Category Archives: property management

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. 

banana under a boot

Avoiding Slips & Falls in Your Community 

It’s that time of year again, when snow, ice, and all sorts of precipitation or freezing temperatures could wreak havoc on walkways, driveways, and hardscape surfaces. The many ups and downs of Mother Nature is what makes living in the Greater Boston region exciting, but also a bit of a hazard during the winter months. 

If you are a landlord, property owner, or part of a condominium board, you may need assistance during the winter months to keep your hardscape safe in order to avoid any slips and falls that could occur. Here are some simple yet smart ways to keep your community protected from these incidences. 

condo grounds

Condo Living Benefits 

Living in a condominium community has so many benefits, including not having to worry about landscaping and outdoor maintenance. Shoveling snow, de-icing sidewalks and parking lots are two of the perks as well. Tack on some wonderful amenities like access to a fitness room, pool in the summer, or a guest house for parties and you have a trifecta of benefits to condo living.

The benefit we are focusing on today is the responsibility of preventing dangerous walkway and parking space incidents during the winter months, as well as keeping indoor common areas safe year round. 

walkway

Outdoor Spaces 

The responsibility of a condo community to keep its common areas such as the walkways, parking spots, and driveways safe really is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to preventing slips and falls. 

Walkways should be maintained carefully all year long, which means clearing them of snow and ice in the winter months, and leaves and other tree debris in the fall and spring months. These walkways should be treated with non-toxic de-icing products. This is the first defense of protecting your community against slips and falls. 

In addition to clearing walkways of snow or ice, many communities also install hand railings, use anti-skid paint on walkways, and keep all hardscape in good repair throughout the year. This includes repairing any cracks, bumps, or broken pieces to avoid someone’s foot getting caught on the ground and causing a potentially injurious fall. 

Outside areas should also have proper lighting so tenants or community members can see where they are walking and thus avoid a painful fall on ice or by bumping into something blocking their path. 

Indoor Areas 

As New Englanders, we all know that when winter hits it is pretty common to track in snow and ice on our boots. That snow will eventually melt and could cause a slipping issue in hallways or common areas. Property management companies should become experts at knowing what time of year to install moisture-absorbent mats with beveled edges to avoid slips at entrance ways. They should also be quick to send maintenance crews to regularly mop and dry hallways that are not covered with rugs. 

What are ways that your property management company keeps your community safe from slips and falls? Drop us a line in the comments or check out our Facebook page. 

 

man in walkway in the winter

Prepping For Winter in a Condo Community 

Nobody here in New England wants to admit it, but the winter temps and precipitation is on its way. That means snow, ice, and below freezing temperatures for the next few months. Maybe even a nor’easter for good measure too! Are you ready for whatever Mother Nature can throw our way? Here is a quick guide of ways to prep in your community for the colder months that lay ahead. 

thermostat

Interior Unit Preparations

If you are a condo unit owner, there’s really not a whole lot you can do to prepare the outside of your home. That job usually falls to the organization hired by your condo HOA board. 

There are, however, a few steps you can take to ready your condo’s interior for the winter weather. Start by making sure your windows are sealed properly. Add caulking where necessary and maybe even invest in thermal window shades that can keep pesky drafts out. 

If dipping temperatures are a problem, try using a programmable thermostat that can have your unit nice and warm by the time you get home from work, and automatically adjust it back down during the hours you are out and about. If temperatures are a problem in your building, you may also want to protect your pipes on exterior facing walls as they can freeze and burst in the sub zero temps. 

In addition to taking steps to protect your condo unit from temperature fluctuations, you may also want to check the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide alerting system. The start of winter is a great time to check both of these as blowing and drifting snow can cause a blocking of exhaust pipes, a potential catastrophe in the making. 

While you are checking your monitoring systems, also take a close look at the lint trap in your dryer if you have one within the unit. A good clean out is a great way to avoid any fire risk associated with combustible lint inside a dryer. 

snowy village

Outside Winterizing 

Usually the winterizing on the outside of a building is handled by the homeowners association, (often a 3rd party vendor) who handles things such as: plowing and shoveling, roof repair, and landscaping. 

Winter tasks such as plowing and shoveling hardscape areas falls to the landscaping team and the HOA board. Treating walkways with de-icers is also a main task of the board who is responsible for the safety of its community members both on walkways and on the driveway surfaces. 

