London is predicting a season that's slightly quieter than average, with 11 named storms, five hurricanes, and two major hurricanes. Global Weather Oscillations Inc. (GWO) is going in the opposite direction, predicting that the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season will be the most active and dangerous in at least three years and that the next three seasons will be the most dangerous in 10 years. In 2015, GWO is forecasting 14 named tropical storms, with eight hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
West Boca Community Council and Superior Association Management
Present the 2015
Board Certification Course
An interesting and informative course for homeowner and Condominium Board members or anyone desiring to understand community operations and governing laws. This course satisfies Florida Statute 718 & 720 requirements.
**Participants will receive a Certificate of completion**
Instructor: Lou Caplan, Esquire
Partner at Sachs Sax Caplan Law Firm
Tuesday, May 19th
7:00 PM-9:00 PM
Boca Lago Country Club
8665 Juego Way, Boca Raton, FL 33433
Refreshments will be served
There is no charge, but you must reserve your space.
RSVP (561) 293-3612 or email: Tyler@superiormgmt.net
If you don't like us, you don't pay us!
Dear Board Members,
Superior Association Management (SAM) is a boutique association management company that specializes in managing homeowner's associations throughout Palm Beach County. SAM is a full service company offering its clients a broad spectrum of services. Since no two properties are identical, programs are tailored to meet the specific needs of each homeowners association.
Our emphasis on exceptional quality and service, combinedwith our philosophy of "customer first", sets us apart from other management companies. We are focused on fulfilling client objectives, providing pro-active management, consistently improving property values, and transparently increasing the quality of homeowners lives.
We provide a customer-centric approach when it comes to our clients, and go above and beyond handling customer calls efficiently. SAM is committed to addressing all issues as soon as they arise, and to resolving them quickly and efficiently. We are continually looking toward the future and are focused on ensuring that your association is properly positioned to respond to anything that might arise, while at the same time protecting your property values.
At Superior Association management, we pledge to do everything we can to respond directly to you (whether it be a voice mail, e-mail, fax or letter) before the close of business on the day you contact us, even if we can only offer a status report. If we are unable to immediately satisfy your query, you will be advised as to what action we will be taking, and when you can expect to hear from us. We fervently believe that ongoing open communication is key to success. This open interactive approach to customer service enhances the customer experience, and results in an efficient and pleasant business relationship.
Yes, you read it correctly. If you don't like us, you don'tpay us. If you don't see a noticeable difference in the first 3 months, youdon't have to pay us.
Please contact Superior Association Management to set up an appointment to go over your association management needs.
Achieving Excellent Customer Service
One of the most important aspects of customer service in general is to listen to the customer. It is important to understand then restate the homeowner’s concern within the first few minutes of the conversation. Often, homeowners are emotional and may not be stating their concerns clearly. If you don’t understand the problem you are certainly not going to be able to provide a solution.
Once you establish the issue, learn what the homeowner wants and try to make it happen. This is best accomplished by simply asking the homeowner how you can make it better. Often what the homeowner wants may not be that difficult. It is important to know where you stand before you start working towards a solution. If you are able to fix the problem, fix it quickly (don’t wait until tomorrow or next week). If you are unable to meet the request, be clear about why you are not able to accommodate them, and offer some alternative solutions.
Knowing how to apologize is another factor in ensuring great customer service. We are all human and sometimes mistakes happen. Most people understand this. If you are wrong, admit it, apologize, and move on to resolving the problem. Knowing how and when to apologize is a great technique that if used appropriately will immediately change the tone of the conversation, and ultimately make a happy customer.
Remain calm. It is important to remain calm and keep a consistent tone throughout the conversation. The role of customer service is to help find a solution. Nothing constructive will come from a shouting match with the customer.
Provide an escalation outlet. If you sense that you are not getting anywhere with a challenging person and nothing more can be done, allow for escalation. Provide another avenue where the customer can state their case. The best option for this is via email or letter where the person can put down their concerns in writing. Often, the process of writing down the problem will take much of the emotion out of the complaint and may ultimately help facilitate a resolution. If it is something that is beyond your control, help them locate, or furnish them with the contact information of who can help.
Finally, get feedback and check back with your customers. You may think you have the best customer service in the world, but your opinion does not really count. It is the opinion of the people you serve that matters. Send out surveys frequently, follow up with people who have had problems in the past and find out if things are better. Knowledge is power, and knowing how people perceive your customer service will help you make adjustments for the future.
Back to Basics: Reserve Fund Accounting
What are Reserves?
