All posts by sperling

urban condo

The Increasing Rates of Rental Fraud 

As if life is not stressful enough during this global health crisis, now rental fraud numbers seem to be on the rise. The logic of why this is happening is fairly simple. When money is scarce, the prevalence of fraud and identity theft increases. The mere fact that millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to make ends meet is enough to cause this alarming statistic to grow. 

What is Rental Fraud? 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, “Rental fraud occurs when someone claiming to be a property manager or landlord, in certain cases the actual landlord, tries to rent a property that doesn’t exist, isn’t their rental or is substantially different than advertised.” 

Most rental fraud scams happen when a deal is too good to be true. The price and location may seem perfect, but the landlord or rental agency is hard to reach, want you to wire money, or can’t show you the property because of one excuse after another. Always be aware of scammers especially when you are hearing about a rental location from an advertisement, email, or through online connections. 

landscaping condo area

What the Numbers Tell Us 

The Federal Trade Commission, which keeps track of this type of fraud, reports that, “the fraud industry is now costing $1.7 billion annually. And of that, we had a 56% growth rate just within our industry of rental properties.” 

They also estimate that 2020 is going to be a 200% increase over last year. They explain that the biggest challenge, now that the criminals have pivoted to this rental industry, is that they’re here, and they’re coming, and so we’ve got to take more aggressive action against renter ID theft.

walkway

What To Do If You Think It is a Scam 

You can help prevent these types of scams by reporting them to the FTC here. You should also report the scam to your local police so they can take legal steps and warn other consumers of the potential scam. 

We suggest that you do the online form to report the scam. It is quick and easy to file. It can help save someone else from falling victim to these new rental scams. If you know or have reason to believe that the person or company that scammed you is located in a different country, visit econsumer.gov.

To learn more about the types of scams and specifics of the scams check out the Real Page and their online article about “Rental Fraud: On the Rise.” 

outdoor patio

Staying Safe in Common Areas 

Some of the more appealing aspects of living in a rental unit or condo association are the amenity areas including: walking paths, the pool, tennis courts, a fitness room, or entertaining areas. Many associations pride themselves on the well-maintained and impeccably cleaned common areas that are provided to the people living within the community. 

These common areas provide hours of entertainment, exercise, and places to socialize with neighbors and friends. These locations are often areas where community members can share news, celebrate, and enjoy time together. 

Unfortunately, just like in any city or suburb, community members should practice good safety protocols. Let’s review a few so you and the people within your community can stay safe this season. 

swimming poolSwimming Safety 

Swimming is such great exercise and can provide hours of entertainment for family members of all ages. Remember to follow safety guidelines that are clearly displayed in pool and hot tub areas. Avoid swimming alone and keep gates and doors locked so children can not accidentally wander into the pool area. 

Walking Paths

Just like it is not wise to swim alone in case of emergency, walking alone, no matter how safe the walking paths are, is never advised. Try to always walk with a friend and wear clothing that is easily seen, especially if you are walking at night. 

Property management specialists should attempt to make the paths clear of debris and as well lit as is possible. Trips and falls can be avoided with walkway lighting and well-maintained paved paths. 

fitness center man working out

Fitness Rooms 

Getting in a good workout after work is a great perk of living within a community. The amenity of a fitness room is a much sought after perk. 

To stay safe in this area, we suggest going with a friend and wiping down all equipment after you have used it. Be sure to follow the guidelines of equipment use so you do not get injured and keep access to the facility closed to non-community members. 

Entertaining Areas 

Many rental units and community associations provide outdoor entertaining areas with grilling access and fire pit use. Remember to always follow the rules to using the open flame in your entertaining area and be sure that the embers are completely out before leaving after your use. 

Clean up after you have used the area and alert the management if there are hazards like a grill in need of repair, gas tank that needs to be filled, or glass from broken bottles.

As community members remember that we are all aiming for the same thing, a clean and safe environment in which to live. For more articles on safety and common areas, check out our website or articles on our Facebook page

pool

Capital Improvements Vs Regular Maintenance

One of the frequently cited reasons why residents choose condo or community living is the idea that they have very little responsibility when it comes to maintenance, upkeep, and repairs for the structure of the buildings, outdoor areas and amenity areas. In fact, it frees up quite a bit of time and energy for homeowners who live busy work lives and want to spend their free time tending to family, friends, or hobbies they enjoy. 

