Category Archives: association living

loud neighbor

Handling Difficult Neighbors in an HOA

No one plans on having difficult neighbors when they move into a new place. Unfortunately, it can happen even in the nicest of locations. Thankfully, all is not lost when a troublesome relationship emerges in an HOA. There are several steps that you can take to improve the situation, and in some cases solve the problem all together.

Types of Bad Neighbors 

Normally in HOAs, neighbors develop close bonds where they trust each other and even become close friends. They go for walks together, visit with one another, and even hang out in common areas as friends. 

Unfortunately, there will always be “that neighbor” that may rub you the wrong way. This can happen for a number of reasons. 

The Noisy Neighbor 

This type of difficult neighbor can usually be dealt with by talking to the HOA about what the rules are regarding loud parties, music, or visitors on the weekends or during the work week.

The noise issue could be coming from an energetic pet, overly loud young children, people partying, or loud music. Most HOAs have guidelines about hours that should be quieter. 

Talk to your HOA about appropriate ways you can talk to your neighbor to resolve the issue before having the HOA board take any action. You never know, the resident may have no idea their noise is impacting other people. 

The Unsightly Neighbor 

From yard signs to unappealing trash cans, unsightly neighbors usually offend other members of the community with nuisance messes or the physical appearance of their unit. 

These issues, while annoying, are a bit harder to handle. Cleanliness of the trash areas and the physical appearance of a unit are often regulated through the HOA by-laws. Check out this article, from Home Management, on ways your HOA could handle this type of difficult neighbor in a kind and non-judgmental manner. 

trash cans

Illegal Activity Neighbor 

There are lots of illegal activities that go under the radar in many communities, but in a close knit HOA, these actions become very apparent. Your HOA will need to inform the proper authorities as well as make it clear that any illegal actions on the property are cause for legal action against the resident. 

HOAs have several actions within their purview regarding difficult neighbors. For instance, HOAs can follow up with complaints between neighbors to determine what the problem is and if it has an easy solution. If that is not possible, violation notices may be sent to stop the difficult behavior. 

From there, mediation may be an option to talk through the issue with an unbiased third party. After that option comes legal action to stop criminal or dangerous behavior. 

Do you have a difficult neighbor? Tell us in the comments how your HOA handled the situation. 

 

walkway with landscaping

Fall Landscaping to Prep for Winter 

The work of a property management company is never really done. There are tasks to be completed during every season. Fall is no exception to that rule. In fact, this time of year is critical to ensuring that steps are taken to prepare the landscaping including the lawn, walkways, and driveways for the onslaught of a typical New England winter. 

Responsive and proactive property management companies know that there are many tasks that should be completed during this time of year to ensure that residents and visitors alike will remain safe and that the landscaping will flourish in the coming year. 

Here are a few of those steps that your management team may want to consider. 

gazebo and green grass

Landscaping 

While the growing season may be almost done, there is still much to do to ready the grass, shrubs, and trees for the winter season. 

We all know that winter can be fairly wild here in Massachusetts but if you take the right care of your landscaping you will find the winter more bearable and the spring to reap rewards of your fall efforts. 

  • Rake all leaves and remove them from the property. This will help the grass breathe and stop leaves from becoming slipping issues along your walkways and driveways. 
  • Aerate grass and apply the last fertilizer. 
  • Cut grass for the final time during the season. 

In order to protect your shrubbery and ornamental plants from the cold and snow build-up our region can experience, you may want to take further steps. 

  • Prune trees to ensure spring flowering will occur. 
  • Trim dead or broken branches so they won’t fall during winter storms. 
  • Protect shrubbery against winter water loss by protecting it in a layer of mulch. 
  • Wrap tender plantings in burlap or by building an A frame wooden protection system around bushes that are open to heavy snow. 
  • Minimize salt damage by having an area to shovel or plow snow that will not impact plantings. 

pavers in circle

Hardscaping 

Non-organic aspects of your landscaping such as the walkways, stone walls, and driveways will need upkeep during the fall months as well. 