Reserves are monies set aside for the future replacement or renovation of the major community components. Every major improvement to the community that the community is responsible to maintain, such as driveways, parking lots, street lighting, playground, pool, roofs, painting, etc. will eventually need major renovation or replacement. Therefore, a reserve “fund” should be set up for each of these major assets the community is responsible for.
Reserves vs. Maintenance
There is a distinction between “Reserves” and “Maintenance Expenses” which are part of the yearly operating expenses, like lawn maintenance. “Reserve Contributions” are accumulated for years until the component needs replacement or renovation. In effect, the Reserve Contribution each owner makes as part of their annual community assessment pays for the wear-and-tear and deterioration of these assets during the time the owner owned a home in the community—it’s similar to funding depreciation of an asset’s replacement cost.
What should our Reserve Contribution Be?
The tricky part of preparing or updating a Reserve Analysis is knowing how much the annual Reserve Contribution should be, because doing a reserve analysis means looking into the future and predicting when an asset will need to be renovated or replaced and how much it will cost at that time. It means literally:
- Identifying all the replaceable assets and listing them
- Identifying their current condition
- Forecasting when each might need to be replaced
- What the cost will be, and
- How much money was already been set aside for each asset in the existing Reserve Fund—which should match an actual bank account balance kept separate from the operating funds of the community (the funds that pay the annual expenses of the community).
Thankfully, there are a number of reserve analysis companies and reserve analysis software, as well as engineering companies, that can help with creating or updating a Reserve Analysis. While a management company can do an acceptable job of creating or updating a Reserve Analysis, I think it would be in the best interests of every community to have a professional reserve company or engineering firm prepare or update the Reserve Analysis every few years.
Board Meeting Participation and the Evolution of Being'Present'
Serving on a board, not even necessarily as its president, requires a lot of time and work. Because it can be a very demanding role, you often, though not exclusively, see board members who have retired from their fields and can dedicate themselves to the smooth running of their buildings. One of the perks of being retired, however, is the ability to take a look at New York in the winter and say bye-bye to treacherous sidewalks and mucky slush pools. And if you had the means, wouldn't you take off to Florida or warmer climes while this nuisance weather finally gives way to spring? Well, that's what one board member in a New York City co-op does. He regularly takes a three-month trip to Florida during the winter. Lucky fellow!
But here's the thing. Despite being on a holiday, he doesn't shirk his board-related responsibilities. So when the board has a meeting, he participates via conference call. And understandably, because he could easily be difficult and simply be absent, he is listed as "present" when he calls in. It's clear that someone on the board has an issue with marking him present, because one of his fellow board members writes to Ronda Kaysen in this week's "Ask RealEstate" column in The New York Times: "A neighbor suggested including him in the meeting through Skype" and he wonders whether doing so "is this truthful and legal." No good deed goes unpunished, eh?
Read More - Habitat Mag
Parking Lot Line Striping Requirements
Can your parking lots stripes get you in legal trouble?
Does your facility have a parking lot? Silly question, right? If you’re like most property or asset managers, you’re in charge of not only the buildings for the facility but also the parking areas associated with the property. And, what’s not so silly is that there are certain responsibilities, even legal requirements regarding your parking area.
Did you know that, by law, many of the roughly 50 million parking spaces in the United States have to get a fresh coat of reflective paint every year or two? It’s true.
When a business restripes a parking lot, it must provide accessible parking spaces as required by the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Plus, businesses or privately owned facilities that provide goods or services to the public have an ongoing obligation to remove barriers to access in existing parking lots when it’s readily achievable to do so. Because restriping is relatively inexpensive, in most cases, it is readily achievable – which means you must follow the law.
Ways To Improve Your Board
Board members serve an important role in an HOA. It can be a difficult job, and managing an entire community’s business is a lot to handle. In order to help your board be even more effective, we’ve put together some tips for helping them hold better meetings and make better decisions.
· Encourage community participation: for the board to best serve the community, it has to know what the community thinks and wants. Keeping the board an isolated, monolithic entity doesn’t accomplish that. Invite community members to attend the meetings and share their thoughts (while still laying out strict rules for when and how to speak, in order to keep the meeting on track).
· Promote ethical behavior: make it a point to have board members always advocate for the most ethical of behavior and actions. Put policies in place for audits and other reviews that get rid of even the appearance of impropriety.
· Hold meetings in a neutral location: an HOA board is an official body, but it’s also still a meeting of community members. Holding meetings in a local restaurant, church, or clubhouse makes for a friendlier atmosphere, while still giving the board the space needed to hold an effective meeting.
