Category Archives: governing documents

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

 

Handling a Hoarding Situation

According to the Mayo Clinic Hoarding Disorder Department, hoarding is a disorder characterized by persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. Understanding the emotional, physical, social, and financial impacts of this disorder is one thing. For property managers and HOA boards, this disorder takes on legal implications as well. Let’s take a closer look at what hoarding is and how living communities deal with it. 

What is Hoarding? 

The hallmark of hoarding is the collection of items such as newspapers, magazines, sale items, mail, photographs, keepsakes, food, clothing and, in some cases, animals. As with any illness, hoarding can range from mild to severe. Most people with a hoarding disorder may not see it as a problem, which makes treatment a challenge. 

Some of the symptoms that distinguish this disorder include: 

  • Excessively acquiring items that are not needed or for which there’s no space.
  • Persistent difficulty throwing out or parting with your things, regardless of actual value.
  • Feeling a need to save these items, and being upset by the thought of discarding them.
  • Building up of clutter to the point where rooms become unusable.
  • Having a tendency toward indecisiveness, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, and problems with planning and organizing.

When the Problem Occurs in a Community

Scientific American estimates that between 5-14 million American adults currently struggle with compulsive hoarding disorder. For most of these people, the struggle plays out in the privacy of their own homes. In those situations, family and friends deal with the hoarding mess. 

For those hoarders who find themselves living in an association such as a condo or apartment complex, the issue becomes apparent to neighbors who may take issue with the problem. One of the first things a homeowners association will do when facing a hoarding complaint will be to determine if the situation is indeed impacting the health and/or safety of unit owners around them. 

Determining if a unit owner is merely cluttered or indeed a hoarder, can be difficult. Property managers and HOA boards often look at the following questions to determine the difference. For example, does the hoarding collection block emergency exits or doorways? Does the hoarding interfere with ventilation or sprinkler systems? Is the hoarding attracting pests through improper food storage? Is the situation creating a hazard for other residents? If the answer to any of these is yes, then the board and/or property managers will need to take action to ensure the health and safety of all who live in the community. 

In most states, the landlord and/or HOA has a responsibility to provide a habitable and safe dwelling. This duty is often referred to as the “warranty of habitability” and is implied in nearly every standard HOA governing documents. In exchange, most states require tenants to keep their units “clean and sanitary.” 

If there is a hoarding situation in your community, you will want to inform the HOA board of your concerns so they can take up the issue with the individual unit owner and determine if legal action needs to be taken. 

Does someone in your HOA have a hoarding situation? How does the board handle it? Contact Thayer Associates on our contact page or call us at (617) 354-6480

 

Amending the Governing Documents for your Association 

If you live in a community association, whether it is a condominium, townhome, or apartment complex, you know that you live by certain rules usually determined by the governing documents of your homeowners association (HOA). Some of them may be in regard to financials, while others may help keep the peace and general running of the property with specific rules for unit owners. Every once in a while, those documents will need to be amended. Here is a quick guide on that process. 

What are the Governing Documents? 

If you are new to living in an HOA, you may not be aware that there are three main documents that help your community function. The basic HOA legal documents that may need amending are the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). You should have been given digital access to these or a printed version upon signing your lease/mortgage with the community governing board. If you do not know what these are or can not find these documents, ask a member of your HOA board and they will help get you acclimated to the paperwork. Your property management company should also have an idea where you can gain access to this information. 

Why Amend Governing Documents? 

The reasons for a change or amendment to a governing document can be varied. For example, some communities find that there are inconsistencies in documents that help manage the community. Others find that local, state, or federal statutes or laws have changed that make it necessary that the community makes changes to its governing laws as well. The list for why a document needs to be amended is long, but the process does not need to be equally painful. 

Here are just a few possibilities as suggested by Echo Educational Community for HOA on why amendments sometimes need to occur. 

  • To eliminate obsolete provisions.
  • To eliminate provisions no longer observed or enforced.
  • To eliminate provisions that conflict with current laws.
  • To eliminate provisions required by the Department of Real Estate in a start-up project that are no longer needed.
  • To eliminate developer privileges no longer being used, such as two-class voting or exemption from use restrictions.
  • To improve poorly drafted documents by clarifying ambiguous provisions.
  • To tailor documents to fit the living experience of owners/members.
  • To provide for changes in technology (satellite dishes, home office use, etc.).
  • To make documents more “user-friendly” – better organization, add a table of contents and descriptive paragraph headings, etc.
  • To eliminate or correct mistakes and errors.

How Often Should Amendments Occur? 

Optimally, governing boards of HOAs should try to review the documents every few years but, occasionally, events or issues arise where the documents need to be evaluated in a limited time period. Usually, it is recommended that the community’s attorney amend the documents with input for the board and community members. Someone with knowledge of the community and how it is run would be a best-case scenario. 

Does your HOA need help with updating or amending their governing documents? Visit our website and contact our professionals who can help get you started.