Category Archives: governing documents

phone apps

Keeping Your Renters “In The Loop” 

Communication between property managers or landlords and renters is a critical piece of the puzzle for harmonious living in an apartment community or homeowner’s association. Communication, including how it occurs, when it occurs, and how informative it is, can mean the difference between a rocky relationship and a productive one. 

Whether you are a traditionalist and like to use “snail mail” as your form of communication or you have made the leap to the digital world, your communication should be timely, regular, and filled with useful information. lease paperwork

When To Communicate

It’s important to communicate effectively with renters, tenants, or members of your HOA, but it’s also important to know when communication needs to occur. Here are a few examples of when you should be sending out text messages, emails, or posting bulletins. 

  • The dates and time of capital improvements. This could be roofing, paving, landscaping, HVAC updates, or a host of other major renovations. 
  • Interruptions or changes in service. This could include regular landscaping tasks being discontinued or changed to a different day. 
  • Information regarding financial changes to contracts. 
  • Updates to building or community rules.
  • Local news or events impacting the community. 
  • Reminders for safety. 
  • Updates or reminders for snow plowing if applicable. 

phone apps

Forms of Communication

When to choose to communicate is one thing, but how you do it is another thing. A good rule is that property managers should use multiple forms of communication in case some renters have an affinity for one form over another. Older renters may not want to text or use an app while younger renters may find email or regular newsletter bog them down. 

Here are some options for the methods of communication. 

  • Software apps can make communication instantaneous and easy with a smartphone.
  • Email may be a good choice for more formal newsletters and reminders of things like repairs or maintenance work. 
  • An updated website with rules, regulations, and a calendar of events/repairs. This is a good way to remind your community when mowing day is or when the amenities (like the pool or clubhouse) will be closed for cleaning. 
  • A dedicated phone line that is staffed with employees who can field questions, comments, or concerns. This may be a cost-effective way of weeding out issues that are small and can be answered quickly. 
  • A bulletin board in a common space can be a great place to post news, reminders, and upbeat items. This is not a place to post repairs or individual renters issues. 

Having multiple communication channels is a way to ensure that everyone living in your community or building has a method that they are most comfortable using. Communication is the key to having happy (loyal) renters. For more information about our communication visit our website

 

conflict resolution methods

Handling Conflict Resolution in Apartment Complexes 

Disagreements between neighbors living in close quarters, such as apartment complexes, are a common issue and should be handled with care by the landlord, homeowners association, or property management company.  

While it is fairly natural for neighbors to have occasional conflicts over minor things like excessive noise at an inconvenient time, or parking spots during the snowy months, the main goal of those in charge of the complex or community should be to manage the issue before it becomes contentious enough to cause legal action. 

Here are a few ways to help handle conflict resolution and create a more harmonious living community for you and your homeowners. 

dogs barking

What Are the Most Common Issues? 

When living in high density apartments, there are some issues that come up over and over again. Two of the most prevalent issues include noises and smells. 

The issue with noises in apartment complexes could include stereos that are too loud, crying babies, loud footsteps in the apartments above, barking or active pets, or the occasional party. These issues are often solved by a friendly reminder about being courteous to neighbors or regarding the rules about quiet hours.

The second most common issue that landlords often receive complaints about are smells. These malodorous issues usually can be placed in two categories: cooking smells and smoking smells. Smells from a neighbor’s kitchen can sometimes be a welcome aroma during mealtime, or the excessive smell of garlic may turn other’s noses. 

Then, there is the ongoing issue of smoking in areas where cigars, vapes, and cigarettes are prohibited. With state legislation determining where smoking can occur, many neighbors find themselves in a conflict over the presence of smoking odors. 

paperwork

Managing Conflict 

Knowing the most common issues that can stir up conflict is one thing, but knowing how to handle the festering issue is an entirely different one. 

There are several ways property managers can help de-escalate warring neighbors. One of the first things is to listen to each party’s version of the issue. Allowing each person to meet with you separately can give a much needed background to the situation. 

Once each person’s version of the incident or situation is heard, it is a good idea to review the community rules that may make for an easy resolution. For example, if there is no smoking at the poolside, remind all residents of that rule and ask that these guidelines are followed. 

If the situation can be simply solved with a review of the community bylaws or rules, that would be great, however, more often than not, both homeowners may need to meet to resolve lingering animosity. This step in the process comes with the thought that by bringing both parties together that they may be able to hear the rules together so there is no confusion as well as what the consequences are if the rules are not followed. 

If Things Get Ugly 

Avoiding escalation between neighbors is the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, de-escalation is not always possible and a mediator (or the courts) may need to get involved. In cases like this it is best to let the legal teams handle the issue and remain an interested third party. 