Make sure you have removed all leaves and debris after the majority of foliage has fallen. This will save you time and effort in the spring and keep your walkways and driveways safe for your residents to walk. 

Provide driveways guides for your snow plow operators to visually see the edges to stop damage to sidewalks and landscape areas. 

Place salt containers in easily accessible areas so residents can use them if their cars become stuck on ice or snow. This will also make it easier for your shovel crew to salt after each storm. 

Prep now so that your New England winter will go smoothly no matter what Mother Nature sends our way. 

 

key in door lock

Locks: When Should Property Managers Make the Change? 

Locks are often a last line of defense to robbery attempts or a home invasion. A criminal may be deterred by a few home features such as: exterior motion sensor lights, security systems, and, of course, a locked door. 

Safety and security are two of the most important aspects of property management. According to the FBI, burglary is the most common threat to homes and rental units. 

Knowing this, when should property owners change the locks to a unit? 

Managing keys and lock replacement protocol can become an expensive part of running any community. The average cost of replacing a lock can run from $100-200 for each lock needing to be replaced. Given that most units have more than one entryway, this can add up as renters move on to other living communities. 

The laws regulating whether a landlord (or property management group) is required to change the locks after each tenant vary state-by-state. In fact, some even vary jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction. 

According to LandlordGurus online, “most states require the landlord to provide a functioning deadbolt on all exterior doors to the unit. If it has been damaged, then you may be required to replace it for the new tenant.”

Here are situations when your community may want to consider changing the locks. 

red door

When a Key Has Been Lost or Stolen 

One key can mean the difference between a break-in and a safe evening at home. If you have a tenant who has lost a key or possibly had that key stolen, you may want to change the locks. This one step can show your management company’s commitment to safety in the community. 

When the Property Turns Over

While not always required in every state or municipality, changing the locks when one tenant leaves and another moves in can be a safety measure that can give everyone some peace of mind. 

Tenants may choose to change the locks even if a management company does not. If this is the case, you will need copies of the key and to gain permission for the change. 

When Vendors Have Completed Major Work 

If your community is completing major renovations such as electrical, plumbing, or exterior work that requires the vendors to have copies of keys to access all areas, you may want to consider changing the locks at the completion of the work. 

This will give unit owners a sense of security as they probably have seen the vendors using the buildings and accessing areas with keys. This is also a good way to ensure that any extra keys that may have been used are no longer useful. 

According to Brink Home Security, “Apartment owners or renters should keep their spare keys only in the hands of a trusted few, such as roommates or family members. You should also consider smart locks that help you control who enters and exits with customized entry codes.” 

If you have questions about what is legally required in your state, comment below or contact us about safety in your community. 

software on a laptop

Benefits of Association Software in 2021

Running an association can be difficult and time consuming work. Responsibilities run the gamut from collecting association payments online to handling vendors for landscaping, electrical work, and plumbing issues. In addition to these tasks, constant communication with the HOA board and association members is necessary to make a property run well. Association software is one way to help streamline these tasks and make them more manageable. 

texting communication

What is HOA Software? 

Software helps most of us stay organized and on top of what’s going on in our home and work lives. For instance, many of us use a calendar program to stay up-to-date on family and work dates. We use accounting software to pay our bills automatically. We may even use a timekeeper app to keep us on schedule. 

HOA software is similar to these personal software programs in that they can help HOA boards or property managers handle a specific aspect of HOA’s operations such as operations, payments, scheduling, and CC&R (Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions) enforcement. 

Many times HOA software comes in a convenient bundle to manage all of these components of association life, but sometimes specialty platforms and programs should be used to help keep things organized. 

phone apps

What Are the Benefits of HOA Software? 

When it comes to managing an association, software can mean the difference between a well-maintained property and community amenities and one that needs some work. Here are the top benefits for enlisting the help of HOA software in your community. 

Security

HOA’s store and transmit quite a bit of personal and sensitive information including the payment methods, names, addresses, and phone numbers of all the people living in the community. Software that is backed by current security measures can keep that information from being hacked or falling into the wrong hands, ones with malicious intent. 