· Recruit board members with the right experience: while the desire to sit on a board is definitely a plus, that alone doesn’t make someone a good candidate. Try to find people in the community with business experience, leadership skills, and other useful traits and encourage them to run for a seat.
· Have official documents on hand: all HOA boards have covenants, bylaws, and other official documents that they have to follow. In case any issues regarding them come up, the board members should have these documents available and ready to be reviewed so that the matter can be dealt with quickly.
· Serve refreshments: working on an empty stomach can make people cranky and liable to make bad decisions. Have small refreshments available before the meeting (just be sure to put them away when it starts).
· Have a clear agenda: the items to be discussed at each meeting should be laid out beforehand, and every member prepared to discuss them fully when they enter the room.
Check Out Our Mobile Website!
Happy Valentine's Day - We LOVE Our Clients!
People today use technology wherever they go - whether it be when you're out to dinner, grabbing a coffee, or sitting on the couch. Our technology is customized to fit individual's needs for communication. Superior Association Management's main focus is to give you an easy to use & accessible means of communication to stay up--to--date with changes happening within your community. Our technology provides our property managers 24/7 access to community records.
Superior Association Management believes it is important to invest in technology. We are continuously searching for ways to make communicating easier between one another.
SAM created a mobile website for you to access on your phones. We believe the mobile site will allow our board members to communicate to us more efficiently.
Would you like a mobile website for your community?
Ask The Experts: How should an association respond to disorderly conduct at a board meeting?
By Brian D. Moreno, Esq.
Q: We have a renter who attends board meetings and voices his opposition to association actions. What can we do? —Chico, Calif.
A: It's not uncommon for community association boards to encounter disorderly meeting participants. Association meetings can be difficult to manage, especially if participants are rude, speak out of turn or speak over one another. Consider implementing formal meeting rules that guide participants and reduce the likelihood of disorderly conduct. All attendees should act professionally and in an orderly fashion so meetings are productive and efficient.
Renters are not association members, but they must comply with the governing documents of the community. Boards have the option of precluding renters from attending association meetings. That decision depends on the personality of the community. Renters can be seen as an asset to some communities and a detriment to others.
Whatever the board decides should be considered carefully, and owners should be given the opportunity to express comments and concerns before a final decision is reached. The board also should involve the association's attorney.
Meeting rules typically address conduct, whether renters are allowed to attend and, if so, whether they are allowed to participate in discussions. The rules also should contain an enforcement clause that permits the board to impose sanctions for noncompliance, including the imposition of fines or the removal of a participant from a meeting in serious cases. Litigation may be another option, depending on the participant's level of noncompliance. Any rules that are adopted for meetings, including whether renters are allowed to attend, should be explained in writing and applied equally to all attendees.
In addition to meeting rules, the board should consider varying the location of the meeting. If participant control is an issue, the board can consider holding meetings off-site or at a board member's property. Having a meeting off-site or at a member's residence strengthens the association's legal rights to exclude a noncompliant participant from the meeting.
Brian D. Moreno is a partner at Richardson Harman Ober in Pasadena, Calif., and a member of CAI's College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL).
Can community associations regulate drone activity?
By Joe Adams
Q: We have a resident that flies a camera-equipped drone over homes in our gated community. I am concerned that this is a violation of privacy and that the drone could cause damage to my property. What laws regulate drones and how can I get the association to make a statement regarding flying drones in our community.
– J.P. (via email)
A: Despite the fact that the use of drones is becoming commonplace throughout the United States, the recreational use of drones is not highly regulated. The only relevant enforcement for recreational use is an advisory, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, limiting recreational operations to below 400 feet, away from airports, and within the sight of the operator. Conversely, commercial drone usage is regulated by the FAA and other entities. Recently, the National Association of Realtors advised that the use of drones for real estate marketing is prohibited. The state of Florida has enacted legislation restricting the use of drones by law enforcement.
You state that you are concerned that the drone could damage your property. It is easy to understand this concern. Even the United States Supreme Court has held that "the landowner owns at least as much of the space above the ground as they can occupy or use in connection with the land." As a result, if the drone is coming onto "the space above theground" of your property, you have an interest in what occurs thereupon. Recently, a federal safety board ruled that the government has the power to hold drone operators accountable when they operate the remote-control aircraft recklessly. Similarly, if damage occurs, you may be able to recover any damages you incur.
Using a camera-equipped drone to record footage that occurson the outside of one's home, an area arguably open and available for any passerby to see, presents interesting legal issues. If a recording is to harass, stalk, bully or cause negligent infliction of emotional distress, legal implications could arise. Legal implications could also arise if the camera is being used to record activities inside of another's home.
