Category Archives: HOA Board

hammer with nails

Do I Need Approval to Renovate My Condo Unit? 

Have you been bitten by the DIY bug or perhaps have been watching too much HGTV this winter? If so, you may have started dreaming about making some changes to your condo unit. Maybe you are thinking big and considering a structural change, or maybe you just want to change out the color in the bathroom. Either way, you probably are facing the question that comes up when you don’t own the building…Do I need to get approval from the HOA (homeowners association) before I renovate my unit? 

The answer is complex and often includes the words “it depends.” Mostly, however, the answer is that you should get approval from your homeowners association before you start making major changes to your unit. Here is a quick breakdown depending (that magic word) on your HOA and their bylaws. 

paperwork

Where to Start

Most HOAs have tight control over establishing rules that unit owners must follow, especially when it comes to remodeling. The first thing you will want to do is determine for yourself what changes you would like to make on your unit. 

From there consult with the governing documents for your community. You can find these guidelines laid out in the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs).

Do these documents give any insight on what can and can not be done in a unit? Are there stipulations about what scope of work can take place and what contractors will or will not be allowed to work within the building? The bylaws and governing documents should be your first resource before you set your plans in motion. 

Beyond the governing documents, talk to your neighbors and find out if they have had any work done on their unit, how it went and what kind of hoops they needed to jump through before work could get underway. 

circular saw

Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

Many condo owners feel like the interior of their home is fair game for renovations and they start their projects without approval from the HOA board. Unfortunately, this means that if you don’t follow your HOA’s condo rules, the board may subject you to fees or court time- neither of which are fun to deal with. So to avoid these repercussions proactively stay informed and in accord with the CC&Rs. No one wants to deal with the cost of a renovation and then face fines from their HOA due to that project. 

Consider why these rules exist. If you begin knocking down walls or changing the structure of the building you could potentially harm the integrity of the unit or the units above or below. Always seek approval before you make any structural changes. 

Have you made changes to your condo unit in the past? How did it go? Drop us a line in the comments or check out our Facebook page. 

condo grounds

Keeping Your Condo Grounds Safe During the Winter 

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

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

pavers in circle

Walkways & Driveways 

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

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

Roof Protection 

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

icicles on gutter

Gutter Problems

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

Piping Protections 

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

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

 

for sale sign

How To Fill a Vacancy Fast 

Are you a landlord or property owner and feel the pressure every time a renter gives their notice that they are moving on to another location? This is pretty normal and understandable especially if you have been lucky enough to have tenants that pay on time and are respectful to the property. 

Once a renter has given notice there are a few ways that you can work to fill the vacancy quickly. This will result in no gap in payments and allow you to continue the rental agreement with a new person or family. 

key in a lock

Act Immediately

If all goes as planned, landlords or property owners should have about 30 days notice when a renter announces a departure. This doesn’t always happen but when it does this time can be used to prep the unit. Take that thirty days and start marketing immediately. Start placing ads in local media outlets as well as online sites for renting. 

Use this time to assess if the unit needs repairs, repainting, or any new flooring/appliances. The 30 days notice will give you ample time to make these repairs. The better the unit looks, the more likely you will get a good price and find renters quickly. 

Market Appropriately 

Once you have assessed the repair needs of the unit, you should begin marketing the property. Use free online sites, such as Craigslist and Zillow. Use signage in the window or on the lawn of the property so people in the vicinity can be first to know that the unit is available. 

Other options for marketing include: using a real estate agent, word of mouth, property management companies, and a traditional newspaper ad. These can be placed weeks prior to the vacancy and allow you to fill the unit even before the previous owners leave. 

phone apps

Leverage Technology

Use technology such as digital photography, virtual tours, or 360 degree images of the space to help you rent the unit. Consider shooting a video tour of the interior of your property, as well as the outside of your apartment complex and all common areas. 

Technology such as social media can also help you get the word out about the vacancy. Sharing of posts can quickly spread and make for light work of renting the unit. 

Create Incentives 

If you have multiple units, some property owners give incentives for other renters to attract good renters by bringing in someone they know and can vouch for. Obviously, background checks and credit checks should always still be run for each applicant, but this can help attract good renters. 

How do you fill vacancies fast? Drop us a line in the comments or check out our Facebook page. 

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. 

 

outdoor patio

Staying Safe in Common Areas 

Some of the more appealing aspects of living in a rental unit or condo association are the amenity areas including: walking paths, the pool, tennis courts, a fitness room, or entertaining areas. Many associations pride themselves on the well-maintained and impeccably cleaned common areas that are provided to the people living within the community. 

These common areas provide hours of entertainment, exercise, and places to socialize with neighbors and friends. These locations are often areas where community members can share news, celebrate, and enjoy time together. 

Unfortunately, just like in any city or suburb, community members should practice good safety protocols. Let’s review a few so you and the people within your community can stay safe this season. 

swimming poolSwimming Safety 

Swimming is such great exercise and can provide hours of entertainment for family members of all ages. Remember to follow safety guidelines that are clearly displayed in pool and hot tub areas. Avoid swimming alone and keep gates and doors locked so children can not accidentally wander into the pool area. 

Walking Paths

Just like it is not wise to swim alone in case of emergency, walking alone, no matter how safe the walking paths are, is never advised. Try to always walk with a friend and wear clothing that is easily seen, especially if you are walking at night. 

