Category Archives: association living

two people hugging

How HOAs Handle Guest Policies 

Does your homeowners association have guest policies? How strict or lenient is it? Does it allow for long-term visitors, Airbnb or Vrbo allowances or is it merely a daytime visitation policy? Let’s take a closer look at guest policies, what they are, and why they are put in place.

condo grounds

What Are Guest Policies Within HOAs? 

There are a couple of layers of guest policies when it comes to living in a community. First, there is the concept of allowing people who are not living in the community but are with a member of the community to visit and use the amenities such as the pool, fitness center, and common areas of the community. 

This periodic hosting tends to be short lived and often benign. The rules surrounding this type of guest visitation are usually fairly simple and clearly stated within the bylaws of the community. Some communities limit the number of guests that you can bring with you to the pool for safety reasons or limit the number of hours/days a guest may leave their car in the lot as a visitor. 

Then there is the second layer of guest policies that address unauthorized renters, or home-sharing situations such as Airbnb or Vrbo. These alternative, long-term guest accommodations are often seen by owners as a way to create revenue for the homeowner and a cost-effective way to find lodging for visitors. They, however, are often a nuisance for other members living in the community.

pool

The Problem with Unauthorized Renters or Guests

While Airbnb enthusiasts have become somewhat the norm in the traveling world, they can be quite the conundrum for homeowners associations and landlords alike. Not only do these guests have no real concept of the rules for living in these communities, they have no vested interest in preventing abuses and liabilities. 

Furthermore, once unauthorized renters have entered the property and been given access to common areas, questions are raised about HOA insurance and how it would work should someone be injured or harmed as a result of these long-term guests. 

Potential Policies for Guests and Home Sharing

Many HOAs have begun adding terminology and specific language to their bylaws that include not only reasonable limits for period hosting of a guest but also for long-term home sharing or house rentals. Within the language of the bylaws often is an allowance for a certain number of weeks a year that each owner must live in the property without home-sharing. Other HOAs are outright banning home-sharing and third party rentals without permission being granted by the executive board. 

What are your associations’ rules about guests? Drop us a note in the comments or on our Facebook page that let us know what works and doesn’t work for your community. 

 

banana under a boot

Avoiding Slips & Falls in Your Community 

It’s that time of year again, when snow, ice, and all sorts of precipitation or freezing temperatures could wreak havoc on walkways, driveways, and hardscape surfaces. The many ups and downs of Mother Nature is what makes living in the Greater Boston region exciting, but also a bit of a hazard during the winter months. 

If you are a landlord, property owner, or part of a condominium board, you may need assistance during the winter months to keep your hardscape safe in order to avoid any slips and falls that could occur. Here are some simple yet smart ways to keep your community protected from these incidences. 

condo grounds

Condo Living Benefits 

Living in a condominium community has so many benefits, including not having to worry about landscaping and outdoor maintenance. Shoveling snow, de-icing sidewalks and parking lots are two of the perks as well. Tack on some wonderful amenities like access to a fitness room, pool in the summer, or a guest house for parties and you have a trifecta of benefits to condo living.

The benefit we are focusing on today is the responsibility of preventing dangerous walkway and parking space incidents during the winter months, as well as keeping indoor common areas safe year round. 

walkway

Outdoor Spaces 

The responsibility of a condo community to keep its common areas such as the walkways, parking spots, and driveways safe really is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to preventing slips and falls. 

Walkways should be maintained carefully all year long, which means clearing them of snow and ice in the winter months, and leaves and other tree debris in the fall and spring months. These walkways should be treated with non-toxic de-icing products. This is the first defense of protecting your community against slips and falls. 

In addition to clearing walkways of snow or ice, many communities also install hand railings, use anti-skid paint on walkways, and keep all hardscape in good repair throughout the year. This includes repairing any cracks, bumps, or broken pieces to avoid someone’s foot getting caught on the ground and causing a potentially injurious fall. 