I would recommend reviewing your governing documents which, based upon my experience, are likely to say nothing on the topic. The board may be empowered to enact a rule regulating the use of drones (or, depending on the scope of the grant of rule making authority in the governing documents, it may not) and an amendment to the governing documents is also a viable approach to consider.
By Pamela Babcock - CAI
Garbage and recycling smell, make a mess, attract scavengers and pile high if you're not careful. Time to clean up your act.
Not long ago, residents and guests pulling up to the gatehouse at Fripp Island, a resort community near Beaufort, S.C., would roll down their windows hoping to enjoy a deep breath of sea air. Instead, they often were greeted by something decidedly different: the putrid smell of liquid waste dripping from the back of trash trucks.
"The pavement would heat up during the day, and our guests and owners were subjected to this horrendous stench as they entered the island," recalls Tina M. Reeves, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, assistant general manager at Fripp Island Property Owners Association.
The association tackled the stinky situation by requiring haulers to prove that truck seals are intact; approved trucks get a decal that allows them to access the community.
Problems with trash and recycling are all too common for community associations. Truck breakdowns delay collection. Crews arrive too early or work too late. Others disappear as soon as the first snow falls or return containers to the wrong locations.
Meanwhile, residents create their own share of headaches. Some don't follow association or municipality rules for separating trash from recyclables. Others put trash cans out too early or don't bring them in on time. Some even dump large items like furniture and mattresses in common areas.
Take Out the Papers and the Trash
To clean up a messy situation, consider the following:
Read up on your state or local trash requirements.
Develop a system that works for your community. Single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums often require different types of pickups.
Require trash trucks to meet certain standards before allowing them in your community.
Ask haulers, owners and renters to adhere to the community's rules on placing trash cans where they belong.
Follow your contractor and collect any mess left behind if scavenging animals are known to be a problem.
Develop a policy for dealing with the dumping of large, bulky items.
Work with your provider or a consultant to understand usage patterns, needs and goals.
Ensure you have the equipment you're paying for and receiving the number of pickups stated in the contract.
Look Closely: Common Ground
By: Steve Bates
Background checks can protect your community, but the landscape is filled with legal and regulatory land mines. Beware what you scrutinize.
Background checks can be complex, precarious and occasionally contradictory. But many community associations conduct a variety of investigations when hiring employees, considering prospective tenants and even vetting board members. Associations can obtain information about criminal convictions, credit history, licensing status, previous employment and educational credentials. But should they?
Some associations are required by law to perform certain background checks and can face lawsuits for not obtaining and acting on information. And yet they may be limited in what they can ask, what they can receive and what they can do with the information. Cooperatives are a different story since owners collectively decide who lives in the building.
If you're wondering whether your association should be conducting background checks on job applicants or prospective tenants, here's the bottom line: It depends.
It depends on local and state laws and regulations, your governing documents, the nature of the job that needs to be filled, the type of housing to be leased, the information you're seeking, how you plan to use the information and much more.
About the only thing more worrisome than conducting a background check is not conducting one, say some legal experts and association leaders. Laws and rules change almost by the day, and gray areas are common. Associations should confer with legal advisors regularly to ensure their practices are effective and current.
"Are they going to be one hundred percent effective? Absolutely not. But you've got to take the step," says Bruce Gran, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, CEO and president of Gran Community Association Consulting Group in Scottsdale, Ariz. "It's your community. You've got to protect it."
Many mid- to large-sized associations use reputable background screening firms. But some small, self-managed associations either don't screen job applicants or tenants, or they attempt to do it themselves online. This type of investigation can yield incomplete, inaccurate or difficult-to-interpret data, in part because court and other records discovered online can be outdated, include confusing terms or be taken out of context.
"I always recommend outsourcing it to a professional. They do it better. They know the best practices and the legalities," says Gran.
In addition to prospective employee and tenant screening, some associations conduct criminal background checks on board candidates. In fact, a Florida law bars most persons convicted of a felony from serving on a condominium board.
However, associations need to rely on the honor system when it comes to board members, according to Donna DiMaggio Berger, a shareholder with the law firm Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and a member of CAI's College of Community Association Lawyers. "There's no mechanism in Florida statutes for the association to compel prospective board members to submit to criminal history searches to verify whether they are eligible to serve."
Wishing you health and happiness this holiday season and a prosperous new year!
By Mike Ramsey
From the gatehouse to the pool house and everywhere in between, associations are keeping an eye on their assets. Residents are increasingly interested in camera systems too. How do you manage privacy, security and liability?
