Category Archives: COVID-19

virtual meeting

Hybrid In-person/Virtual Meetings, Are They Even Possible?

Now that the country has transitioned to the ‘Post-COVID’ era we can look back and, even in the face of the devastating impact of the world-wide pandemic, find nuggets of positive changes and new, better and creative ways of doing things.

We have all become more careful; we wash our hands more frequently, we clean and sanitize the surfaces we touch, we sneeze into our elbows, we dine outdoors and more and more of us are getting vaccinated. As an annoyingly positive thinker, I am confident that these changes will continue well into the future and that everyone will be healthier as a result.

OK, we are dropping the use of masks and other restrictions both at work and at home. Some of us are more comfortable with the pace of our return to ‘normal’ or at least ‘the new normal’ and that is ok. I suspect everyone is very glad that things are finally moving in a better direction.

Out of Necessity

One of the changes many of us made during the pandemic was to move from in-person to virtual meetings. Until the pandemic forced everyone to think of ways to function without exposure to COVID, very few communities embraced the idea of holding so-called ‘virtual’ meetings. Almost overnight the terms Zoom, WEBEX and Microsoft Teams became a regular part of our daily conversations.

We have no way of knowing whether or not communities will prefer in-person or virtual meetings. It is reasonable to expect that demand for virtual meetings will remain stronger than it was before COVID came ashore. We have found that associations that held virtual or hybrid meetings generally experienced increased participation and, overall, an increase in satisfaction with the experience of attending meetings. We simply cannot ignore the fact that many unit owners were unable to attend in-person meetings but were able to attend virtual meetings.

I have a confession to make: I want my cake and eat to. Why not conduct Hybrid In-person / Virtual meetings? A Hybrid In-person/Virtual meeting provides the opportunity for people to be together in person in a room and at the same time connect with an audience that is attending virtually.   All meeting participants – both in person and virtual – have access to the same information and the ability to communicate with everyone at the meeting.

Having conducted Hybrid In-person / Virtual Meetings for a couple of years now, we find that they are not only possible but most association board members and owners who have experienced well-run Hybrid In-person / Virtual Meetings find that they are actually more convenient and preferable to in-person meetings- this is especially so for board members and unit owners who are away or who find attending in-person meeting difficult or even impossible.

Zoom meeting Best Practices for Conducting a Hybrid In-Person/Virtual Meeting

  1. Technology

Here is a check list of what you need:

  • A laptop computer with ample HDMI, USB and audio outlets.
  • A high-quality full-size EPSON Video Projector.
  • A large video screen, a suitably sized monitor or a large white wall surface.
  • A Bose L1° Compact Line Array Public Address System. This is a great public address system that can easily accommodate a meeting of 200 or more people and pairs with a Shure BETA 58° Wired Microphone and 2 wireless microphones.
  • 2 SHURE Model BLX4R Wireless Receivers.
  • A Mackie Model 402VLZ4 4-Cannel Ultra Compact Mixer to transmit the signal between the Bose public Address System and the wireless microphones
  • The all-in-one camera-microphone product designed and manufactured by OWL Labs. This product produces a clear 360° image, automatically locates and highlights the speaker, offers good to great sound quality and it is a truly amazing piece of technology.
  • Zoom Video Conferencing, WEBEX, Microsoft Teams or an equivalent video conferencing platform. We have found that most of our clients are familiar with Zoom and Zoom offers convenient and useful features such a Waiting Room, Chat, Screen Sharing, Mute, Recording, etc. These feature help facilitate more effective meeting presentations.
  • Plenty of HDMI, USB, 9-pin, audio, power and other cables to connect all of the a/v equipment.
  • A reliable wifi connection.
  • Extra batteries for the wireless microphones.
  • An extension cord and power strip.
  • Power Point to prepare agendas and exhibits.
  • A suitable meeting room.
  1. unit owners meetings

  2. Preparation

Another critical consideration for Hybrid In-person / Virtual Meeting is the preparation and presentation of agendas and exhibits. Creating Power Point Presentations allows a manager and board members to present agendas, exhibits, documents, photographs, etc. through screen-sharing features.