Capital repairs or improvements, therefore, are an important part of the management of a condo or rental community. It is critical that the board in charge has a plan for what major upkeep items are scheduled each year and, in particular, what season is best to complete those repairs. Some projects are of greater consequence than others, so creating a calendar and list that is prioritized should be a part of the HOA or property management team’s responsibility. 

condo

What’s The Goal Of Capital Repairs? 

According to the Homeowners Protection Bureau, LLC, “A capital improvement is a planned discretionary permanent replacement, renovation, or alteration to the property that serves to increase the value,  makes it more useful, or  prolong its life.”  

As a member of an HOA or a community you will probably pay annual assessments, special assessments, and capital improvement assessments subject to being a part of that HOA. If you rent an apartment or home, your landlord will probably build the fees into the monthly rent or as a part of your deposit or downpayment. 

money

What Are Included In Capital Repairs? 

Capital repairs otherwise known as capital improvements are not HOA maintenance fees. Those fees are generally maintenance fees for the regular upkeep of the property such as landscaping, gardening, cleaning the pool, maintaining the fitness room, maintaining the safety of the driveways during the winter months, and caring for common areas. 

Capital repairs or improvements are completely different. For example, cleaning and maintaining the pool area would fall under regular maintenance that you pay your HOA fee for. Capital repairs could include replacing the changing rooms, switching out new tables and patio equipment, or replacing the stone pavers. These things are larger ticket items that would need to be saved for and would only occur once every few years rather than annually. 

Another example of the difference between regular maintenance and the capital improvements would be plowing the walkways and parking lots in the winter vs repaving the lots or repairing frost heaves or cracks. Again, these repairs are more costly and don’t happen as regularly as the maintenance items do. 

Talk to your landlord or HOA about what the schedule is for your community in regard to capital repairs or improvements and find out how your voice can be heard on recommendations of future repairs. 

For more articles on capital improvements, check out our website or articles on our Facebook page

 

condo building

What Renters Need to Know About Insurance 

There are more renters today than at any other time over the past 50 years. According to United States Census data reported by Pew Research, the numbers show the increases in both rental units and homes for rent have increased greatly. Young people in their 20s and 30s are still generally the largest group that are renting, but numbers show that seniors are also beginning to see the benefits of renting. 

landscaping condo area

Why Rent? 

Renters are increasing in number for several reasons. The struggle to qualify for a bank loan for a mortgage has gotten more difficult, especially recently with the unemployment numbers skyrocketing. Renting may be one of the only options for young people who are saving money to make a down payment. Other renters point to amenities, the neighborhood, lease terms, and unit sizes as reasons they continue to rent. 

Rent and Insurance

Aside from enjoying amenities, better neighborhoods, and convenient lease terms, many renters enjoy that much of the responsibility of maintaining the dwelling falls to the landlord, including insurance for the structure itself.

The landlord’s insurance, however, does not extend to a renter’s personal belongings such as appliances they brought to the dwelling, clothing, electronic devices, furnishings, and personal keepsakes. A fire, flood, storm, smoke damage, or break in could damage an apartment or rental house. While the landlord would be responsible for the structural repairs and renovations, the individual renter would need to replace or repair their own property within the unit. This could be extremely costly especially after a catastrophe. 

Since the landlord or property management company is not responsible for the renter’s possessions, many people who rent choose to purchase renters’ insurance

landscaping condo area

What is Covered in Renter’s Insurance? 

Standard renter’s insurance covers not only the possessions in the renter’s unit, but also covers a renter’s liability in the event that a visitor is injured on the premises. That means that not only are your furnishings and expensive electronics covered, but if a friend trips and falls in your unit, your renter’s insurance can cover the medical bills. 

By adding renter’s insurance to your already existing car or personal insurance policy, you will then be protected at home whether something occurs that falls to the responsibility of the landlord or if it is something you will be financially responsible for. 