Streamline Data

Running a property or community means lots of maintaining information from the people who live there as well as from the vendors who help maintain the property. Requests for repairs, reports of CC&R violations, and payments can be done automatically with software at your fingertips. 

Improved Communications 

Depending upon the software you choose, everyone in your community will most likely have some level of access to communications whether it is a weekly newsletter or announcements of changes/repairs that are upcoming in the association. Both internal and external communications can improve by using software to help spread pertinent information to the right groups of people.

For a substantial list of the best software being used by communities across the country and right here in Massachusetts, check out this list of programs or platforms you may want to try out to manage your community.  

 

condo pool

Pool Safety in Your HOA Community 

If your community has a swimming pool as one of it’s amenities, consider yourself lucky as we embark on what is promising to be a scorcher of a summer in Massachusetts. Last year at this time many homeowner’s associations made the difficult decision to keep community swimming pools closed due to the coronavirus. This year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),has given new guidance that allows pools to open for the season. 

As pools begin to reopen this year, now seems to be a good time to review pool safety in your community and what the responsibilities of the HOA may or may not entail. 

lifeguard jumping in a pool

Lifeguard or No Lifeguard? 

Every community eventually faces this question regarding whether to staff the community pool with a trained lifeguard or to have a “Swim at Your Own Risk” policy. There are pros and cons to each in regards to cost and liability. 

Sadly, the CDC reports that there are more than 3,500 unintentional drownings every year across the country. To prevent this, many associations hire trained lifeguards or pool monitors to regulate behavior and the amount of people in the pool at any given time. The benefit of this is the added security and peace of mind that comes with a certified lifeguard at the pool’s edge. Unfortunately, hiring a lifeguard or even a pool monitor can be expensive and prohibitive for smaller communities. 

The “Swim at Your Own Risk” policy also comes with advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the cost savings of creating rules and allowing community members to follow independently is remarkable, but it comes at the risk of loss of life should a swimmer encounter trouble. The safety of the swimmers is left up to the guests at the pool, often with an emergency phone setup to use in the case of a situation should arise. 

Having a lifeguard means the liability and insurance for the pool area safety lies with the vendor supplying the lifeguards. Conversely, the “Swim at Your Own Risk” policy does come with liability issues for the HOA. Each community should review their insurance and liability requirements before opening the pool and other amenities each year to their community members.

condo association pool

Create Rules and Regulations for Pool Area 

Regardless of whether your community pool has a lifeguard or not, there should be a list of rules prominently displayed that explains what behavior is allowed and what is not. These could include: 

  • No Diving
  • No Running on the Pool Deck
  • No Glass Containers in the Pool Area
  • No Electrical Devices in the Pool or on the Edge
  • No Fooling Around in the Pool or on the Deck
  • No Swimming Alone 
  • No Swimming During a Storm
  • Swimming Only Allowed During Posted Hours
  • ____  Number of Guests Allowed 

Cleanliness of Pool Area 

Depending upon the property management rules, your pool area may be a carry-in-carry-out pool, meaning whatever you bring there, must leave with you. That includes trash, chairs, and towels. Having rules about the cleanliness makes the pool area nice for everyone in the community.

Looking for more ideas on ways to keep your pool area safe this summer? Check out the guidance from the CDC and property management resources.  

 

gazebo and green grass

What Does Landscaping Say About Your Community? 

We all know the old adage that a “picture says a thousand words,” but did you know that landscaping, and the image that it portrays, can be just as important to a homeowners community? 

In fact, according to landscaping professionals, “landscaping can be one of the simplest ways that your community establishes its identity. Simply by insisting on annual flower rotations at entrances and regularly filling in mulch or pine straw, the community keeps a vibrant appearance and demonstrates that the residents care about their homes.” 

Look around your community. What does the landscaping say about your homeowners community? 

landscaped walkway

The Importance of Landscaping 

One of the top reasons why many residents choose living in a community is the bonus of not having to mow, weed, edge, trim, and plan out plantings or gardens every year. 