Don't even think about jumping on the front gate that encloses the condominiums of Franklin Villa, like some troublemakers did several years back. They somehow bent it into an L-shape.
"Apparently if you get enough manpower, you can do it—because they did," says Lisa Lindsay, CMCA, AMS, who manages 236 condominium units and another 136 townhomes at two community associations in Sacramento, Calif.
In 2009, Franklin Villa deployed cameras. Board members authorized the first wave of electronic surveillance—dozens of Internet-accessible cameras and several digital video recorders (DVRs)—across the two neighborhoods at an initial cost of about $17,000.
Now, if vandalism occurs, there's a good chance Lindsay will be able to track down the person responsible and present him or her with a repair bill. Video also is shared with local police on occasion. The cameras, meanwhile, protect staff and vendors from unfounded accusations, Lindsay says.
"We don't have enough cameras to see everything and solve everything, but we've enjoyed success with what we do have," she says. "People know we're not sitting there watching them like Big Brother. But when we have a crime or if they need to find out if somebody was bothering their stuff, they know where to come."
The number of electronic eyes is growing. Amid ongoing concerns about crime, more community associations are opting to install video cameras, according to industry professionals and board members.
"We're not far from Atlantic City. The situation's getting tough around here right now," says Harold Hannum, president of a 500-home community association in New Jersey. "You like to be proactive."
His board at Society Hill of Galloway II authorized spending more than $400,000 for a 300-camera network that is designed to cover every public angle of the 28-acre townhome and condominium development. DVRs will be able to store a month's worth of footage for each camera in the event of a crime or other type of incident, such as a "slip-and-fall" injury claim, says Society Hill community manager Kim Salayi.
It's not just associations embracing the surveillance trend. Owners of detached, single-family homes have been adding cameras to their properties. Even owners of condominium units and townhomes are seeking to place lenses on common exteriors, such as halls or doorways—the sort of request that would have been rejected outright just a few years ago.
"You've got some boards that are going to say no and continue to say no, and they can do that for now. But I foresee increasing pressure building on this issue because it's so easy to install these things," says lawyer Adrian Adams of Adams Kessler in California.
Superior Association Management, Partner Sheri Scarborough
who is also President of the West Boca Community Council
has played an integral role in bringing the Yellow Dot program
- Happy Thanksgiving from Superior Association Management
- Congratulations to Beth on passing the CAM Exam - Our Newest PM
- Congratulations to Scott - Another property manager on the team!
Choosing The Right Management Company
Question: Our community has been with the same management company for the past 10 years and we believe it is time for a change. What is the best process in finding a new management company? What differentiates one company from the next?
Answer: Selecting the right professional association management company is one of the most critical decisions your Board of Directors will make.
While there are numerous management companies to choose from, and many appear to offer the same types of services and hold similar credentials, there are a few key factors that differentiate a superior company.
A key component to look for in a company is their reputation and culture. When selecting a management company, do your due diligence by contacting other associations who are managed by them. Hearing a true testimonial from a board member speaks volumes.
Internet research and social media sites, such as customer lobby and Facebook, are other valuable tools that are far more fluid, updated regularly, and less filtered, providing another valuable perspective.
It’s important to see how the company engages with its clients. Many times you can see this through the companies ability to keep fresh content on their website as well as updates to their social media sites.
By combining less traditional vetting methods outlined above with the typical request for proposal and company marketing information, your board can rest assured that your association performed proper due diligence to ensure a well-informed selection is made.
Save Your Association Time & Money
As we approach the end of the year, condominium and homeowners associations throughout Florida are preparing to send out annual meeting notices to members of their communities. For most of these associations, this will mean printing out and mailing hard copies of each notice, agenda, proxy, proposed amendment, and any other item being sent to the general membership. On a small scale, this might not seem like a great expense, but what if you multiply the costs of paper, ink, postage, and personnel time for a 10-page packet by 100 members? 1000 condominium Units? 5,000 Lots? Suddenly, this annual common expense has grown into a significant cost for the association, and it is one that may be unnecessarily high.
Fortunately, your association may be able to reduce these costs by amending its Bylaws to allow for notices to be sent by e-mail. Both Chapter 718 (governing condominiums) and Chapter 720 (governing HOAs) of the Florida Statutes provide that an association may send certain notices and communications to members via e-mail, so long as the authority to do so is provided in the association’s Bylaws, and the association receives written consent from each member. By doing so, an association can streamline the process of sending notices to its members, reduce the cost of printing and mailing packets, and provide communications to members in a manner that most people now prefer.