For more articles on insurance, check out our website or articles on our Facebook page

 

fitness center man working out

Common Problems in Common Areas 

As community members, we love our common areas. These areas in any condominium association tend to be the amenities we cherish so much such as the walkways, tennis courts, fitness centers, pool areas, entertaining/fire pit areas, and gardens. Unfortunately, with every common area there are some pretty typical problems, especially in a community living situation. 

conference room

Cleaning Up 

Common areas are meant to be used by all who live in the condo association. It may also be permissible for these areas to be used by unit owner’s and their guests, depending upon the HOA rules in your association. 

While sharing these spaces makes it nice for all to enjoy the amenities, it also means that cleaning up should be done by all. Usually every association allows for an outside vendor to complete regular cleanings either weekly or bi weekly for trash and general cleaning. However, the day-to-day cleaning should be done by those who use the spaces. For instance, if you head to the pool, tennis courts, or fitness area, be sure to carry out any trash that you brought in. Put items back where you found them and tidy up the space you used. 

Locking Up 

If your community has a key or coded entry for each amenity and common area, you will want to make sure that once you have used the area, that you lock the location. This means that homeowners should ensure that no people outside the community can gain access to common areas without permission. It is actually a safety measure that can ensure the protection of all who live in the community. Your HOA may have specific rules about when each common area can be accessed and what the lock up procedures are for each area. Please try to follow those. 

man with finger to mouth

Noise Level 

Noise ordinances vary from community to community. Check with your association about what your obligations are in regard to having music, entertainment, or loud parties in any common areas in your community. The rules may designate hours when music or guests are permitted, or it may mention distinct noise levels. A general rule to follow is to check with neighbors and others who are using the common area if the noise level is acceptable. 

Pet Problems

In addition to dealing with clean up, locking up, and handling the general noise level, every community member should be sensitive to the rules of common areas when it comes to pets. Review whether they are allowed in common areas and if they are what rules apply. For instance, does Fido need to be on a leash, is there a designated time that permits pets on walking paths, or are there specific guidelines for your community? Check with your HOSA before you allow your pet into a common area. 

For more articles on common areas and issues that may arise in your community, check out our website or articles on our Facebook page.

key in a lock

Staying Safe in Your Condo Community This Summer

Most people tend to think about their home as a safe haven. It’s where you go to relax and feel comfortable. Often it is a place where people let down their guard and can feel protected from the risks of our world whether it is burglary or theft, or possibly a global pandemic. 

Add to this sentiment that summer is usually synonymous with a loosening of rules, and an atmosphere of unwinding, and there are risks that you will want to avoid. 

Staying safe is our number one priority, as it is yours. Unfortunately, this summer is looking a little different than most with the global health crisis and political unrest that our country is going through currently. Today’s blog is meant as a few simple reminders of how you can stay safe in your condo unit and the common areas with personal safety and medical safety in mind. 

red door

Lock Up 

Just like any other time of the year, we remind our clients that locking your doors and windows is a good deterrent for any burglar. While we often see condo units with windows open during the warmer months to allow in the fresh air, remember that the summer months tend to see a spike in burglaries. According to a report in the 2020 State of Safety in America, nearly 40% of all Americans reported a personal experience with either violent or property crime in the past 12 months. These numbers are generally higher during the warmer summer months when people let down their guard and leave doors and windows open. 

Get To Know Your Neighbors 

One of the best ways to spot someone who shouldn’t be in your condo common area is to know the people who live around you. The more neighbors you know, the easier it is to recognize when a stranger is in the area. 

Knowing your neighbors also comes in handy when you want someone to “have your back” so to speak. For example, if you head off on vacation, you have friends and neighbors who can keep an eye on things for you and be alerted should something look amiss. 

pool

Follow Safety Guidelines

Given that we are all trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus, it is a good idea to follow some personal safety guidelines as well in your condo community. Depending upon the guidelines set up by your specific municipality, you may want to maintain social distancing, wear a mask, and sanitize areas where you have been. Wash your hands often and try to wipe down areas that could be high traffic areas such as doorknobs, stair railings, or common area furnishings. 

It’s also a good idea to follow any written guidance from your HOA board to keep you safe this summer. Follow any rules that they put forth for your common areas, amenities, and for outside entertaining locations. 

