All posts by sperling

What Is Condo Common Area Etiquette? 

Does your condo association have common areas and amenities such as a pool, fitness room, game room, tennis courts, or an entertaining room? These are great “extra” areas that can be a positive aspect of living in an association. These amenities, while a bonus of living in an association, also come with certain etiquette rules. 

It probably goes without saying that there is a level of decorum that is expected in these areas. Does everyone who uses these amenities follow the same rules? Are they posted or just listed in the bylaws of the HOA? Let’s take a look at the common etiquette rules that apply when living in an association. 

Common areas exist as a perk of living in an association. In order to keep the community working harmoniously, it is probably a good idea to follow some common rules. 

The Pool Area

While this amenity is probably only open seasonally (unless you are lucky enough to have an indoor pool) the idea is that all association members need to share the pool deck and be aware of others while they are enjoying a dip. That means that everyone should clean up after themselves including things like: food wrappers, beverage containers, and towels that are brought to the area.

If you enjoy swimming laps, try to choose a time that allows for the least disruption. Conversely, if you have a gaggle of children with you, try to accommodate those who do not, and are trying to enjoy a moment of peace by the pool. In addition, always follow the pool rules including no running, diving, or use of glass containers. 

Fitness Areas

What a great bonus to community living! Going to the gym can be such a hassle… unless you have one right on the premises. To maintain this amenity for all community members, it is a good idea to be courteous to your fellow association members. Always wipe down your machines for cleanliness, be aware of how much time you are spending on each machine, and keep the noise to a minimum. Just like with the pool, take care of any trash or towels you have brought in with you. 

Entertaining Areas

This particular amenity usually has specific rules. Some communities have an entertaining room or club house that is available to “sign out” for special events or parties. Be sure to carefully inspect the regulations regarding using this area. Some associations allow to decorating, liquor consumption, and catering to happen in the area, but be sure to find out the requirements regarding hours you can spend there, as well as what needs to be done upon completion of your special event such as kitchen clean up, putting furniture back in the proper spots, and shutting off the lights. 

Looking for more condo etiquette rules? Check out Emily Post’s Advice Column of “Neighborly Manners” for more ideas.

be quiet

What Are Common Noise Ordinances In An Association? 

The duties of a Homeowners Association are commonly wide-ranging and include decisions on when to make repairs, improvements, and additions. Associations also establish rules and regulations to control aesthetics and unwelcome behavior. Among the common rules and regulations are noise ordinances that help keep association members from annoying neighbors with loud footsteps, barking dogs, or music. 

A noise complaint is often referred to as a “nuisance complaint.” That type of complaint is usually an activity that unreasonably interferes with the use or quiet enjoyment of another resident of their separate unit or exclusive use common areas. 

loud noiseWhat Causes Noise Complaints? 

The most common complaint in relation to noise is usually caused by hard surface flooring. When surfaces such as wood, tile, or stone are used, it can amplify noises related to walking, moving furniture, exercise regimens, and play activities. If your association is one that has units stacked on top of each other, this could be a major problem. Most associations have moved to using carpeted flooring to buffer noises from neighboring units.

Another frequent cause of noise complaints to an HOA board are the sounds that come from a parking lot. Cars, motorcycles, and trucks can be noisy. No one wants to be woken by the sound of a revving motor or screeching brakes. 

Then there are also noise complaints that center around general living noises such as: barking dogs, noisy televisions, and parties. These nuisance events could occur regularly or could be “one-offs.”

give feedback What Can You Do About A Noise Complaint? 

Unfortunately, noise is something that is somewhat difficult to define, and even harder to prove. Often, if a complaint is made to an HOA that involves only one neighbor, the situation could be a neighbor-to-neighbor conflict. If numerous complaints are filed with the HOA about recurring noises, then the board can usually act. 

The first action an association member should take is to ask the person creating the noise about the situation in a calm and rational manner. It is highly possibly the person may not be aware that the noise is disturbing other association members. 

If an association member doesn’t feel comfortable doing this s/he should then ask the board for clarification about the noise ordinances. Often the board will put out a reminder about loud cars, parties, and common area noise to the entire association before taking action against a particular unit.

If the noise issue does not get resolved, the board and the association members may request mediation. Here is where things get tricky. Does the noise ordinance proclamation supercede the local or municipal ordinances regarding noise? Each area is different, so you will need to check with your board to see how it works in your area. 

Check out the common noise ordinances in your area and let us know how noise complaints are handled in your associations. Leave us a comment below or check us out on our social media

 

Guide to Good Communication in an Association 

Good communication is key to a happy and peaceful community. If you live in a community where the rules and bylaws are well understood by association members and questions are quickly and clearly answered, then you probably live in a community that values good communication. 