If your association is successful in amending its Bylaws to establish this authority, care must be given to draft a consent form that conclusively establishes an owner’s consent to be given electronic notice at a specific e-mail address, and for all purposes permitted by law, unless and until the association is provided with a written revocation of such consent. The Board must also be vigilant in maintaining an accurate and up-to-date file of signed consent forms.
Associations should also be aware that the ability to provide e-mail notice is not unlimited. Not only is written consent required from each member (which can be revoked at any time), there are certain types of notice that still must be sent by mail according to law (e.g., notices of hearing on proposed fines or suspension of use rights, notices of intent to lien, etc.). Any email that is voluntarily provided by a member must also be included as part of the association’s official records, as well. For these reasons, before instituting an e-mail notice policy, make sure your association and its Board of Directors are fully aware of any related issues, and the procedures that must be followed to amend the governing documents.
Voting Certificate Blunders
It is not uncommon for owners to not read the annual meeting packets that condominiums mail in advance of the meeting. The first annual meeting notice is sent 60 days before the scheduled meeting. The second annual meeting notice is sent at least 14 days prior to the annual meeting.
It is important to read the entire packet because it contains important information regarding the meeting itself, the procedure that must be followed to submit your name to be a candidate to run for the board, the deadline to submit your name to be a candidate and usually a voting certificate to be completed by the unit owners.
The number one issue I see time and time again involves owners failing to deliver a voting certificate to the association in advance of the annual meeting (or any meeting of the members) or if it is delivered to the association, it may not be completed properly
What is a voting certificate? A voting certificate is a document used to designate one of several owners of a unit who will have the right to vote for the unit.
What Are Our Attitudes towards Renters and Investors When They Enter Our Community?
After the housing market collapsed in 2008, most people steered clear of purchasing homes because of the ominous nature of the environment. Homes that were once appreciating month over month were falling in a downward spiral with no end in sight. Many, including me, wondered when this market would stabilize? Many, including me, looked up at the Gods and asked mercifully, “Why did I purchase my home when I did?”
Now fast forward to 2014 and most of us wish we had the cash and the nerve to buy these severely discounted properties. Those who bought at the right time have probably seen their properties appreciate between 50%-100%. Many of these investors are simply renting out their purchased homes receiving 10-20% ROI.
Clearly in this case, Warren Buffett’s famous quote, “Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful,” is echoing loudly.
There is no doubt that the investors are happy with their purchases, but what about the communities where more and more homes have become rental properties? Moreover, how do the residents feel about having renters as their neighbors?
As one might expect, many homeowners are not jumping for joy when they realize their neighboring property has become a rental. I believe their sentiment has two components to it: a perception of a renter and a perception of an investor.
First, let’s start with the investor. The investor is typically viewed as a calculating individual who only cares about the bottom line. Any changes to the home are done out of necessity and not out of love for the home. Second is the perception of the renter. For homeowners in a community, when they think of a renter, they think of an individual who is transient and does not have a vested interest in the property. Surely thinking of a renter and investor in this manner would make anyone paranoid for their community’s overall well-being.
I would add that this paranoid perception of investors and renters entering into a community does not stop with the homeowner. Many HOAs have recently gone to their by-laws and have made some significant modifications to dissuade investors from buying properties within their communities. Modifications include 1) prohibiting homeowners to rent their property within 12 months of purchase and 2) prohibiting homeowners to rent their property for more than 6 months out of the year. Remember, that changes to by-laws such as these must include a majority vote by the homeowners within the community, so there is a clear message being conveyed: “Stay away renters and investors, stay far away.”
I’m not quite sure this response to investors and renters is entirely appropriate. I say this and think back in 2008 when homes were being foreclosed and abandoned, making some communities looked like a ghost town in need of an exorcism. Despite these conditions, investors saw an opportunity to purchase and renovate less-than desirable properties so that renters can have a place to live. During this time, these folks were welcomed in open arms because homeowners knew that in order to stabilize their depreciating home’s value, investors needed to invest and renters needed to rent.
So if you’re a homeowner and see an investor looking to buy a property in your community or a renter looking to rent a home next door to you, please think twice before modifying your by-laws to kick them out, for these may be the very same folks who help your community should there be another economic crisis.
CAI Survey: Managers and Boards are Optimistic
The national economy and housing market are improving—however slowly—and that means things are looking up for most associations, which is welcome relief to many communities that weathered some difficult years.