 

Boston Condos

Tips on Living in a Condo Community 

Have you just recently purchased a unit in a condo association? Congratulations! You will love the ease of living, the amenities, and the value! Now that you are in your own unit, you will need to acclimate to this unique living environment. Here are a few tips in case you are new to condo living. 

Read the Governing Documents 

Even before you sign the Purchase and Sale Agreement (P&S) for your unit, you should read the governing documents of your homeowners association (HOA). These documents will tell you what the rules, policies, and procedures are for your community. The docs will give you a good idea of what your community living will be like. They will also give you more information about who to contact on the HOA board should an issue arise within your condo, in a common area, or with one of your neighbors. 

urban condo

Attend HOA Meetings 

Not all homeowners associations have monthly meetings, but there is usually at least an annual meeting to discuss major repairs, issues, and elections of the executive board. Be sure to attend the annual meetings, if not other meetings as well. These meetings, while not all that exciting, will give you a say in what rules, improvements, repairs, and overall budgeting will be like. 

Meet Your Neighbors 

Make every effort to introduce yourself to your immediate neighbors. Condo living is community living, so it is crucial to nurture friendly relations with the people in your condo section. Some communities have mixers, pot lucks, or community events that will help with breaking the ice. 

white picket fence

Get All Community Access Codes or Keys 

One of the best parts of living in a condo community is the access to amenities that you otherwise would not be able to afford. For example, many condo communities have a pool, fitness room, entertaining areas both indoor and out, fire pits, tennis courts, and walking paths. When you initially move in, be sure you have the keys or access codes that will allow for your use of these areas. Don’t forget to find out if there are specific hours of operation for these areas or rules that you should be aware of. 

One of the easiest ways to get in on the happenings of your community is to opt in for community emails or newsletters. This may be the best way to stay on top of events, community outings, and improvements that may be occurring in your area. 

Do you need help adjusting to your condo community? Drop us a line in the comments or contact us for more information. 

condo living room

Condo Insurance Explained 

If you are considering buying a condo unit for the ease of maintenance, the quick commute to the city, or the great amenities that come with the association, you are not alone. Many people of all ages choose condo living because they don’t want to devote their free time to upkeep, but they love the “extras” that come with the unit, like a pool, fitness room, or tennis courts. 

It is true that condo living is very unique and can make life a little more simple in the long run. There are some distinct differences, however, that make condo living a little more complex than single residence living. For example, insurance for condo living is broken into two main areas: the individual unit insurance and the master insurance for the entire complex. 

Let’s examine the differences between these two types and why you will need to have both should you decide to invest in a condo. 

condo livingroom

Master Condo Insurance 

The master insurance is usually an insurance that is paid to the homeowners association which provides insurance to the complex as a whole. The items that are covered under this type of insurance generally include: damage, repairs, or improvements needed to the outside of the building such as the roof, siding, common areas, and amenities, as well as liability insurance for injuries that happen to a person while on the community property. 

outside of a condo

Individual Unit Insurance

Aside from insurance that covers issues with the exterior of your building and community at large, you will need to investigate and purchase individual unit insurance. Unlike the insurance that goes to the homeowners association (HOA) to repair or improve exterior areas, this type protects the items within your unit. 

For example, should a calamity occur in your unit, like a theft, fire, water damage, or other event, your possessions will be covered. This would include your furnishings, clothing, electronics, technology, and, in some cases, your appliances. 

According to experts at NerdWallet, “If your HOA has what’s known as an ‘all-in’ HOA policy, it typically will cover all the original items built into your place, like cabinetry, lighting and other fixtures, plus things such as plumbing and wiring. However, if the HOA has what’s called a ‘bare walls’ HOA policy, it’s up to you to insure everything in your living space besides the walls, floor and ceiling.”

There are other advantages to having individual unit insurance in addition to HOA insurance. Individual insurance for your unit will cover liability should someone get injured within your condo. Another way it can help is if your unit has been damaged due to an accident, your insurance may cover your living expenses should you be unable to continue to live in the condo during repairs. Lastly, if repairs to a common area are exorbitant, your individual unit insurance may need to kick in where deficits exist. 

Do you need help understanding the differences and significance of master insurance vs. individual insurance? Drop us a line in the comments or contact us for more information. 