For some people living in a condo community means getting involved as a part of the association, while for others it means not having the responsibilities of ownership like a typical home does. No matter what your reasoning for living in a community, there are some aspects that make it more pleasant than living in a single or multiple family home, or even in an apartment complex. 

How Good Communication Can Help a Community

Effective communication can assist when life events cause a change in schedule or knowledge is needed about a policy. For example, every winter trash day tends to get pushed off by a day due to snow storms. A quick email or note to association members can help clear up any confusion when Mother Nature has thrown a snag in the typical garbage collection routine. These “immediately needed” communications are common several times a year when situations arise that call for all community members to be kept informed of a change or some sort. 

Then there are communications that are meant to update the entire community on events or association news for the coming months. For example, updates are usually needed on a regular basis regarding capital improvements or bylaws that have been amended. Not all association members usually attend the board meetings so communication is needed to keep everyone in the community up-to-date on news. 

Communication Methods 

In the last decade there has been much discussion in the HOA circles about what is the best way to communicate with association members. Disseminating information for the management team or Board of Directors to the community members can be done in several ways either using “high” tech methods or going “low” tech. 

Using multiple methods to communicate with association members is a good idea. Some communities use a three-pronged approach. Three of the main methods include: letters placed in mailboxes or at doors, email, and text messaging.

Each of these methods could be used for different purposes. For instance, text messaging is a good method when you need an immediate response such as cars that need to be moved for snow plowing. In other circumstances, such as updates on board meetings, email or letters could be sent to keep everyone informed. 

Some of the most common reasons for communications include: 

  • Sending an information booklet or pamphlet to potential buyers regarding dues and rules of the association. 
  • Announcements of Board Meetings dates and times
  • Recap of the minutes of Board Meetings 
  • An explanation of assessments and budget plan for the next year 
  • Report on upcoming events or activities 
  • Reminders of hours of amenities 
  • Reminders of Rules at the start of each season (especially when amenities such as the pool or tennis courts open.)
  • Monthly or seasonal newsletters
  • Organization of community parties 
  • Details about construction, plowing, or landscaping that needs immediate attention 

For more ideas of ways and topics for communication within your community, check out this article on Effective Communication in Associations.  In addition, follow our blogs on our site or contact Thayer Associates on our contact page or call us at (617) 354-6480

 

The Responsibilities of HOA Board Members 

Many people love living in associations because they get the full benefits of using amenities such as swimming pools, fitness rooms, tennis courts, and entertainment areas without the responsibility of the upkeep. Homeowner associations can not function, however, without the dedication of a group that keeps everything running smoothly known as the HOA Board of Directors or Board Members. 

In order for communities that are governed by HOAs to thrive and maintain a well manicured and secure area, the board members must take on certain tasks. If you are considering running for your community’s board you will want some guidelines of what the responsibilities are and what open positions are available. Let’s take a look at both of these aspects of HOA Executive Boards. 

What Is an HOA Board of Directors?

Almost all community developments have an HOA board of directors. Commonly the board of directors is an elected position by the other members of your community. The members bear the responsibility to operate, repair, replace, and maintain the development’s common areas, such as parks and clubhouses, owned in common by all the development’s home owners. 

Typically the Boards of Directors are non-profit entities that operate only within the confines of a community. 

Positions on an Association Board 

The number of board members usually varies from about three to seven. The bylaws of each association may determine the actual number so be sure to read your governing documents before you consider taking an active role. 

The positions are similar to any corporate business, and is usually run as such with Roberts Rules of Order, motions, and laws governing the running of meetings and communicating with other association members as to what has been voted on and passed. 

Usually the leadership positions on a board of directors take the main titles of: 

  • President
  • Vice-President
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • And general board members

The Role of a Homeowners’ Association Board of Directors

There are three general responsibilities of association boards. These include maintaining common areas, managing budgets/fiscal responsibilities, and enforcing/complying with governing documents. Within each of these categories are many tasks. 

For example, managing the budgets could include handling the money paid monthly as association dues to complete general maintenance like snow plowing or landscaping. But it also includes budgeting and planning for capital improvements like installing fencing, a new pool deck, or roofing replacements. 

You will notice that maintaining the common areas could include: hallways, entryways or even the amenities such as the pool, fitness center, tennis courts, or any entertaining areas that are open to all association members. This includes making sure that the rules for these areas are followed and that any complaints are dealt with in a timely and respectful manner. 