While some associations continue to feel the pinch, almost 90% of community managers and board members say their association’s overall financial health is "excellent" or "good," with 10% saying "fair" and only about 2% indicating "poor" financial health.
The results are based on responses from almost 1,000 community managers and association board members who completed CAI's 2014 State of Community Associations Survey.*
Looking ahead, almost 55% of managers and board members see their association’s financial condition being “much” or "slightly" better in the next five years, while about 42% expect little change. Less than 4% anticipate a turn for the worse in the next five years.
"Like the country as a whole, many associations experienced especially difficult challenges during the downturn," says CAI Chief Executive Officer Thomas Skiba,CAE. "This survey affirms that most associations are better off today, and it’s reassuring to know that most managers and board members express optimism about the next few years. Nobody can predict the future with certainty, but that’s a very positive economic indicator for associations and the professionals who support them."
L'shanah Tovah From Superior Association Management
Benefits of Association Loans
The Superior Association Management team would like to take this time to wish those of you who celebrate the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah a Happy and Healthy New Year.
We hope you have a year filled with health and happiness for you and your family.
Happy Labor Day 2014
It is an exciting time for associations. As the economy is recovering, foreclosures are declining, units are being sold and accounts receivables are being collected, it is now time for association boards to focus their energy and efforts on the maintenance of the common area elements.
I was an association manager during those difficult times when boards had to halt their repairs and replacements due to cash flow. Boards needed to focus on protecting their lien rights, improving cash flow and managing frustrations of their owners. It took education and collaboration between managers and boards to protect the assets of owners.
Although, my personal focus has moved from managing associations to providing funding opportunities to associations, the need for education and collaboration still remain. It is important that associations consider having emergency lines of credit in place as well as structuring loans that don't adversely affect their owners' personal finances while restoring the common area elements.
Outlined below are some standard terms, features and benefits of association loans.
Types of Loans
- Line of credit
- Term loan
- Insurance premium financing
Reasons for a Loan
- Concrete restoration
- Major improvements
- AC repayment
- Elevator renovations/repair
- Window and door replacement
- For special assessment financing, the term of the loan usually is matched to the term of the collection of the special assessment.
- Payments are monthly or quarterly, and generally, do notexceed a 5-year period.
- During construction and large repair projects, interest-only payments may be permitted until the project is completed, followed by regular installment payments to reduce the principal.
- A line of credit or a draw loan also may be used whereby the client pays interest only on the funds drawn out.
- Simple interest installment loans also are made to financehazard and flood insurance premiums.
- Interest rates vary depending on several factors, including:o Dollar amount of the loan
- Repayment term
- Financial status of the association
- Amount of deposits at the bank
- The back should require an assignment of the accountsreceivable of the community association.
- Typical receivables consist of special assessments and monthly maintenance fees.
- The bank also may lend money based solely on the association’soperating budget.
Underwriting the Loan
Many factors are reviewed before approving an association’s loan request:
- Financial condition of the association
- Operating budget
- Balance sheet and income statement
- Reserve accounts
- Delinquency rate
- Community documents
- Board minutes regarding the loan process are reviewed to ensure all legal conditions are met
- Number of rentals - Unit value, age of the complex and management stability
Not all banks cater to community associations. It is important to find a bank that specializes in the needs of community associations and has experience meeting their financial goals. Banks vary on loan terms such as interest rates, repayment terms and closing costs. Working with an experienced bank loan officer will ease the loan process and benefit your associations.
For more information, please call:
Jayme Gelfand / Relationship Manager
BB&T Association Services
Condo & HOA Budgeting
Let’s face it……the subject of Condo and HOA budgeting doesn’t quite match up with the excitement of the Kardashian’s or the recent “Ice Bucket Challenge” craze that has drawn the attention of our nation!
THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT IT’S NOT IMPORTANT!
Remember, a good budget that is proposed with due care and professionalism should be a springboard for a successful financial year for an Association.
Conversely, one that is done with a “shoot from the hip” or “let’s just leave everything the same as last year” attitude may create a situation that is doomed for failure.
Things to consider
Without boring you with too many statutory citations, let’s try to take a practical approach.
Each line item should be addressed on an individual basis. Remember, past performance is no indication of future results. However, the following tips are a good guideline for how to conduct the process from start to finish.
1. Set a time table. Make sure the process starts at least 3 months in advance of the year end.
2. Review Association documents relating to the budgeting provisions.
3. Forecast the numbers for the remaining of the current year. Watch for seasonal fluctuations up front or back-end projects like tree trimming or window cleaning, which is accounting that may only be done once a year. Use the general ledger details as a guide.
