Category Archives: association living

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.” 

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

 

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