All posts by sperling

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. 

 

landscaped garden

Benefits of Landscaping & Property Maintenance

Picture it. You turn the corner into your association and you are greeted by flowering shrubs, grass that is freshly mowed, and parking lots that are swept and newly lined. Each of these things can lend themselves to an aesthetically pleasing environment. There are, however, many benefits to having the landscaping completed by your association. 

landscaped homeLifestyle Benefits 

Other than people who truly love gardening and tinkering in the yard, landscaping tends to be a tedious chore that homeowners look forward to “checking off” on their list of things to do every weekend. For many, it can take hours of manpower, and even cost a pretty penny to buy all the equipment to keep your lawn, shrubs, trees, and flowers looking beautiful every week during the spring, summer, and fall. 

Living in a community that provides the landscaping, both in terms of lawn maintenance in the spring and summer and snow plowing during the winters months, can be both a time saver and a cost effective benefit of community living. 

landscaped birch trees Aesthetic Benefit 

Along with the time and cost savings, community landscaping can be a major advantage to the overall aesthetic to any association. Usually associations contract with third party vendors who have the proper equipment and landscaping professionals who can keep your community looking professionally landscaped all year. 

Arborists, mowers, and gardeners can keep your association environment looking clean, manicured, and brightly blooming! The aesthetic benefit can be a mood booster and can make you truly love living in your condo association. 

If you love seeing the flowering plantings and trimmed bushes without any of the work, you know what it feels like to live in a well manicured community. 

Lower Liability 

Landscapers usually handle both the organic areas of a community as well as the hardscapes.  This means that your walkways, parking areas, and pavers will be kept spotless and in good working condition. Walkways and parking lots are often areas where liability claims come into play with slips and falls or uneven pavers causing hazardous conditions. Using a third party vendor to clean, edge, and repair these areas can mean that their insurance and the Master insurance of the condo association will cover any personal liability in this area. 

What do you love most about the landscaping in your community. Drop us a line in the comments or visit our Facebook page.

 

walkway

Importance of Aesthetic Rules in a Community 

For many condominium unit owners, some of the best things about living in a community include the access to amenities, the lack of maintenance they need to do, and the overall clean and aesthetically pleasing area they are able to live in. Aesthetic rules, therefore, become imperative to maintain that pleasant appearance and professional looking environment. 

Think about the components of your community. Elevators that are clean and well-maintained. Exterior paint and siding that is fresh and clean. Shrubbery and landscaping that is well-manicured. And don’t forget about the walkways and hallways that are cleaned on a regular basis. All of this is often taken for granted by unit owners, but it lends itself to promoting a positive and healthy community. 

When communities and community members adhere to the standards set forth in the bylaws governing the HOA (Homeowners Association) the area can continue to look beautiful throughout the year. 

There are several reasons why maintaining these standards are important for both the community as a whole and individual unit owners. Some of the most important reasons to continue to adhere to these standards include maintaining the property values, enhancing cleanliness, and promoting a positive, happy environment. 

kitchenMaintaining Property Values 

Realtors can quote statistics about the importance of curb appeal and how the look of a home or even the exterior of a condo unit can determine within seconds whether a buyer will even consider purchasing in an association. If each property owner has an exterior that is aesthetically different and causes the overall look of the community to be one that is not uniform or possibly even gaudy, then buyers will move on to the next community. Maintaining the standard look could mean the difference between increasing or potentially decreasing your property value. 

Enhancing Cleanliness

When unit owners follow rules about cleaning up after themselves in common areas such as the fitness room, pool, playground, or tennis courts, it means that the environment can continue to look pleasant. Following rules about exterior decor, pet rules, and the type and amount of cars allowed in parking areas can also have a huge impact on the overall cleanliness of the community. Maintaining that spotless appearance is a positive outcome for all community members and unit owners. 

home libraryHappy Environment 

Doesn’t everyone want to come home to a well maintained community? Driving through your condo association, do you see lawn that has been mowed, siding that is painted, and front walkways that are uniform and clean? Believe it or not, these things can help make your environment one that you can be proud of. Consequently, pride can translate into positive feelings that you may have about living in your condo association. 

How well maintained and aesthetically pleasing is your association? What makes it that way? Tell us in the comments below or comment on our Facebook page

 

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. 

 

swimming pool

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.