4. Make sure you are aware of the 115 percent rule 718.112. Reserves are not a factor in the 115 percent rule along with non-recurring expenses. No 115 percent rule exists for HOA’s.
5. Contact your utilities to inquire about any anticipated increases.
6. Make sure to budget bad debt for those units not paying maintenance fees. You may want to budget the entire maintenance fees for those units as a bad debt if they are long outstanding.
7. Contact your insurance carrier to determine and possibly increase your policies.
8. Make sure you disclose the beginning and ending dates on the budget.
9. Include reserve information. This should include the useful life, remaining life, replacement cost and the required funding per the Florida Statutes for condos. For HOA’s, the rules differ and are based on whether the Developer established the reserves or a majority of the owners established them. If neither case applies, then the reserves are non-statutory and basically unrestricted. If they are considered statutory, the same rules apply as those of the condos.
10. Hand deliver or mail a copy to unit owners pursuant to the Association documents.
11. Hold a unit owner meeting to adopt the budget which is done by the Board of Directors. If the Board does not want to fund the reserves 100 percent, but chooses to waive or partially fund them, the unit owners must vote to do this at the meeting. This applies to all condos and those HOA’s that have statutory reserves (see #9).
Naturally, there is way more to this, but we have tried to give you some basic guidelines to help establish a consistent, easy to follow process.
Contact us if you need to discuss anything in this article.
Robert N. Rosen, C.P.A.
President & Managing Partner
Gerstle, Rosen & Goldenberg, P.A.
During extreme weather events, mobile devices can be essential tools for keeping in touch with family and monitoring response and recovery efforts. Before a severe storm hits, make sure your mobile device is prepared.
Start a texting tree
When communication channels are disrupted, texting may be the only available way to stay connected. Create a network of contacts on your smartphone so you can quickly reach out to others in your community.
Set up Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
WEA are emergency text messages sent through your wireless carrier by government authorities, including local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Weather Service. The alerts can help you stay informed when you may not have access to television or radio and can help keep you safe during a crisis. Messages include extreme weather warnings, local emergencies requiring evacuation or immediate action, AMBER Alerts and presidential alerts during a national emergency. For information about which mobile devices are WEA-capable and carrier participation, visit www.ctia.org/wea or contact your wireless carrier.
Use mobile banking and insurance apps
Banking and insurance apps allow you to move money, pay bills, deposit checks and file claims from your smartphone.
Prepare for power outages
If you have advanced warning of a severe weather event, make sure to fully charge your phone. Keep a car phone charger and spare battery on hand as well; if power is out for an extended period, your car can serve as a valuable energy source.
CHANGES IN THE LAW IMPACTING COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION MANAGERS
The 2014 Florida legislative session concluded last month with a number of new laws affecting community associations, including community association managers. One of the most highly discussed changes relates to Chapter 468, Fla. Stat., governing the types of activities that a community association manager or community association management firm may perform as part of its normal duties. Previous to the 2014 session, Section 468.431(2), Fla. Stat., provided that community association managers and management firms were empowered to control or disburse funds of a community association, prepare budgets or other financial documents for a community association, assist in the noticing or conducting of community association meetings, and coordinate maintenance for a residential development.
As of July 1, 2014, if approved by the Governor (currently, the bill has been presented to the Governor and is awaiting his signature. If not vetoed, it will become law effective July 1, 2014), in addition to the above items, community association managers and management firms will also be empowered to perform the following tasks:
- Determining the number of days required for statutory notices
- Determining amounts due to the association
- Collecting amounts due to the Association before the filing of a civil action Calculating the votes required for a quorum or to approve a proposition or amendment
- Completing forms relating to the management of a community association that has been created by statute or by a state agency
- Drafting meeting notices and agendas
- Calculating and preparing certificates of assessment and estoppel certificates
- Responding to requests for certificates of assessment and estoppel certificates
- Negotiating monetary or performance terms of a contract subject to approval by the association
- Drafting pre-arbitration demands
- Coordinating or performing maintenance for real or personal property and other related routine services involved in the operation of a community association
The new law also provides specific statutory forms that a manager or an association may use in order to record a claim of lien, release of lien, and a form demand letter for the payment of delinquent assessments. The statutory forms have been incorporated into the statutes governing condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners associations (Chapters 718, 719 and 720, Fla. Stat., respectively).
However, it remains important for associations, managers and management firms to consult with legal counsel in determining what functions may properly be performed by a manager or management firm, and to determine whether or not and when a specific statutory form may be used.
Lou Caplan - Sachs, Sax, Caplan