Clearing rooftops or decks that are at the mercy of the elements and winter precipitation may also fall in the category of responsibilities taken care of by the HOA. Read the bylaws about how often these areas will be cleared of snow or winterized for the season. 

Your property management team should be able to communicate with your condo community regarding a checklist of tasks that you may want to complete before the weather turns even colder, while they take care of exterior chores. 

 

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. 

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.

landscaped garden

Benefits of Landscaping & Property Maintenance

Picture it. You turn the corner into your association and you are greeted by flowering shrubs, grass that is freshly mowed, and parking lots that are swept and newly lined. Each of these things can lend themselves to an aesthetically pleasing environment. There are, however, many benefits to having the landscaping completed by your association. 

landscaped homeLifestyle Benefits 

Other than people who truly love gardening and tinkering in the yard, landscaping tends to be a tedious chore that homeowners look forward to “checking off” on their list of things to do every weekend. For many, it can take hours of manpower, and even cost a pretty penny to buy all the equipment to keep your lawn, shrubs, trees, and flowers looking beautiful every week during the spring, summer, and fall. 

Living in a community that provides the landscaping, both in terms of lawn maintenance in the spring and summer and snow plowing during the winters months, can be both a time saver and a cost effective benefit of community living. 

landscaped birch trees Aesthetic Benefit 

Along with the time and cost savings, community landscaping can be a major advantage to the overall aesthetic to any association. Usually associations contract with third party vendors who have the proper equipment and landscaping professionals who can keep your community looking professionally landscaped all year. 

Arborists, mowers, and gardeners can keep your association environment looking clean, manicured, and brightly blooming! The aesthetic benefit can be a mood booster and can make you truly love living in your condo association. 

If you love seeing the flowering plantings and trimmed bushes without any of the work, you know what it feels like to live in a well manicured community. 

Lower Liability 

Landscapers usually handle both the organic areas of a community as well as the hardscapes.  This means that your walkways, parking areas, and pavers will be kept spotless and in good working condition. Walkways and parking lots are often areas where liability claims come into play with slips and falls or uneven pavers causing hazardous conditions. Using a third party vendor to clean, edge, and repair these areas can mean that their insurance and the Master insurance of the condo association will cover any personal liability in this area. 

What do you love most about the landscaping in your community. Drop us a line in the comments or visit our Facebook page.

 

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

 

condo

What You Should Know About Condo Life Before You Buy 

If you are in the market for a home in the area, you may have found that single home prices are beyond your grasp at this time. You may have also discovered that buying into a condo association may be your best shot at owning rather than renting. 

A condo community has many financial and lifestyle advantages that you may be able to capitalize on depending upon your situation. Keep in mind, however, that condo living isn’t for everyone. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of living in a community, before you sign on the dotted line. 

condo floorplanThe Advantages to Condo Living

Living in a condo community opens up some advantages to homeownership that aren’t available in other living situations. If you want to own, but you don’t want the hassle of all the maintenance and upkeep that a single home would require, then condo living may be perfect for you. 

Generally, part of your monthly condo fee includes all outside landscaping including mowing, landscaping, and clean up. It also includes seasonal plowing, shoveling, and raking. Think of all the weekend hours you free up by not having to take care of these chores! 

Another perk of living in an association is access to amenities that are offered. These may include a fitness room, pool, tennis courts, walking paths, and entertaining/common rooms. These are areas that you can use for your own enjoyment. 

In addition to these pluses, there is the benefit of a built-in social network in any condo community. This is especially important if your community is designated a senior living community or carries any other designation according to age or interests. 

condo spaceThe Disadvantages 

While we love community living, the concept is not for everyone. You must be willing to live in an area where your neighbors may be fairly close by. This means living with community rules as well as using common sense to be respectful of everyone’s privacy and living situations. 

Some rules may not impact your life but others may greatly affect you. For instance, there may be rules about noise ordinances, pets, parking, and visitors. Be sure to check the bylaws before you decide to buy a condo to make sure the regulations are something you can live with. 

There are also cohabitation issues that you may need to deal with. For instance, if your neighbor works the night shift and expects quiet during the day, you may need to work out some compromises. For most people, these little instances do not deter them from the freedom of living in a condo association. 

Do you love living in your condo? Why? Drop us a line in the comments below or on our Facebook page

 

swimming pool

What Is Condo Common Area Etiquette? 

