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Use of Common Building Drain Systems

Dear Unit Owners & Residents,

Recently the emergency on-call staff has reported an increase in emergency calls relating to blockages in building main drain systems. Due to the evolving coronavirus preventive protocols, more residents are working from home and regularly using disinfectant wipes and products. Resident cooperation is needed to maintain these common drain systems. Residents should be advised that if a blockage or backup occurs in the building, delays in repair of the drain system are likely.

Here’s how you can help

Three materials can safely be flushed down your toilet: human waste, wastewater, and toilet paper. Other items can clog waste drain lines, causing the system to back up or overflow, and can damage system. Please dispose of such items in the trash. DO NOT flush these items:

  • Diapers
  • Baby or cleaning wipes
  • Paper towels
  • Tissues
  • Rags and towels
  • Cotton swabs
  • Syringes
  • Food or food wrappers
  • Clothing labels
  • Cleaning sponges
  • Kitty litter*
  • Cigarette butt
  • Feminine products
  • Hair
  • Underwear
  • Disposable toilet brushes
  • Rubber items such as latex gloves

* Even if the label reads “flushable,” you are still safer and more environmentally correct to place these items in the trash.

If you have any questions about proper use of the building drain systems, please contact our office at (617) 354-6480. Thank you.

condo

What You Should Know About Condo Life Before You Buy 

If you are in the market for a home in the area, you may have found that single home prices are beyond your grasp at this time. You may have also discovered that buying into a condo association may be your best shot at owning rather than renting. 

A condo community has many financial and lifestyle advantages that you may be able to capitalize on depending upon your situation. Keep in mind, however, that condo living isn’t for everyone. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of living in a community, before you sign on the dotted line. 

condo floorplanThe Advantages to Condo Living

Living in a condo community opens up some advantages to homeownership that aren’t available in other living situations. If you want to own, but you don’t want the hassle of all the maintenance and upkeep that a single home would require, then condo living may be perfect for you. 

Generally, part of your monthly condo fee includes all outside landscaping including mowing, landscaping, and clean up. It also includes seasonal plowing, shoveling, and raking. Think of all the weekend hours you free up by not having to take care of these chores! 

Another perk of living in an association is access to amenities that are offered. These may include a fitness room, pool, tennis courts, walking paths, and entertaining/common rooms. These are areas that you can use for your own enjoyment. 

In addition to these pluses, there is the benefit of a built-in social network in any condo community. This is especially important if your community is designated a senior living community or carries any other designation according to age or interests. 

condo spaceThe Disadvantages 

While we love community living, the concept is not for everyone. You must be willing to live in an area where your neighbors may be fairly close by. This means living with community rules as well as using common sense to be respectful of everyone’s privacy and living situations. 

Some rules may not impact your life but others may greatly affect you. For instance, there may be rules about noise ordinances, pets, parking, and visitors. Be sure to check the bylaws before you decide to buy a condo to make sure the regulations are something you can live with. 

There are also cohabitation issues that you may need to deal with. For instance, if your neighbor works the night shift and expects quiet during the day, you may need to work out some compromises. For most people, these little instances do not deter them from the freedom of living in a condo association. 

Do you love living in your condo? Why? Drop us a line in the comments below or on our Facebook page

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

PREVENTION

Current employee & resident prevention actions are advised as follows:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol based hand sanitizer or soap & water.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is exhibiting symptoms such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
  • If a resident is exhibiting symptoms such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing, please seek medical care from your health care provider early. Share previous travel history with your health care provider and advise the Board of Health of any positive test results. Follow the recommended protocol as directed by the local Board of Health & Centers for Disease Controls & Prevention (CDC).
  • Avoid congregating in common areas.
  • Consider cancelling or postponing gatherings of residents such as community events, Annual Meetings, or Special Meetings of the Unit Owners.
  • Virtual meetings are recommended to conduct regular monthly business meetings of the Association.
  • Increased frequency and scope of cleaning services.
  • Regularly consult the information published by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) regarding COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html

MAINTENANCE & ON SITE STAFF

The Maintenance / On Call Manger will respond to any emergency service calls that are placed during regular business hours or between 5:00pm and 8:30am. We are discouraging our staff from entering apartments or units for any non-emergency or routine maintenance issue until further notice. In the event of an emergency our maintenance and property management staff will adhere to the following protocols:

  • Staff will be equipped with proper gloves and masks and will follow the appropriate protocols as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) including proper hand washing before and after accessing the unit or common space and distancing.
  • Staff will request that any resident exhibiting symptoms contact the local Board of Health to advise on the reporting & testing protocols.

We are in progress updating these protocols and procedures as new information becomes available which includes the recommended reporting protocols. Attached are two documents published by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) regarding prevention of the spread of COVID-19 and the protocol to follow if you are exhibiting symptoms.

This information was provided to our staff and we hope you find this information helpful.

Sincerely,
Thayer & Associates, Inc., AMO®

cars in parking lot

Is Parking a Problem in Your Association? 

How does your condo association handle parking? Does everyone have an assigned space or is it first-come-first-served? What are the rules about commercial vehicles or visitors? 

If you are looking for the most common hot-button issue in any association, look no further than the parking lot. Questions often arise about where parking is prohibited, parking etiquette, abandoned vehicles, and commercial vehicles. 

Before we begin examining these parking lot disputes, it is important to note that each state differs in its laws and restrictions regarding parking, especially when the parking area is within a city’s limits. The Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), or the ruling documents in an association may include restrictions on types of vehicles that may be parked in the community. It is always wise to get to know these rules before buying into any community. It’s also the best document to consult when in the midst of a parking lot dispute. 

What questions, comments, and criticisms are most common when dealing with parking lots? There are quite a few that can become sticky situations. Here are just a few that we have seen over the years. 

parking spot 3 Parking Locations

Depending upon the community, there are different rules that dictate where owners can park their cars. In some communities, owners are assigned specific spots for their cars, and possibly for any visitors, they may have. Other communities have an open lot where owners may park anywhere. And still, others may actually have individual driveways for each unit. So, you can see the regulations would vary greatly. 

Disputes may arise that a neighbor may be parked in the wrong spot or even in the wrong lot. In cases like this, which are fairly commonplace, a reminder can usually solve the problem. For multiple infractions, a board member may need to intervene and remind the community members of the regulations. 

Parking locations can become a bit hairy when bad weather sets in for the winter or when plowing is being done. Parking spots may be numbered but hard to see due to salt or snow coverage. In these cases, a little patience and flexibility can go a long way to dealing with parking issues.

Prohibited Vehicles 

Most associations also have rules about certain types of vehicles that are not permitted. This could include larger vehicles like an RV, trailer, or camper. It could also include commercial vehicles with signage. 

The idea behind regulating what types of vehicles are allowed is really designed to protect the beauty of the neighborhood and maintain a standard appearance for all properties. It is a good idea to consult the governing documents to see if there is an area of the community where these vehicles are permitted if that is your field of business. 

commercial trucksAbandoned Vehicles 

To avoid having vehicles parked for extended amounts of time, many communities have rules about parking in a particular spot for longer than a specified amount of time, which could be 24 hours or something similar. The basis for this rule ensures that there are no abandoned vehicles in a lot. 

Does your community have parking issues? How do you deal with them? Drop a comment below or check out our Facebook page for other common disputes in associations. 

 

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