Are you considering running for election to your association board? Follow our blogs on our site or contact Thayer Associates on our contact page or call us at (617) 354-6480

 

What Are Nuisance Behaviors in an HOA? 

Most homeowners love living in a community. They enjoy the freedom from having to care for the outside of their home or landscaping, access to amenities like a fitness room or pool, and they mostly appreciate having good neighbors with whom to socialize. Unfortunately, there are times when even a good neighbor can get on everyone’s nerves with nuisance behaviors. 

How Do You Define a Nuisance Behavior? 

Nuisance complaints are a major cause of legal action in HOAs, both by and against homeowners. Typically nuisance behaviors include: an activity that unreasonably interferes with the use or quiet enjoyment of another resident, a behavior that is hazardous, noxious or offensive, or one that is a violation of a local, state, or federal law.

Sometimes these rules are just common sense, like don’t ride a skateboard in your unit hallway at 2 in the morning thus waking everyone in the building. Other rules, however, should be clearly spelled out so that each unit owner is aware of expected behaviors. This is extremely important when living in a community where neighbors units abut each other. 

Common Nuisance Behaviors 

Every community is different, but some of the most common complaints address: noise, smoking in restricted areas, pet issues, bad behaviors of children or homeowners, and disputes about home businesses. 

Noise Complaints

When units are arranged so that neighbors are living on top of each other, there are often problems with noises from above whether it is a loud neighbor, or one who’s lifestyle has them awake or asleep at opposing hours to the other residents. Noise becomes a contentious issue that can often be solved between neighbors in a respectful way. 

Noise complaints often come from common areas where groups may not be aware of how loud they are or how voices can carry. Usually a friendly reminder can solve the problem. 

Smoking Complaints 

The hazards of being exposed to secondhand smoke and the foul odor associated with this behavior can be enough to cause a serious issue between neighbors in an HOA. This is why it is extremely important for governing boards to clearly spell out where smoking is prohibited. Common areas where all homeowners can congregate should be marked as non-smoking so all community members can enjoy the space. If a homeowner is reported as violating this rule, s/he may face fines or legal action. 

Bad Behaviors 

Children and adults alike should be made aware that their behavior impacts others, especially in a close knit community. If homeowners are unable to follow the common rules of being quiet in the hallways and common areas, or showing courtesy in the amenity areas, then some HOA boards reserve the right to revoke use of the common areas and amenities. Consult your condo documents to see what level of noise and behaviors may be considered inappropriate. 

Pet Behaviors 

No one wants to hear a dog barking at all hours of the day or night. Typically an HOA has pet ordinances that encourage homeowners to keep their pets on a leash, dispose of pest waste, and notify homeowners on where in the community dogs are allowed. Some communities that do allow dogs have restrictions on the type, breed, and size of the pets. Be sure to consult the rules in order to keep your pet from violating nuisance behaviors.

Do you have nuisance behavior issues in your community? How was it handled? Were you satisfied with the results? Questions or comments? Contact Thayer Associates on our contact page or call us at (617) 354-6480

 

 

Parking Issues in an HOA 

What’s one real hot button issue in homeowners associations? Remarkably, a truly contentious topic tends to be the application of the rules and regulations dealing with parking and parking spaces within the community. It may seem like a minor problem to some, but to many unit owners it can become a hassle that can cause tension within the community, and between neighbors. 

What Are Typical HOA Parking Rules? 

Most homeowners associations clearly spell out the rules and regulations for parking, but if they don’t, the executive board may need to tighten up the language in the governing documents. 

Common parking rules include a list of where parking is not allowed. Those areas could include: handicapped spaces without a permit, loading zones, guest-only parking, or fire hydrant access areas. They are ordinarily marked with signage to indicate the violation area.

Governing documents also typically regulate what types of vehicles can use the parking areas. For instance, some HOA prohibit commercial vehicles or oversized personal vehicles such as: work trucks, RV’s, junk vehicles, trailers, campers, and boats. The basic premise of this rule is to maintain the high standard of appearance of the community. 

Another concept that the HOA governing documents may mention in regards to parking is the problem with abandoned vehicles. Some HOA communities prohibit owners from parking in a particular spot for longer than a specified amount of time which could be 24 hours or something similar.  Often the basis for this is to ensure that HOA members are not parking abandoned vehicles on the property for an extended period of time.

As you can see, most HOAs have rules in place to regulate: what types of vehicles are allowed (commercial, recreational, etc.), where members may park, and how long a vehicle may be parked in one spot. Enforcing these rules then becomes the problem of the governing board of the HOA. 