In a Zoom meeting, the host simply clicks on Zoom’s Screen-share feature and opens the Power Point Presentation – full-screen – and everyone attending the meeting in-person can see the presentation on-screen and everyone attending virtually via Zoom can see it on their computers, laptops or tablets.

Here are some other important tips.

  • Set up and check to make sure that all a/v equipment is operating properly and that you have all of the equipment, cables, power cords, power strips, extra batteries, etc. the day before a meeting. There is nothing worse than getting to a meeting and encountering an equipment failure or a missing piece of equipment.
  • Mute all attendees, except for board members and the management team. This helps keep the meeting focused and on track.
  • Ask attendees to submit their questions and comments through the chat feature. This enables the host, board members and presenters to monitor and respond to questions and comments from unit owners.
  • Arrange to have a separate member of the management team host the Zoom Conference. This enables the board members and the property manager to concentrate on the presentation without being distracted with operating the Zoom features.
  • Activate Zoom’s Record feature and provide the link to all unit owners, so that those who were unable to attend can view the meeting. It is recommended that someone announce that the meeting is being recorded.

I want to leave everyone with the following thoughts.

Hybrid In-person / Virtual Meetings provide associations with an invaluable opportunity to accommodate unit owners who prefer to attend meetings in person as well as unit owners who are away or who are unable to attend in-person meetings. The end result is increased participation, which is a goal we share all share.

Setting up Hybrid In-person / Virtual Meetings may seem daunting. However, if I can do it, and I have, anyone can.

Finally, have some fun! For techno-geeks like me setting up Hybrid Meetings is like a kid in a candy store.

Douglas Thayer, CPM is President/Owner of Thayer & Associates, Inc., AMO

 

rental apartment

The Impact of Covid-19 on the Rental Industry

The outbreak of the coronavirus last year continues to impact the nation socially, medically, and (not surprisingly) financially in major ways. Our hospital systems are stressed, families have gone months without seeing each other, and families are struggling with unemployment issues that are having a ripple effect in the rental industry. Let’s take a closer look at this problem and how it is currently being dealt with in Massachusetts and across the nation. 

medical mask

What the Statistics Tell Us

According to a study conducted on 1,000 U.S. renters by Entrata, a property management software company, showed that most of the study participants started the COVID-19 lockdown with virtually no savings and had to work with apartment management to defer or cancel rent payments. Many renters reported using their stimulus checks to keep a roof over their heads.

Other national research estimates that one third of all tenants did not pay their full April rent on time. Some did not pay because they had lost all sources of income and did not have sufficient savings to cover their bills. Others were waiting for their stimulus checks to arrive before paying the rent. 

Closer to home, newly appointed Boston Mayor, Kim Janey announced late in March that $50 million in new funding for the city’s Rental Relief Fund would be released.

The human impact of these difficulties goes well beyond these statistics and may never really fully be understood. 

the scales of justice

What to Expect Regarding Rental Payments & Potential Evictions

While this issue is extremely fluid and may change and evolve over the next few months, this is where we stand right now. 

Halt on Evictions

Most states have implemented a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent during the pandemic. More specifically, Nolo, an online legal resource states that, “On September 1, 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Agency Order titled Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19 (Order). The Order went into effect on September 4, 2020, and was extended on December 27, 2021. (See Section 502 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.). The CDC’s latest order extends the residential eviction ban until at least June 30, 2021.” 

Pause on Utility Shut Offs 

In addition to halting evictions for this year, most states have and paused utility shut-offs due to non-payment. It is a temporary pause, not forgiveness, of the amount owed. 

Rent Relief Bills 

Most rental property owners do not have the luxury of considering rent forgiveness. State governments, however, have started programs for Rent Relief that can help take the pressure off both the tenants and the property owners who also need the income to pay their bills. Massachusetts Rent Relief bill details can be found here for reference. 

