Category Archives: governing documents

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. 

old friends walking

What are Typical Guest Policies in a HOA?

Do you like to entertain, have friends or family over, or enjoy the amenities of your community with a friend or two? Do you invite guests to stay overnight at your condo? If so, how long is an acceptable amount of time before guest status becomes resident status?  Let’s take a look at guest policies, their purpose, and some typical details that are meant to protect homeowners. 

two people hugging

What is a Guest Policy?

There are a couple types of guest policies when it comes to homeowners associations. First, there are guest policies in regards to using the amenities at an association. For instance, can a certain number of guests visit the pool, gym, or tennis courts at the association? You may find your HOA has a limit to how many people who can invite to use those amenities. 

Usually these guest policies explain how many guests are allowed as well as appropriate behavior of those guests while using the amenities. 

Beyond use of the community amenities, guest policies are used to differentiate between a long-term visitor and someone who has become a renter in a unit. 

Why Have a Guest Policy? 

Guest policies in a homeowners association are meant to prevent unauthorized, unsafe, and unmonitored rentals or use of a homeowner’s unit. 

For instance, Airbnb or Vrbo rentals for unoccupied units could become a problem for associations if rules are not followed or guests become unruly. 

Having a guest policy protects the association from liability should anything happen to the guest and allows for shared use of amenities in a fair and reasonable manner. 

swimming pool

Typical Policy Details 

At a basic level, curbing unruly guest behavior at the pool, in the common areas, or anywhere on the property is an important detail included in a typical guest policy. Often these policies will limit the number of guests a unit owner can have on the property at any given time. 

Determining when a guest has transitioned over to becoming a resident is important for HOAs, as they will need to know who is living in what unit. In this situation, there are an entirely different set of policies to consider. 

HOAs will want to determine if a guest who may have stayed overnight (on occasion) has become a more permanent part of the community. To determine this, they may need to know if mail is being delivered to the guest, if they have a key to the residence, and if they are paying part (or all) of the rent. 

If your association has noticed any of these behaviors, chances are your short-term guest may have morphed into a long-term guest, or even a resident. At this point their name may need to be added to the HOA paperwork. 

Other, more detailed aspects of a guest policy may include: 

  • How long a guest may stay
  • How many guests are allowed at any one time
  • Maximum occupancy of a unit based upon square footage and safety considerations
  • How many consecutive nights a guest may stay before they are considered a renter
  • Behavior of guests while in common areas 
  • Determinations of who is responsible for the guest during their time in the community

Do you have questions about drafting a guest policy for your community? Talk to our specialists about how this can be accomplished while still allowing homeowners flexibility to entertain and visit with family and friends. 

 

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.  

 

paperwork

What Happens When A Tenant Breaks Their Lease?

The legal agreement (or lease) between renter and landlord is usually pretty straight forward. The renter or tenant agrees to pay for the use of the property and the landlord or property owner promises to uphold all aspects of the rental agreement. Seems pretty simple right? But what about when circumstances occur that cause the tenant to break the lease? 

In most typical situations, renters stay the entire term of their lease, whether it is 6 months, a year or two years. Unfortunately, life sometimes gets in the way of completing that agreement. A new job, a loss of job, a move, a medical illness, or even a military deployment can cause a tenant to break the lease. 

lease paperwork

Who Is Responsible for the Remainder of the Lease? 

A lease is a binding agreement that’s supposed to protect both the landlord and the tenant. Therefore, depending upon the state in which you live, there are laws that protect both the landlord from being stuck with a vacant property until a suitable renter is found and a tenant from having to pay rent for an apartment that they no longer occupy. 

Depending on the reason, the landlord might be legally bound to release the tenant without damages, or conversely, the tenant may be bound to paying the rent until a replacement tenant is secured. Check leasing laws in your state for more guidance. 

When Is a Tenant NOT Responsible for the Remaining Rent? 

While every case is different and should be examined on its own merits, there are several situations in which a tenant is not deemed responsible for continuing to pay the rent after they have given legal notice of moving out. 

military jets

When Called to Active or Military Duty 

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows those in the armed forces, National Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Public Health Service the right to break their leases to start active duty or if their orders take them far away (50 miles is the accepted minimum distance). A 30 day notice must be given to release from the lease. 

When Living Conditions Are Unsafe 

Landlords are required by law to provide a habitable and safe place for tenants to live. Heat, hot water, working plumbing and electrical systems, and a generally safe (up to code) environment that doesn’t constitute a health hazard are required or tenants may be released from their lease without penalty. 

When Domestic Violence is An Issue 

Some states allow victims of domestic violence to break a lease without penalty by providing the landlord a written notice. Check your local and state laws and consult a local attorney if you want to learn more about the rights of victims of domestic violence.

The Question of Loss of Wages or Employment

This one gets a little trickier. In the age of covid many renters have found themselves out of work and a way to pay rent through no fault of their own. Some states require that landlords work with renters on making accommodations such as a payment plan or deferred payment. There may also be federal, state, or local laws that temporarily limit or prohibit landlords from evicting a tenant for nonpayment of rent. 

For more information about breaking leases and the Cares Act which currently protects evictions during the global health crisis, click here

 

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. 

 

condo

Remodeling your Unit- What You Need to Consider 

If you own a condo, you know that there are some definite perks to condo life. Your weekends are free from mowing the lawn and taking care of the landscaping, you have access to some pretty sweet amenities, and you probably have some amazing neighbors. 

Even with all the positive features associated with condo living, some owners still want to change things up within the walls of their unit. Taking down a wall, adding an architectural feature, or maybe just sprucing things up might be on your list of things to do. Before you even pick up a hammer, however, you may want to check with your Homeowner’s Association first about what you may need to do or permissions that may need to be granted before you may remodel it. 