Enforcement of Parking Rules 

Within the private roads and parking lots of a community, an HOA board can issue warnings, serve tickets, and in some cases tow an offending car. Not all HOA boards will be as strict as towing or involve serving tickets to their community members, but all too often, they will need to remind owners of the rules and the consequences of not following said rules. 

Do you have a parking issue in your community? How was it handled? Were you satisfied with the results? Questions or comments? Contact Thayer Associates on our contact page or call us at (617) 354-6480

 

Handling a Hoarding Situation

According to the Mayo Clinic Hoarding Disorder Department, hoarding is a disorder characterized by persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. Understanding the emotional, physical, social, and financial impacts of this disorder is one thing. For property managers and HOA boards, this disorder takes on legal implications as well. Let’s take a closer look at what hoarding is and how living communities deal with it. 

What is Hoarding? 

The hallmark of hoarding is the collection of items such as newspapers, magazines, sale items, mail, photographs, keepsakes, food, clothing and, in some cases, animals. As with any illness, hoarding can range from mild to severe. Most people with a hoarding disorder may not see it as a problem, which makes treatment a challenge. 

Some of the symptoms that distinguish this disorder include: 

  • Excessively acquiring items that are not needed or for which there’s no space.
  • Persistent difficulty throwing out or parting with your things, regardless of actual value.
  • Feeling a need to save these items, and being upset by the thought of discarding them.
  • Building up of clutter to the point where rooms become unusable.
  • Having a tendency toward indecisiveness, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, and problems with planning and organizing.

When the Problem Occurs in a Community

Scientific American estimates that between 5-14 million American adults currently struggle with compulsive hoarding disorder. For most of these people, the struggle plays out in the privacy of their own homes. In those situations, family and friends deal with the hoarding mess. 

For those hoarders who find themselves living in an association such as a condo or apartment complex, the issue becomes apparent to neighbors who may take issue with the problem. One of the first things a homeowners association will do when facing a hoarding complaint will be to determine if the situation is indeed impacting the health and/or safety of unit owners around them. 

Determining if a unit owner is merely cluttered or indeed a hoarder, can be difficult. Property managers and HOA boards often look at the following questions to determine the difference. For example, does the hoarding collection block emergency exits or doorways? Does the hoarding interfere with ventilation or sprinkler systems? Is the hoarding attracting pests through improper food storage? Is the situation creating a hazard for other residents? If the answer to any of these is yes, then the board and/or property managers will need to take action to ensure the health and safety of all who live in the community. 

In most states, the landlord and/or HOA has a responsibility to provide a habitable and safe dwelling. This duty is often referred to as the “warranty of habitability” and is implied in nearly every standard HOA governing documents. In exchange, most states require tenants to keep their units “clean and sanitary.” 

If there is a hoarding situation in your community, you will want to inform the HOA board of your concerns so they can take up the issue with the individual unit owner and determine if legal action needs to be taken. 

Does someone in your HOA have a hoarding situation? How does the board handle it? Contact Thayer Associates on our contact page or call us at (617) 354-6480

 

Advantages of Association Living 

How would you like all the advantages of being a homeowner without having to deal with lawn upkeep  and the maintenance of the building and utilities? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, living in a homeowners association can provide such a life! 

If you are house hunting and condominium living is on your list of possibilities, you will want to examine the advantages that could be a part of your HOA. Many first time buyers, as well as empty-nesters, choose this type of community because the benefits are amazing. Here are a few things to weigh when deciding on purchasing a unit in an association. 

Upkeep and Maintenance

As mentioned above, many people who are ready to take the plunge into the housing market are too busy with work and family life to worry about the constant work, maintenance, and upkeep that is needed with homeownership. 

While HOA’s do require a monthly fee, most HOAs use that money to invest in top-notch maintenance of all the amenities and ensure your property stays in shape from the landscaping to the pool/gym areas. Imagine all the free time you will have on weekends and evenings to do what you want without the worry of outside maintenance, utility problems, and/or amenity access. 

Often, association living allows for a nicer neighborhood with lawn care, gardening, and well-kept parking lots and walkways. This aspect alone can mean a huge benefit for this type of living. 

Amenities 

When considering purchasing a home vs. a condo, think about the extras that can make your living experience easier and, realistically speaking, happier. Most people can’t afford a pool, fitness center, clubhouse, tennis courts, BBQ/picnic areas, or walking trails on their own. As a part of a community, these amenities are usually a part of your dues. What a great asset to a community! 

Social Life 

For many people, their friends are usually located near their homes. For the lucky ones, community living allows for interactions and friendships that they would not normally be able to cultivate. From community BBQs to meeting people at the pool or fitness center, HOAs can help friendships blossom. 