Outside areas should also have proper lighting so tenants or community members can see where they are walking and thus avoid a painful fall on ice or by bumping into something blocking their path. 

Indoor Areas 

As New Englanders, we all know that when winter hits it is pretty common to track in snow and ice on our boots. That snow will eventually melt and could cause a slipping issue in hallways or common areas. Property management companies should become experts at knowing what time of year to install moisture-absorbent mats with beveled edges to avoid slips at entrance ways. They should also be quick to send maintenance crews to regularly mop and dry hallways that are not covered with rugs. 

What are ways that your property management company keeps your community safe from slips and falls? Drop us a line in the comments or check out our Facebook page. 

 

condo grounds

Keeping Your Condo Grounds Safe During the Winter 

As New Englanders and hardy Bostonians, we are used to inclement weather. It doesn’t matter if it’s snow, sleet, rain, or even some hail. We can handle it. Nor’easters don’t faze us. Hurricanes don’t panic us. And wind storms may knock us down, but we get right back up again. 

As property management specialists, we focus on the things we can control, like keeping our property grounds and buildings safe during the winter months. Here are a few of the steps we may take at your property.

pavers in circle

Walkways & Driveways 

Winter precipitation can be a nuisance or it can be downright dangerous. Snow or ice on a walkway can cause slips and falls or unsafe driving conditions. One of the more important services a property management group will provide during the winter months is the constant clearing and maintaining of slip-free walkways and driveways. 

Snow can come in measurements of inches or feet, but either way, a good property management company will stay on top of the situation and keep the areas clean of whatever precipitation comes our way.  

Roof Protection 

The roof of any condo association or rental property needs to be cared for throughout the year. During the winter months, however, there are several things to be cognizant of when it comes to the safety and health of a roof. For example, snow and ice can accumulate making for a dangerous situation on any roof. If insulation is not working properly ice dams can cause leaking and damage to a roof line. And trees with roof overhang can become a problem, especially if branches break off and land on the shingles. 

icicles on gutter

Gutter Problems

Fall is generally the time of year that gutters need to be cleaned of falling leaves and yard debris. If this chore is not properly completed, there can be problems with clogged gutters and flooding/leaking concerns throughout the winter. A good property management company will keep those gutters clear of debris so that any type of precipitation can flow away from the roof and building structure, thus saving the foundation and siding from any damage. 

Piping Protections 

Freezing pipes can be an issue in many colder areas in the winter months. Property management companies can easily protect pipes through insulation and proper ventilation in crawl spaces and utility areas. In addition to protecting piping, property management companies should also be sure of clear exhaust areas and ventilation to avoid a buildup of hazardous fumes like carbon monoxide. 

Tell us how your property management company keeps your grounds safe during the winter months. Drop us a line in the comments or on our Facebook page

 

man in walkway in the winter

Prepping For Winter in a Condo Community 

Nobody here in New England wants to admit it, but the winter temps and precipitation is on its way. That means snow, ice, and below freezing temperatures for the next few months. Maybe even a nor’easter for good measure too! Are you ready for whatever Mother Nature can throw our way? Here is a quick guide of ways to prep in your community for the colder months that lay ahead. 

thermostat

Interior Unit Preparations

If you are a condo unit owner, there’s really not a whole lot you can do to prepare the outside of your home. That job usually falls to the organization hired by your condo HOA board. 

There are, however, a few steps you can take to ready your condo’s interior for the winter weather. Start by making sure your windows are sealed properly. Add caulking where necessary and maybe even invest in thermal window shades that can keep pesky drafts out. 

If dipping temperatures are a problem, try using a programmable thermostat that can have your unit nice and warm by the time you get home from work, and automatically adjust it back down during the hours you are out and about. If temperatures are a problem in your building, you may also want to protect your pipes on exterior facing walls as they can freeze and burst in the sub zero temps. 