 

man in a mask

How Your HOA Board Can Stay Informed on the Latest Covid-19 Information 

Homeowners associations are an integral part of the smooth running of any condo association. They manage the financial and physical aspects of the community as well as maintain protocols to keep everyone safe. 

In the past, those protocols probably included property access security protocols, vendor screening, and parking/driving rules. Now HOAs need to be concerned about the recent pandemic and keep all who live in the community safe from an outbreak. 

To do this is no easy task considering the social distancing and personal protective gear that is expected. How can your HOA stay informed and keep community members informed? Here are a few ideas using technology and some creativity. 

boards in conference room

Board Meetings 

Given the need for social distancing, boards may no longer be able to meet in person for important staff meetings. HOA boards have started using technology to “meet” as a group. Technology such as Google Meet aka Google Hangouts, Skype for Business, or GoToMeeting have helped keep HOA Board members connected during this time. This allows for a safe share of community information. 

If your HOA board continues to meet virtually, it will be much easier to stay in-the-know while the situation changes day to day. Depending upon the size of your HOA board, this method of communication may be the best way to keep the community safe. 

Keeping Community Informed

One of the main jobs of an executive HOA board during a crisis such as this pandemic is to keep all of the unit owners and residents informed of changes in the daily running of the community.  

To this end, boards are using technology such as email blasts, text messaging, and notices at mailboxes that can tell residents about steps that are being taken to keep everyone safe. 

These email blasts are a good place to remind community members about common areas that may be closed due to social distancing such as fitness centers, pools, and playgrounds. It is also a good place to inform community members how common areas such as hallways and elevators are being disinfected. 

Community members may also be interested to know where the board stands regarding vendors such as groundskeepers, delivery personnel, and repairmen visiting the property. This can all be covered in weekly emails. 

scales of justice

Rule Adjustments 

Given the spread of this virus, many HOA boards may choose to adjust rules for the common areas. Many associations are requiring that residents use face masks and gloves when in common areas. Depending on the logistics of your community, rules may be set for common areas, parking lots, and designated smoking areas. 

How is your association board handling the pandemic? Keeping board members and community members informed should be the top priority of condo boards. Use these techniques to keep your community informed of this ever changing pandemic. 

 

medical mask

Keeping Pace with Covid-19 in Condo Associations 

The novel Coronavirus has created many unique scenarios when it comes to working, living, and keeping everyone safe and well. A condo association, where many people live in close proximity, is one such unique circumstance. 

How can your homeowners association keep up with the latest information and keep residents up-to-date? What steps can you take to keep everyone safe and comfortable during this unprecedented time? Let’s examine some of the unique aspects of condo living during the covid-19 outbreak. 

condo building

Follow Local and State Mandates 

Depending upon your location, there will be local and state mandates that will need to be followed even within a condo association. These should be followed for the safety of all who live in the association. 

For example, Governor Baker of Massachusetts declared that gyms will be shuttered so that close contact and multi-use equipment can be avoided. While many private associations may argue that the governor has no control over their association, most have closed common areas like fitness rooms, pools, and play structures for the protection of all who live in the area. 

Disclose Important Information without Violating Privacy 

If your association has become aware of an outbreak of the virus, it may be their prerogative to disclose that information to the entire association without violating the person(s) privacy. Inform the community that there has been a case of an infected person without giving names, unit numbers, or other personal information. Residents can then take necessary precautions to keep themselves out of harm’s way. 

hammer with nails

Consider Vendors and Renovation Projects 

While outside landscaping and other third party work may continue at your association, your HOA may decide to waive other projects and stop some non-essential vendors from completing any projects that they deem unsafe. These vendors may be asked to take special precautions such as using masks, gloves, and other protective gear. Email questions about what vendors such as gardeners, pool maintenance, or exterior workmen can be on your property during this time. 

Consider Deliveries 

Many HOAs are changing their protocols when it comes to deliveries. For associations that have interior entrances, packages are now being placed in lobbies or front entryways where homeowners can safely get them without having delivery personnel enter the building. 

During this very unsettling time, it is important to keep good communication going with your community members so that everyone is informed about what safety precautions are being taken and how they can protect themselves.