 

key in a lock

Staying Safe in Your Condo Community This Summer

Most people tend to think about their home as a safe haven. It’s where you go to relax and feel comfortable. Often it is a place where people let down their guard and can feel protected from the risks of our world whether it is burglary or theft, or possibly a global pandemic. 

Add to this sentiment that summer is usually synonymous with a loosening of rules, and an atmosphere of unwinding, and there are risks that you will want to avoid. 

Staying safe is our number one priority, as it is yours. Unfortunately, this summer is looking a little different than most with the global health crisis and political unrest that our country is going through currently. Today’s blog is meant as a few simple reminders of how you can stay safe in your condo unit and the common areas with personal safety and medical safety in mind. 

red door

Lock Up 

Just like any other time of the year, we remind our clients that locking your doors and windows is a good deterrent for any burglar. While we often see condo units with windows open during the warmer months to allow in the fresh air, remember that the summer months tend to see a spike in burglaries. According to a report in the 2020 State of Safety in America, nearly 40% of all Americans reported a personal experience with either violent or property crime in the past 12 months. These numbers are generally higher during the warmer summer months when people let down their guard and leave doors and windows open. 

Get To Know Your Neighbors 

One of the best ways to spot someone who shouldn’t be in your condo common area is to know the people who live around you. The more neighbors you know, the easier it is to recognize when a stranger is in the area. 

Knowing your neighbors also comes in handy when you want someone to “have your back” so to speak. For example, if you head off on vacation, you have friends and neighbors who can keep an eye on things for you and be alerted should something look amiss. 

pool

Follow Safety Guidelines

Given that we are all trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus, it is a good idea to follow some personal safety guidelines as well in your condo community. Depending upon the guidelines set up by your specific municipality, you may want to maintain social distancing, wear a mask, and sanitize areas where you have been. Wash your hands often and try to wipe down areas that could be high traffic areas such as doorknobs, stair railings, or common area furnishings. 

It’s also a good idea to follow any written guidance from your HOA board to keep you safe this summer. Follow any rules that they put forth for your common areas, amenities, and for outside entertaining locations. 

 

man in a mask

How Your HOA Board Can Stay Informed on the Latest Covid-19 Information 

Homeowners associations are an integral part of the smooth running of any condo association. They manage the financial and physical aspects of the community as well as maintain protocols to keep everyone safe. 

In the past, those protocols probably included property access security protocols, vendor screening, and parking/driving rules. Now HOAs need to be concerned about the recent pandemic and keep all who live in the community safe from an outbreak. 

To do this is no easy task considering the social distancing and personal protective gear that is expected. How can your HOA stay informed and keep community members informed? Here are a few ideas using technology and some creativity. 

boards in conference room

Board Meetings 

Given the need for social distancing, boards may no longer be able to meet in person for important staff meetings. HOA boards have started using technology to “meet” as a group. Technology such as Google Meet aka Google Hangouts, Skype for Business, or GoToMeeting have helped keep HOA Board members connected during this time. This allows for a safe share of community information. 

If your HOA board continues to meet virtually, it will be much easier to stay in-the-know while the situation changes day to day. Depending upon the size of your HOA board, this method of communication may be the best way to keep the community safe. 

Keeping Community Informed

One of the main jobs of an executive HOA board during a crisis such as this pandemic is to keep all of the unit owners and residents informed of changes in the daily running of the community.  

To this end, boards are using technology such as email blasts, text messaging, and notices at mailboxes that can tell residents about steps that are being taken to keep everyone safe. 

These email blasts are a good place to remind community members about common areas that may be closed due to social distancing such as fitness centers, pools, and playgrounds. It is also a good place to inform community members how common areas such as hallways and elevators are being disinfected. 

Community members may also be interested to know where the board stands regarding vendors such as groundskeepers, delivery personnel, and repairmen visiting the property. This can all be covered in weekly emails. 

scales of justice

Rule Adjustments 

Given the spread of this virus, many HOA boards may choose to adjust rules for the common areas. Many associations are requiring that residents use face masks and gloves when in common areas. Depending on the logistics of your community, rules may be set for common areas, parking lots, and designated smoking areas. 