Does your condo association have common areas and amenities such as a pool, fitness room, game room, tennis courts, or an entertaining room? These are great “extra” areas that can be a positive aspect of living in an association. These amenities, while a bonus of living in an association, also come with certain etiquette rules. 

It probably goes without saying that there is a level of decorum that is expected in these areas. Does everyone who uses these amenities follow the same rules? Are they posted or just listed in the bylaws of the HOA? Let’s take a look at the common etiquette rules that apply when living in an association. 

Common areas exist as a perk of living in an association. In order to keep the community working harmoniously, it is probably a good idea to follow some common rules. 

The Pool Area

While this amenity is probably only open seasonally (unless you are lucky enough to have an indoor pool) the idea is that all association members need to share the pool deck and be aware of others while they are enjoying a dip. That means that everyone should clean up after themselves including things like: food wrappers, beverage containers, and towels that are brought to the area.

If you enjoy swimming laps, try to choose a time that allows for the least disruption. Conversely, if you have a gaggle of children with you, try to accommodate those who do not, and are trying to enjoy a moment of peace by the pool. In addition, always follow the pool rules including no running, diving, or use of glass containers. 

Fitness Areas

What a great bonus to community living! Going to the gym can be such a hassle… unless you have one right on the premises. To maintain this amenity for all community members, it is a good idea to be courteous to your fellow association members. Always wipe down your machines for cleanliness, be aware of how much time you are spending on each machine, and keep the noise to a minimum. Just like with the pool, take care of any trash or towels you have brought in with you. 

Entertaining Areas

This particular amenity usually has specific rules. Some communities have an entertaining room or club house that is available to “sign out” for special events or parties. Be sure to carefully inspect the regulations regarding using this area. Some associations allow to decorating, liquor consumption, and catering to happen in the area, but be sure to find out the requirements regarding hours you can spend there, as well as what needs to be done upon completion of your special event such as kitchen clean up, putting furniture back in the proper spots, and shutting off the lights. 

Looking for more condo etiquette rules? Check out Emily Post’s Advice Column of “Neighborly Manners” for more ideas.

be quiet

What Are Common Noise Ordinances In An Association? 

The duties of a Homeowners Association are commonly wide-ranging and include decisions on when to make repairs, improvements, and additions. Associations also establish rules and regulations to control aesthetics and unwelcome behavior. Among the common rules and regulations are noise ordinances that help keep association members from annoying neighbors with loud footsteps, barking dogs, or music. 

A noise complaint is often referred to as a “nuisance complaint.” That type of complaint is usually an activity that unreasonably interferes with the use or quiet enjoyment of another resident of their separate unit or exclusive use common areas. 

loud noiseWhat Causes Noise Complaints? 

The most common complaint in relation to noise is usually caused by hard surface flooring. When surfaces such as wood, tile, or stone are used, it can amplify noises related to walking, moving furniture, exercise regimens, and play activities. If your association is one that has units stacked on top of each other, this could be a major problem. Most associations have moved to using carpeted flooring to buffer noises from neighboring units.

Another frequent cause of noise complaints to an HOA board are the sounds that come from a parking lot. Cars, motorcycles, and trucks can be noisy. No one wants to be woken by the sound of a revving motor or screeching brakes. 

Then there are also noise complaints that center around general living noises such as: barking dogs, noisy televisions, and parties. These nuisance events could occur regularly or could be “one-offs.”

give feedback What Can You Do About A Noise Complaint? 

Unfortunately, noise is something that is somewhat difficult to define, and even harder to prove. Often, if a complaint is made to an HOA that involves only one neighbor, the situation could be a neighbor-to-neighbor conflict. If numerous complaints are filed with the HOA about recurring noises, then the board can usually act. 

The first action an association member should take is to ask the person creating the noise about the situation in a calm and rational manner. It is highly possibly the person may not be aware that the noise is disturbing other association members. 

If an association member doesn’t feel comfortable doing this s/he should then ask the board for clarification about the noise ordinances. Often the board will put out a reminder about loud cars, parties, and common area noise to the entire association before taking action against a particular unit.

If the noise issue does not get resolved, the board and the association members may request mediation. Here is where things get tricky. Does the noise ordinance proclamation supercede the local or municipal ordinances regarding noise? Each area is different, so you will need to check with your board to see how it works in your area. 

Check out the common noise ordinances in your area and let us know how noise complaints are handled in your associations. Leave us a comment below or check us out on our social media