And, it’s not just during the warm, growing months that landscaping pays off for the community. During the cold winter months, the walkways are shoveled and the driveways plowed and treated by an adept landscaping crew. 

For many residents, this release from having to maintain the landscaping every weekend is enough of a benefit and why they find professional landscaping within the community advantageous. For others, there are a number of ways that landscaping curates an identity for the community. 

Here’s how…

Increases Curb Appeal 

In the world of real estate, curb appeal can either draw in a buyer in seconds or repel them even faster. This is true in single family residences and homeowner’s communities as well. 

Just like at any property, landscaping can send a signal to buyers that the property is well cared for and maintained throughout the year. Well-manicured lawns, carefully edged gardens, flower beds that are weed-free, walkways that are not overgrown, and trees that are mature and healthy can tell a home buyer how healthy the community is as well. If HOA communities hope to attract quality buyers, the landscaping needs to shine. 

walkway with landscaping

Promotes Safety

Landscaping isn’t just about mowing and planting. It is also about maintaining a safe environment for all community members. Professional landscapers can help keep the community safe by trimming and pruning tree branches before storms or ocean winds create a hazardous situation for structures and people living in the area. 

Landscaping also helps promote safety by keeping walkways and driveways clear of debris or overgrown bushes or trees that could pose a hazard for the residents walking or driving in the area. Removal of roots or pavers that are loose in the entertaining areas can prevent falls that could result in injury. 

During the winter months, landscapers often take on the job of shoveling, plowing, and de-icing walkways and steps that could pose a slip-and-fall threat for residents. 

Can Help Maintain & Increase Home Values 

Realtors have found that good landscaping can help maintain and even increase a home’s value. This goes for communities as well as single family homes.

In fact, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) suggests that you can increase your home’s value by 5% to 15% by spending the equivalent percentage on landscape maintenance and upgrades. A home or community’s value can be assessed in one viewing by a potential buyer. Make sure that the first impression is a vibrant and positive one. 

 

swimmers in a pool

The Best Community Amenities

Are you on the hunt for a stress-free living situation? Many young professionals, as well as people enjoying their retirement, love the idea of living in a community such as a homeowners association where the majority of the heavy work is done by landscapers, plow companies, and repairmen who take care of the property year round. 

Another bonus of living in a community are the wonderful amenities that many properties offer their tenants. Read on to find out more about the best community amenities that you may want in your next home. 

tennis courts

What Are Community Amenities? 

Depending upon the community you live in, amenities are generally thought to be either indoor or outdoor spaces that are meant to be used by residents and their guests. These could include a clubhouse, fitness room, pool, tennis courts, walking paths, playgrounds, golf courses, or outdoor entertaining areas with kitchens or fire pits. 

Homeowner associations generally believe that these spaces are great ways to attract residents to a community and keep them as loyal association members. These conveniences can really raise the bar, so to speak, to make your community desirable to the audience you are hoping to attract. 

For instance, many 55 and older communities offer amenities that include concierge services where groceries or other needs can be delivered if a senior can not get out. Conversely, communities that hope to attract young working professionals may offer areas to mingle, fitness rooms, or health spas. It all depends upon the needs and wants of the people in your community. 

Here are some of the trendiest community amenities for your residents this year. 

Fitness Centers 

Given that many gyms and fitness locations were closed or reduced hours due to the pandemic, many associations have loved that fitness centers were a part of their living community. 

Not only do fitness centers help association members reach their fitness and health goals, they also are a great way to mingle within the community and get to know the other people living in the area in a safe way. Financially, having a fitness center or gym on the premises can save community members from shelling out high gym fees monthly. 

treadmill and gym equipment

Outdoor Recreation 

Along with a fitness center, community members are always looking for entertainment. Given the surge in Americans getting outside to hike, walk, bike, play tennis, and swim, your community would be smart to add amenities that encourage these pastimes. 

Hiking trails, pools, tennis courts, bike paths, and outdoor game areas (think cornhole) are great ideas for communities hoping to keep their members active and outdoors. These amenities can help people de-stress and maintain their health all year long. 