How is your association board handling the pandemic? Keeping board members and community members informed should be the top priority of condo boards. Use these techniques to keep your community informed of this ever changing pandemic. 

 

medical mask

Keeping Pace with Covid-19 in Condo Associations 

The novel Coronavirus has created many unique scenarios when it comes to working, living, and keeping everyone safe and well. A condo association, where many people live in close proximity, is one such unique circumstance. 

How can your homeowners association keep up with the latest information and keep residents up-to-date? What steps can you take to keep everyone safe and comfortable during this unprecedented time? Let’s examine some of the unique aspects of condo living during the covid-19 outbreak. 

condo building

Follow Local and State Mandates 

Depending upon your location, there will be local and state mandates that will need to be followed even within a condo association. These should be followed for the safety of all who live in the association. 

For example, Governor Baker of Massachusetts declared that gyms will be shuttered so that close contact and multi-use equipment can be avoided. While many private associations may argue that the governor has no control over their association, most have closed common areas like fitness rooms, pools, and play structures for the protection of all who live in the area. 

Disclose Important Information without Violating Privacy 

If your association has become aware of an outbreak of the virus, it may be their prerogative to disclose that information to the entire association without violating the person(s) privacy. Inform the community that there has been a case of an infected person without giving names, unit numbers, or other personal information. Residents can then take necessary precautions to keep themselves out of harm’s way. 

hammer with nails

Consider Vendors and Renovation Projects 

While outside landscaping and other third party work may continue at your association, your HOA may decide to waive other projects and stop some non-essential vendors from completing any projects that they deem unsafe. These vendors may be asked to take special precautions such as using masks, gloves, and other protective gear. Email questions about what vendors such as gardeners, pool maintenance, or exterior workmen can be on your property during this time. 

Consider Deliveries 

Many HOAs are changing their protocols when it comes to deliveries. For associations that have interior entrances, packages are now being placed in lobbies or front entryways where homeowners can safely get them without having delivery personnel enter the building. 

During this very unsettling time, it is important to keep good communication going with your community members so that everyone is informed about what safety precautions are being taken and how they can protect themselves. 

 

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

PREVENTION

Current employee & resident prevention actions are advised as follows:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol based hand sanitizer or soap & water.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is exhibiting symptoms such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
  • If a resident is exhibiting symptoms such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing, please seek medical care from your health care provider early. Share previous travel history with your health care provider and advise the Board of Health of any positive test results. Follow the recommended protocol as directed by the local Board of Health & Centers for Disease Controls & Prevention (CDC).
  • Avoid congregating in common areas.
  • Consider cancelling or postponing gatherings of residents such as community events, Annual Meetings, or Special Meetings of the Unit Owners.
  • Virtual meetings are recommended to conduct regular monthly business meetings of the Association.
  • Increased frequency and scope of cleaning services.
  • Regularly consult the information published by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) regarding COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html

MAINTENANCE & ON SITE STAFF

The Maintenance / On Call Manger will respond to any emergency service calls that are placed during regular business hours or between 5:00pm and 8:30am. We are discouraging our staff from entering apartments or units for any non-emergency or routine maintenance issue until further notice. In the event of an emergency our maintenance and property management staff will adhere to the following protocols:

  • Staff will be equipped with proper gloves and masks and will follow the appropriate protocols as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) including proper hand washing before and after accessing the unit or common space and distancing.
  • Staff will request that any resident exhibiting symptoms contact the local Board of Health to advise on the reporting & testing protocols.

We are in progress updating these protocols and procedures as new information becomes available which includes the recommended reporting protocols. Attached are two documents published by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) regarding prevention of the spread of COVID-19 and the protocol to follow if you are exhibiting symptoms.

This information was provided to our staff and we hope you find this information helpful.

Sincerely,
Thayer & Associates, Inc., AMO®