In addition to taking steps to protect your condo unit from temperature fluctuations, you may also want to check the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide alerting system. The start of winter is a great time to check both of these as blowing and drifting snow can cause a blocking of exhaust pipes, a potential catastrophe in the making. 

While you are checking your monitoring systems, also take a close look at the lint trap in your dryer if you have one within the unit. A good clean out is a great way to avoid any fire risk associated with combustible lint inside a dryer. 

snowy village

Outside Winterizing 

Usually the winterizing on the outside of a building is handled by the homeowners association, (often a 3rd party vendor) who handles things such as: plowing and shoveling, roof repair, and landscaping. 

Winter tasks such as plowing and shoveling hardscape areas falls to the landscaping team and the HOA board. Treating walkways with de-icers is also a main task of the board who is responsible for the safety of its community members both on walkways and on the driveway surfaces. 

Clearing rooftops or decks that are at the mercy of the elements and winter precipitation may also fall in the category of responsibilities taken care of by the HOA. Read the bylaws about how often these areas will be cleared of snow or winterized for the season. 

Your property management team should be able to communicate with your condo community regarding a checklist of tasks that you may want to complete before the weather turns even colder, while they take care of exterior chores. 

 

city street

Common Condo Community Rules 

Looking for your next home? Maybe you are downsizing, hoping to avoid the lawn maintenance, or want less upkeep for items like the roof, furnace, or other high priced utilities. Whatever way you look at it, condo living may be a good choice for your lifestyle. Before you begin hunting for a condominium community, there are some community rules that you may want to be aware of before signing on the dotted line. 

condo living room

What is an HOA? 

A homeowners association or HOA is the ruling board over any community living area. A homeowners association makes and enforces rules for multiple-unit buildings like condominiums and townhouses, or possibly planned communities of single-family homes. If you own a property within an HOA, you automatically become a member. In becoming a member, you agree to abide by the rules and regulations and to pay dues, known as HOA fees. An HOA will usually have its rules in a document called a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R). (Source: BankRate

landscaped birch trees

Common Rules of an HOA

When you become a member of any HOA, the rules are clearly spelled out for all community members. While these rules can, and do, differ from one community to the next, there are usually some fairly common rules to be aware of. Here are just a few that you will want to investigate as you begin your home search. 

Landscaping Rules: 

Most HOAs want a community to have a certain uniform appearance from one unit to the next. In order to have this, there are usually rules about the landscaping that is, (and isn’t) allowed around your unit.  For instance, there may be restrictions on how many plants you can have at your front door, or any decorations you may be allowed to have adorning your front entryway. 

Parking & Vehicle Rules: 

Homeowners associations usually have rules related to cars, including how many vehicles you can have on your property, where those vehicles can park, and what type of vehicles you can have. For example, if you own a boat, RV, or use a work vehicle, you may be required to park it in a different lot or not on the property at all. Remember to consult your bylaws before you buy to avoid not being able to park your work vehicle in the community lot. 

Pet Mandates: 

Most HOAs have very specific rules about allowing pets. If your community does allow dogs or other pets, there may be rules that require the pets be a certain size or breed. Again, check with your local HOA about how this could impact your fur-friend and your living arrangements. 

In addition to requirements about the type and size of pets allowed, most HOAs have noise and nuisance rules about where pets are allowed on the property as well as rules about picking up pet waste and leashing said pets. 

Decoration Guidelines: 

Are you one that really enjoys decorating for each season or holiday? If you are, you may want to check the governing documents regarding what is allowed for outdoor or visible decor for your unit. Some HOAs allow decorations during a few weeks a year while others have limits on the amount and placement of decorations. Still, others require that all decorations are kept inside each unit. 

Check with your community HOA board before you invest in a condo community. You will want to know the requirements and guidelines for your specific living area so there are no surprises. What are the common rules in your condo community? Leave us a note in the comments or on our Facebook page

 

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.