While a pool and tennis courts do require regular maintenance, you may find that home buyers are willing to pay the extra cost to have these amenities at their disposal. 

Pet-Friendly Amenities 

You may have heard that Americans are adopting pets during this pandemic at record rates. That means that many homeowners are looking for pet-friendly areas such as dog parks, walking paths, and even doggy babysitting options. This added amenity can really set your community apart especially for city dwellers who are always looking for a safe, fun place to bring their pooch. 

Child-Friendly Amenities 

From playgrounds, to dedicated indoor play spaces, communities have begun to expand their child amenities offerings. Parents need a way to get out of the house in a safe and fun way. HOAs that offer areas where children can play without risk of interrupting other community members are doing a great service for the parents of their community. 

What amenities does your community have? Which would you like them to add? Comment below or drop us a line on Facebook

 

 

woman communicating on the phone

How to Maintain Great Communication Between  Homeowners & Property Managers 

How does your community maintain good communication? In light of recent global events, there have been fewer and fewer in-person interactions. This goes for people living within a community as well as every day interactions on the street. Has your community, including property managers and homeowners, adjusted their communication methods to account for these changes? 

Today we are taking a closer look at how communications can (and should) occur within a community. Often homeowners will have building maintenance issues or property managers may have notifications that they would like to pass on to community members. That open and transparent line of communication is critical to keeping a community running smoothly. 

texting communication

How Property Managers Can Foster Good Communication

Property management is a partnership between homeowners/renters and management… with communication as the bridge between both. 

Property managers or even landlords can do a few things to help foster this communication bridge. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make it easy for tenants or community members to get in touch with you or your team. A published list could help immensely. 
  • Create multiple channels for community members to use for communication including: email, online tools, and have regular call hours where an actual person can be reached to handle problems. You may also want to include an emergency number for after hour emergencies. 
  • Respond quickly to issues. You may want to have a policy of answering emails or online requests within a certain time period. Responsiveness is the key to fostering good communication. 
  • Make it a priority to communicate regularly. You may not feel the need for a monthly email newsletter, but the more informed your community members are, the better relationship you will have with them. 

email and online communications

How Tenants/Community Members Can Foster Good Communication 

On the other side of this partnership are the homeowners/tenants/community members (depending upon your situation). Here are a few ways for people in this position to increase communication. 

  • Prioritize your communications. In other words, if you have a list of maintenance issues be sure to state in writing what is most important. Less pressing issues may need to wait.
  • Put all communications in writing, if possible. Phone calls are a different story, but you may want to note what day and time, as well as the person you spoke to, when you called to report a problem for future reference. 
  • Give as much detail as possible for your requests. For instance, what is the problem, how long has it been happening, and details about the problem that could help resolve it. 

Transparent communication, whether it happens in writing, virtually, or over the phone is a hallmark of a great partnership between property management companies and their owners. 

carrying moving boxes

Abandoned Property: What Happens When Tenants Leave Items Behind? 

What are the legal requirements when a property management company or landlord finds items that have been left behind? You might be surprised to find that the answer is not as simple as throwing it all out.

The laws regarding the responsibilities of landlords or property managers when it comes to property left behind by former tenants or lease owners are not straightforward or cut-and-dry. 

One would initially think that the most obvious answer would be to dispose of the items. Let’s take a closer look at why that is not the first step in this fairly complicated process. 

abandoned red chair

What Is Considered Abandoned Property? 

Your tenants have moved out, but some of their possessions have been left behind. Now what?  Landlords are faced with the issue of wondering what they can legally do with items once the tenants are no longer in the picture. 

Abandoned property is considered any possession that has been left in the unit, storage areas, or parking spots after the tenant has moved out or been evicted. Property that has been left behind could include: 

  • Things stored in a garage, attic, or basement.
  • Cars or other vehicles parked on the property.
  • Air conditioners or other fixtures that have become a more permanent part of the property. Permanent fixtures added to the apartment such as shelving, grab bars, or ceiling fans often become a part of the apartment and fall under the landlord’s domain.
  • Pets that have been left in the unit or on the outside of the property (yes, it happens). 

couches in an apartment

Steps in the Complex Process of Dealing with Abandoned Items

Depending upon the state in which you own property (or manage the property), you may have different legal requirements to check off before you can dispose of or sell the items in question. Here is a quick rundown of what you may need to do before packing it all up or hauling it to the dump. 

