Category Archives: association living

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. 

 

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

 

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. 

 

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

 

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.