Mediators for Disputes 

On the other side of the coin are neighbors who have disputes. Any time there is an issue with a dog barking too much, loud parties, or parking issues, an HOA can address the situation in a non-threatening manner. HOAs are great mediators for disputes. 

Take these aspects of community living into account when you are deciding on your next home. 

 

The Hatfields and the McCoys: Diplomacy is Best in a Time of Conflict

The names Hatfield and McCoy are synonymous with feuding clans that dates back to the time of the Civil War. It was believed that the McCoys were Unionists and the Hatfields were Confederates with obvious opposing views. These American Appalachian mountaineer families carried on a legendary feud that has made its place history so much so that whenever there is a conflict, even in today’s society, the names are still mentioned. 

What Should I do If I am Involved in a Conflict? 

Solving conflicts may not be the easiest situation to deal with but there are usually guidelines that your homeowners association (HOA) can follow in order to resolve the conflict before it becomes a Hatfield vs. McCoy situation. 

After an event or dispute, the first thing that happens when one of the parties involved wants a conflict resolution is that one person must initiate the dispute resolution process to get the ball rolling. The process is probably laid out in the governing documents under what to do if you have a complaint or want to resolve a dispute. A written request will trigger the process. It is common for a member of the association and any owners involved in a dispute to be identified as the parties that will be actively participating in dispute resolution.

After the written request for a meeting, it is common that both parties come together to voice their concerns and their hopes to find a remedy to the situation. The location of the discussion is usually a quiet, neutral location where issues can be talked about at length and with the governing rules in mind. The ultimate hope is that the two parties will come to an agreement and resolve the issue or issues during the meeting. 

What if a Resolution is Not Found? 

If the meeting does not seem to solve the issue, then usually a third party will be requested to mediate the conflict. The third party must be neutral and able to present a resolution that takes the concerns of both sides into consideration. This resolution will be put into writing at the conclusion of the meeting.

This all sounds plain and simple, doesn’t it? Well, when emotions are involved nothing is so simple. That is why it is so important for HOAs to have a solid and experienced executive board that can come together and mediate these events. If you find that conflicts are not being met head-on in your community, then you may want to suggest a conflict resolution meeting or a mediator to resolve the situation. 

Amending the Governing Documents for your Association 

If you live in a community association, whether it is a condominium, townhome, or apartment complex, you know that you live by certain rules usually determined by the governing documents of your homeowners association (HOA). Some of them may be in regard to financials, while others may help keep the peace and general running of the property with specific rules for unit owners. Every once in a while, those documents will need to be amended. Here is a quick guide on that process. 

What are the Governing Documents? 

If you are new to living in an HOA, you may not be aware that there are three main documents that help your community function. The basic HOA legal documents that may need amending are the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). You should have been given digital access to these or a printed version upon signing your lease/mortgage with the community governing board. If you do not know what these are or can not find these documents, ask a member of your HOA board and they will help get you acclimated to the paperwork. Your property management company should also have an idea where you can gain access to this information. 

Why Amend Governing Documents? 

The reasons for a change or amendment to a governing document can be varied. For example, some communities find that there are inconsistencies in documents that help manage the community. Others find that local, state, or federal statutes or laws have changed that make it necessary that the community makes changes to its governing laws as well. The list for why a document needs to be amended is long, but the process does not need to be equally painful. 

Here are just a few possibilities as suggested by Echo Educational Community for HOA on why amendments sometimes need to occur. 

  • To eliminate obsolete provisions.
  • To eliminate provisions no longer observed or enforced.
  • To eliminate provisions that conflict with current laws.
  • To eliminate provisions required by the Department of Real Estate in a start-up project that are no longer needed.
  • To eliminate developer privileges no longer being used, such as two-class voting or exemption from use restrictions.
  • To improve poorly drafted documents by clarifying ambiguous provisions.
  • To tailor documents to fit the living experience of owners/members.
  • To provide for changes in technology (satellite dishes, home office use, etc.).
  • To make documents more “user-friendly” – better organization, add a table of contents and descriptive paragraph headings, etc.
  • To eliminate or correct mistakes and errors.

How Often Should Amendments Occur? 

Optimally, governing boards of HOAs should try to review the documents every few years but, occasionally, events or issues arise where the documents need to be evaluated in a limited time period. Usually, it is recommended that the community’s attorney amend the documents with input for the board and community members. Someone with knowledge of the community and how it is run would be a best-case scenario. 

Does your HOA need help with updating or amending their governing documents? Visit our website and contact our professionals who can help get you started.