  • Determine why the tenants left. Check local laws for specific rules. Guidelines may be different depending upon if they were called up for military service, were evicted, or their lease came to an end.
  • Review your rental terms for clauses related to abandoned property. Many leases include a time allotment that tenants have for returning to claim abandoned property.
  • Document and inventory the abandoned property and damages. This should include not only pictures of the items but descriptions of them as well. 
  • Give the former tenant legal notice of abandoned property.
  • Sell, dispose of, or store the property, depending on local laws, the amount of time that has passed, and the steps you took to notify the previous tenants of the items. 

As you can see, handling rental properties and the items that were left behind is a fairly complex and legal process where the onus is put on the property owner or property manager to determine that they have fulfilled their legal duty to the tenant. Be sure to check with your legal team for your local laws and regulations regarding abandoned property. 

 

hammer with nails

HOA or Homeowner Repairs: Who Is Responsible For What? 

The regular and thorough maintenance of a condominium community is one of the aspects of living in a homeowner’s association (HOA) that many unit owners appreciate. In fact, many unit owners potentially chose a community because they would not need to take care of typical chores that other homeowners need to deal with, such as mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, regular repairs, plowing the driveway, repairing broken and well-worn aspects of the building, and cleaning of the common areas and amenities. 

While most HOAs have bylaws and governing documents that clearly outline who needs to maintain and repair what areas, it can sometimes be confusing to figure out who handles certain repairs. Therefore, the goal of today’s blog is to educate unit owners, future buyers, and association members about maintenance responsibilities which fall in a unit owner domain versus those of a homeowner’s association. 

How HOA’s Are Divided

Before buying a condo or moving into a community, it is always good to understand how the responsibilities are divided. Association responsibilities are usually divided between the governing board and the individual unit owners. 

Individual unit owners are generally in control of the rights of that unit. Unless otherwise stated in the association bylaws or documents, this includes: the floors, ceilings, and walls of each unit including the airspace and paint on the interior walls. In townhome communities, this area of responsibility extended to the individual piece of land surrounding each individual unit, as well as any other structure/s within it.

Likewise, associations and the governing boards connected to them, have areas that they are responsible for maintaining and repairing. The Declaration, Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) document should have detailed information that will set out specifics for each community. This document is made available to all community members. 

The HOA handles the maintenance of shared common areas as well as the overall building structure. Limited common areas are the shared responsibility of the HOA and unit owners who benefit from them. 

Specifics to Your Association 

Before you request a repair or start working on one within your individual unit, you may want to consult the CC&R for your association. Here are a few areas that could get confusing so you will want to ask for clarification. 

  • Roof and exterior walls: Depending upon the guidelines of your community, these areas are most often defined as common elements, but the unit might include the interior surface or drywall.
  • Floors or ceilings: Similar to walls, the unit might include just the surface, halfway through, or the whole floor or ceiling. Check your CC&R for specifics. 
  • Windows and doors: As determined by your association contract, the frames, glass, and the hardware might or might not be a part of the unit. It could be considered a common area. 
  • Permanent fixtures: Cabinets, flooring, sinks, and the like are typically considered part of the unit and thus the responsibility falls to the owner of the unit. However, certain fixtures including outdoor porch lights or garage lights might not be included.
  • Plumbing, electric, air conditioning systems: The portions serving air, water, and electricity to the unit may be under the unit owner’s domain, but when these areas serve other units as well, it could be considered a common area.  
  • Decks, balconies, and patios: These might be part of the unit, common elements, or limited common elements. (Source: Nolo Law) 

As you can see, the determining factors of what responsibilities belong to which party is mostly included in the documentation given to unit owners at the time of the purchase of the property. Examine those documents before you begin any repairs to determine who is physically and financially responsible.