Property management specialists should attempt to make the paths clear of debris and as well lit as is possible. Trips and falls can be avoided with walkway lighting and well-maintained paved paths. 

fitness center man working out

Fitness Rooms 

Getting in a good workout after work is a great perk of living within a community. The amenity of a fitness room is a much sought after perk. 

To stay safe in this area, we suggest going with a friend and wiping down all equipment after you have used it. Be sure to follow the guidelines of equipment use so you do not get injured and keep access to the facility closed to non-community members. 

Entertaining Areas 

Many rental units and community associations provide outdoor entertaining areas with grilling access and fire pit use. Remember to always follow the rules to using the open flame in your entertaining area and be sure that the embers are completely out before leaving after your use. 

Clean up after you have used the area and alert the management if there are hazards like a grill in need of repair, gas tank that needs to be filled, or glass from broken bottles.

As community members remember that we are all aiming for the same thing, a clean and safe environment in which to live. For more articles on safety and common areas, check out our website or articles on our Facebook page

condo building

What Renters Need to Know About Insurance 

There are more renters today than at any other time over the past 50 years. According to United States Census data reported by Pew Research, the numbers show the increases in both rental units and homes for rent have increased greatly. Young people in their 20s and 30s are still generally the largest group that are renting, but numbers show that seniors are also beginning to see the benefits of renting. 

landscaping condo area

Why Rent? 

Renters are increasing in number for several reasons. The struggle to qualify for a bank loan for a mortgage has gotten more difficult, especially recently with the unemployment numbers skyrocketing. Renting may be one of the only options for young people who are saving money to make a down payment. Other renters point to amenities, the neighborhood, lease terms, and unit sizes as reasons they continue to rent. 

Rent and Insurance

Aside from enjoying amenities, better neighborhoods, and convenient lease terms, many renters enjoy that much of the responsibility of maintaining the dwelling falls to the landlord, including insurance for the structure itself.

The landlord’s insurance, however, does not extend to a renter’s personal belongings such as appliances they brought to the dwelling, clothing, electronic devices, furnishings, and personal keepsakes. A fire, flood, storm, smoke damage, or break in could damage an apartment or rental house. While the landlord would be responsible for the structural repairs and renovations, the individual renter would need to replace or repair their own property within the unit. This could be extremely costly especially after a catastrophe. 

Since the landlord or property management company is not responsible for the renter’s possessions, many people who rent choose to purchase renters’ insurance

landscaping condo area

What is Covered in Renter’s Insurance? 

Standard renter’s insurance covers not only the possessions in the renter’s unit, but also covers a renter’s liability in the event that a visitor is injured on the premises. That means that not only are your furnishings and expensive electronics covered, but if a friend trips and falls in your unit, your renter’s insurance can cover the medical bills. 

By adding renter’s insurance to your already existing car or personal insurance policy, you will then be protected at home whether something occurs that falls to the responsibility of the landlord or if it is something you will be financially responsible for. 

For more articles on insurance, check out our website or articles on our Facebook page

 

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. 

condo living room

Condo Insurance Explained 

If you are considering buying a condo unit for the ease of maintenance, the quick commute to the city, or the great amenities that come with the association, you are not alone. Many people of all ages choose condo living because they don’t want to devote their free time to upkeep, but they love the “extras” that come with the unit, like a pool, fitness room, or tennis courts. 

It is true that condo living is very unique and can make life a little more simple in the long run. There are some distinct differences, however, that make condo living a little more complex than single residence living. For example, insurance for condo living is broken into two main areas: the individual unit insurance and the master insurance for the entire complex. 

Let’s examine the differences between these two types and why you will need to have both should you decide to invest in a condo. 

condo livingroom

Master Condo Insurance 

The master insurance is usually an insurance that is paid to the homeowners association which provides insurance to the complex as a whole. The items that are covered under this type of insurance generally include: damage, repairs, or improvements needed to the outside of the building such as the roof, siding, common areas, and amenities, as well as liability insurance for injuries that happen to a person while on the community property. 

outside of a condo

Individual Unit Insurance

Aside from insurance that covers issues with the exterior of your building and community at large, you will need to investigate and purchase individual unit insurance. Unlike the insurance that goes to the homeowners association (HOA) to repair or improve exterior areas, this type protects the items within your unit. 

For example, should a calamity occur in your unit, like a theft, fire, water damage, or other event, your possessions will be covered. This would include your furnishings, clothing, electronics, technology, and, in some cases, your appliances. 

According to experts at NerdWallet, “If your HOA has what’s known as an ‘all-in’ HOA policy, it typically will cover all the original items built into your place, like cabinetry, lighting and other fixtures, plus things such as plumbing and wiring. However, if the HOA has what’s called a ‘bare walls’ HOA policy, it’s up to you to insure everything in your living space besides the walls, floor and ceiling.”

There are other advantages to having individual unit insurance in addition to HOA insurance. Individual insurance for your unit will cover liability should someone get injured within your condo. Another way it can help is if your unit has been damaged due to an accident, your insurance may cover your living expenses should you be unable to continue to live in the condo during repairs. Lastly, if repairs to a common area are exorbitant, your individual unit insurance may need to kick in where deficits exist. 

Do you need help understanding the differences and significance of master insurance vs. individual insurance? Drop us a line in the comments or contact us for more information. 

 

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.