Condo Rules 

Homeowner associations (HOAs) are responsible for managing condo communities. They take care of all of the common areas, the grounds, and the amenity areas. Most HOAs are responsible for any repairs needed on the outside of the unit building but are not for the interior of units. These HOAs have tight control over establishing rules that unit owners must follow, especially when it comes to remodeling.

Since your unit is probably attached to other condo units or apartments, you may need to check with your HOA about what rules apply to making changes. Not only structural issues will need to be addressed but also the noise and inconvenience that may be put upon your neighbors. 

Before beginning any renovations, it is critical to examine your HOA’s condo renovation rules to see what is permissible. You can find these guidelines laid out in the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs).

condo

Scope of Work 

Making changes to your condo could range anywhere from switching out your fixtures or hardware, to taking down walls. While the latter is not something that you would usually need permission from the association, you will need to seek approval from the board for larger renovations within your unit. 

The reasoning for this is that they need to affirm that the changes will not put the structure of the building at risk or cause a nuisance to neighbors. In general, if you are taking down a wall or changing the footprint or flow of your unit, you should confirm with the homeowners association that the removal of your interior walls won’t result in damage of the condo or the integrity of the building.

The Bottom Line

Have fun planning your renovation, but be sure to check with and gain the needed HOA approval before you begin any project within your unit. You may find the bylaws a good place to start when trying to determine which improvements need approval and which can be done independently. 

 

fitness center man working out

Common Problems in Common Areas 

As community members, we love our common areas. These areas in any condominium association tend to be the amenities we cherish so much such as the walkways, tennis courts, fitness centers, pool areas, entertaining/fire pit areas, and gardens. Unfortunately, with every common area there are some pretty typical problems, especially in a community living situation. 

conference room

Cleaning Up 

Common areas are meant to be used by all who live in the condo association. It may also be permissible for these areas to be used by unit owner’s and their guests, depending upon the HOA rules in your association. 

While sharing these spaces makes it nice for all to enjoy the amenities, it also means that cleaning up should be done by all. Usually every association allows for an outside vendor to complete regular cleanings either weekly or bi weekly for trash and general cleaning. However, the day-to-day cleaning should be done by those who use the spaces. For instance, if you head to the pool, tennis courts, or fitness area, be sure to carry out any trash that you brought in. Put items back where you found them and tidy up the space you used. 

Locking Up 

If your community has a key or coded entry for each amenity and common area, you will want to make sure that once you have used the area, that you lock the location. This means that homeowners should ensure that no people outside the community can gain access to common areas without permission. It is actually a safety measure that can ensure the protection of all who live in the community. Your HOA may have specific rules about when each common area can be accessed and what the lock up procedures are for each area. Please try to follow those. 

man with finger to mouth

Noise Level 

Noise ordinances vary from community to community. Check with your association about what your obligations are in regard to having music, entertainment, or loud parties in any common areas in your community. The rules may designate hours when music or guests are permitted, or it may mention distinct noise levels. A general rule to follow is to check with neighbors and others who are using the common area if the noise level is acceptable. 

Pet Problems

In addition to dealing with clean up, locking up, and handling the general noise level, every community member should be sensitive to the rules of common areas when it comes to pets. Review whether they are allowed in common areas and if they are what rules apply. For instance, does Fido need to be on a leash, is there a designated time that permits pets on walking paths, or are there specific guidelines for your community? Check with your HOSA before you allow your pet into a common area. 

For more articles on common areas and issues that may arise in your community, 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. 

walkway

Importance of Aesthetic Rules in a Community 

For many condominium unit owners, some of the best things about living in a community include the access to amenities, the lack of maintenance they need to do, and the overall clean and aesthetically pleasing area they are able to live in. Aesthetic rules, therefore, become imperative to maintain that pleasant appearance and professional looking environment. 

Think about the components of your community. Elevators that are clean and well-maintained. Exterior paint and siding that is fresh and clean. Shrubbery and landscaping that is well-manicured. And don’t forget about the walkways and hallways that are cleaned on a regular basis. All of this is often taken for granted by unit owners, but it lends itself to promoting a positive and healthy community. 

When communities and community members adhere to the standards set forth in the bylaws governing the HOA (Homeowners Association) the area can continue to look beautiful throughout the year. 

There are several reasons why maintaining these standards are important for both the community as a whole and individual unit owners. Some of the most important reasons to continue to adhere to these standards include maintaining the property values, enhancing cleanliness, and promoting a positive, happy environment. 

kitchenMaintaining Property Values 

Realtors can quote statistics about the importance of curb appeal and how the look of a home or even the exterior of a condo unit can determine within seconds whether a buyer will even consider purchasing in an association. If each property owner has an exterior that is aesthetically different and causes the overall look of the community to be one that is not uniform or possibly even gaudy, then buyers will move on to the next community. Maintaining the standard look could mean the difference between increasing or potentially decreasing your property value. 

Enhancing Cleanliness

When unit owners follow rules about cleaning up after themselves in common areas such as the fitness room, pool, playground, or tennis courts, it means that the environment can continue to look pleasant. Following rules about exterior decor, pet rules, and the type and amount of cars allowed in parking areas can also have a huge impact on the overall cleanliness of the community. Maintaining that spotless appearance is a positive outcome for all community members and unit owners. 

home libraryHappy Environment 

Doesn’t everyone want to come home to a well maintained community? Driving through your condo association, do you see lawn that has been mowed, siding that is painted, and front walkways that are uniform and clean? Believe it or not, these things can help make your environment one that you can be proud of. Consequently, pride can translate into positive feelings that you may have about living in your condo association. 

How well maintained and aesthetically pleasing is your association? What makes it that way? Tell us in the comments below or comment on our Facebook page

 

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