Drop us a note of how your apartment complex dispute was successfully resolved. 

 

key to a new home

Minimizing Stress During Tenant Transitions 

In an ideal world, good tenants would move in and stay for eternity. Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect and somewhere along your time as a property manager or landlord, you will need to handle the transition from one tenant to another. 

Having a smooth transition between tenants is critical to not only the landlord/property manager but also to the current and future tenants of the unit. Making sure that the property changes over  from one renter to another as smoothly as possible can also be a positive for the property in general. 

Let’s take a closer look from three points of view (landlord, current tenant, and future tenant) at how to make these transitions less stressful and as uneventful as possible. 

Giving Notice 

Depending upon the type of lease agreement you have for your rental property, you will most likely have 30 days to give notice of your departure. A tenancy-at-will has no formal lease agreement, so thirty days to end your rental agreement is usually the norm. 

For renters who have a year-long lease, letting your property manager or landlord know before your lease is up is the norm, although by giving ample time you help make the transition smoother all around. 

End of Lease Rental Checklist

Once a renter has given their notice, a checklist that breaks down what will happen in the last thirty days is a smart idea not only for communication’s sake, but also so that each party knows, in writing, what they are responsible for. For instance, a landlord may require that the unit be clean including a wipe down of the refrigerator and stove. Or a tenant may request a security deposit be returned as long as items on the checklist are completed and no damage to the unit is evident. 

Part of the lease-ending checklist should be the specific date of vacating the property so both the property management team and new renter will have time to arrange for upgrades, repairs, or changes to the unit. 

tools for repairs

Arranging For Repairs 

While inconvenient to the current tenants, many property managers like to get a head start on repairs and upgrades on units that are being vacated. That may mean updates while the current tenant still occupies the unit. 

It’s a good idea to make arrangements for repairs, painting, or deep cleaning to be done in the days immediately after the tenant has moved out. Some managers, however, like to get a jumpstart and schedule out those tasks even while the former tenant is still occupying the property. 

Check your lease agreement to find out when and how these tasks should be handled. 

Formal Walk Through

Walking through a property is not done just at the end of a lease, but should also be done thoroughly at the start of a lease as well. Current and future tenants need to know the condition of the unit as well as any issues that may be remaining from past renters. 

During each of these ‘walkthroughs’ each involved party should look for damage, areas that need repair, and problems with electrical, plumbing, or fixtures. Safety issues and health issues should also be addressed. Report these to the appropriate people so you are not held responsible later. 

If you are in the need of expert property management services to make these types of transitions go smoothly, contact Thayer & Associates

 

calendar

Ringing In The New Year With Tenant Reminders 

The turning of the calendar to a new month and new year is symbolic of a fresh start, a clean slate, if you will. Take advantage of this new beginning as a time to refresh and remind your tenants or community members of the services your team offers as well as a gentle reminder of community guidelines. 

software on a laptop

Software Updates 

Many property management providers and landlords offer online payments and software to make putting in repair requests or comments easy to manage. 

If your community is starting to utilize a new software program or wants to encourage more tenants to use your current one, the new year is a great time to remind them of the advantages of such software. 

For instance, paying rent or HOA dues can be infinitely easier and timely if it is scheduled on a software application. Many of them even have mobile apps to make things even easier to pay or make a request on-the-go. 

remember graphics

Changes in Lease or Laws 

The new year is an excellent time to send out a community or building-wide newsletter informing the people who live in your community any changes to Massachusetts state laws regarding leasing, tenancy-at will or payment requirements. 

An easy to access document can be read and referred to throughout the year as changes are made to any state laws or local leasing agreements. 

This is also a good time to let your tenants or community members know if there will be any increases in fees or leasing agreements. Allowing residents a chance to budget well in advance is a smart way to prepare them for any increases. 

Maintenance Schedules or Landscaping Timelines 

As the winter settles in, the turning of the calendar is an appropriate time to remind the residents in your community of any major maintenance that is scheduled. 

For instance, if this summer is the time you plan on installing a new roof or making upgrades to the amenities, you will want to give your tenants a heads up so they can plan accordingly. 

Giving a landscape timeline is also a good idea for kicking off the new year. If you have a new landscaping company or plan to start spring clean ups at a certain time, you can inform your community at this time. 

Reminders of Rights 

Tenants have certain rights (as well as responsibilities) that fall on their shoulders. Provide resources on a regular basis that allows your community members to read about their rights and understand them fully. The Mass.gov site has a full library of tenant rights articles that could be helpful. 

As responsible property managers or landlords, what are you doing to help provide resources and information this New Years to your tenants and community members? 

 

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.