Category Archives: property management

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

 

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

 

Advantages of Association Living 

How would you like all the advantages of being a homeowner without having to deal with lawn upkeep  and the maintenance of the building and utilities? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, living in a homeowners association can provide such a life! 

If you are house hunting and condominium living is on your list of possibilities, you will want to examine the advantages that could be a part of your HOA. Many first time buyers, as well as empty-nesters, choose this type of community because the benefits are amazing. Here are a few things to weigh when deciding on purchasing a unit in an association. 

Upkeep and Maintenance

As mentioned above, many people who are ready to take the plunge into the housing market are too busy with work and family life to worry about the constant work, maintenance, and upkeep that is needed with homeownership. 

While HOA’s do require a monthly fee, most HOAs use that money to invest in top-notch maintenance of all the amenities and ensure your property stays in shape from the landscaping to the pool/gym areas. Imagine all the free time you will have on weekends and evenings to do what you want without the worry of outside maintenance, utility problems, and/or amenity access. 

Often, association living allows for a nicer neighborhood with lawn care, gardening, and well-kept parking lots and walkways. This aspect alone can mean a huge benefit for this type of living. 

Amenities 

When considering purchasing a home vs. a condo, think about the extras that can make your living experience easier and, realistically speaking, happier. Most people can’t afford a pool, fitness center, clubhouse, tennis courts, BBQ/picnic areas, or walking trails on their own. As a part of a community, these amenities are usually a part of your dues. What a great asset to a community! 

Social Life 

For many people, their friends are usually located near their homes. For the lucky ones, community living allows for interactions and friendships that they would not normally be able to cultivate. From community BBQs to meeting people at the pool or fitness center, HOAs can help friendships blossom. 

Mediators for Disputes 

On the other side of the coin are neighbors who have disputes. Any time there is an issue with a dog barking too much, loud parties, or parking issues, an HOA can address the situation in a non-threatening manner. HOAs are great mediators for disputes. 

Take these aspects of community living into account when you are deciding on your next home. 

 

Importance of Year-Round Property Maintenance

One of the biggest perks of living in an association is not having to deal with the general property maintenance that individual homeowners deal with. Think about all that time that has been freed up since you don’t need to think about all that upkeep and regular care. As a part of a community, the HOA (and your monthly dues) usually takes care of each season’s specific tasks. It is important to have the regular care of a property maintenance crew to handle what Mother Nature hands us each season here in New England. 

Top-notch, maintenance can help create a positive first impression, keep the area clean and tidy, allows for the safety of residents, and allows for unit owner’s satisfaction that they are living in a well-cared-for area. 

Every season brings with it new areas and equipment that should be inspected, cleaned, repaired, or replaced. Here is a guide to what your property maintenance team may look out for the association in your community. 

Fall and Winter 

The fall season is one of the busiest times of year when it comes to maintenance needs. In order to prepare for the winter season, much of the building and grounds must be surveyed for possible hazards. For example, all gutters and overhanging branches should be cleaned out and trimmed back respectively. Outdoor pools should be closed and locked down for the season. Outdoor patio equipment should be cleaned and stored until spring. Final plans for snow removal should be completed at this time, whether it is hiring an independent contractor or using the maintenance crew at the association. Make sure you have all those ducks in a row. 

During the winter, the pipes should be examined in common areas to be sure there is no possibility that they will freeze as the temperatures dip even further. One of the main jobs of maintenance during the winter months is watching the weather carefully to be sure that all walkways, driveways, and roads within the community are cleared and safe for residents to use. 

Spring and Summer 

And just like that, winter disappears and maintenance crews are no longer worrying about road salt and shoveling, but rather about planting and landscaping the community so that it has a first-class curb appeal. 

Spring and summer is the time to take inventory of repairs that need to be done after the winter ravaged roofs and other areas of the community. Pavement may need repairing after the salts and plows created cracks or holes. In addition, summer is the time to tackle major renovation projects that will need nice weather and time to complete. 

Maintenance is a year-round job that allows for the smooth running of any association and community. Learn more from HOA Leader online about the maintenance you hope to support in your community. 

 

Ready to Move into a Community with an HOA? 

Are you thinking about packing it all up and moving to a community that has an HOA? Communities that have a Homeowners Association have a ton of advantages including the amenities, freedom from landscaping the lawn every weekend, and being in a secure environment. If you are new to community living, you will want to be aware of some aspects that come with this type of community. Here are some of our tips for your move. 

Understand the Rules of Your Community 

Living in a community is different than owning your own property or home. It is important to note that there are rules and bylaws that govern each community. You will want to ask specific questions when considering a move to see if you and your lifestyle are a good fit. For example, ask about rules concerning pets, smoking, parking, guests in the amenities areas, noise restrictions, rules on renovations, and the list could go on and on. Carefully read all Governing Documents before you decide on purchasing in a community. 

Understand the Insurance Differences

You probably already know that there is a master insurance that covers all exterior aspects of your building and common areas in your community. But what you may not realize is that you must also have individual insurance to protect the items within your own unit. Be sure to talk to your agent so there are no gaps in coverage. 

View the HOA Budget

Where a community spends its money can tell you a lot about what is valued. Ask to see the budget, which should be available from any HOA Board members. Look to see how often maintenance is completed on common areas, amenities, the roof, exterior structures, painting, landscaping, and paving the parking areas. 

Engage with the Community 

Ask about community events, how the pool or gym works, and find out if there is an association email that you can get your name on so that once you move in you will begin feeling like you are a part of the community. 

Know Who to Contact 

Unlike owning your own home, when there is a problem you will need to know who to contact. Get a list of board members as well as a contact person who can tell you whether you are responsible for calling a repair person or whether the association will deal with it. Usually, if the problem occurs in your unit you are responsible, while outside it is the responsibility of the association. However, there are questionable times like if there is a roof leak, water pipe burst, electrical problem and so on. 

Are you preparing for a move to an association? Here are a few sites to examine when dealing with a move that can help you out. Good luck and welcome to your new community! 

 

HOA Insurance Issues

Knowing what to expect from your HOA master insurance policy and what you need to insure on your own is important to sort out before you purchase your condo. It’s also critical to know if your HOA carries enough information to handle a catastrophe in your unit or a unit next door. Being underinsured can spell trouble, especially if your individual insurance has any missing gaps with the master insurance. 

Homeowner insurances for town homes, condos, or duplexes that are part of the master insurance of an HOA usually cover all the public, common areas of a development. This includes areas where there are amenities, elevators, and all outside features such as the roof and exterior siding. Individual homeowners need to insure only their own units, including their own personal items and appliances. In addition to insuring “things,” these two parts of any HOA insurance should also cover liabilities for injuries. 

Let’s face it, most people don’t put too much thought into insurance until the unthinkable happens. Whether it is a fire, flood, tree damage, smoke damage, or an accident, not having insurance or being underinsured can create a huge headache, not to mention a financial disaster of its own making. 

Know the Difference

From an insurance point of view, it is worth learning where the HOA insurance stops and your individual unit’s insurance should begin, so as to make sure no gaps exist that could leave you without coverage after damage occurs. You should know what the different items are that are covered by each type of insurance. Some homeowners find it helpful to use the same insurance carrier or have both carriers connect to be sure that gaps do not exist. 

 

Know the Limits 

It is also recommended that unit owners understand that there are limits to the HOA insurance. Your condo association’s master policy will cover property damage to the building and common areas, but only up to its limits. Depending on what those financial limits are, there’s always a chance that a severe incident could exceed them. If that happens, it might fall on the condo owners to make up the difference and help repair the damage.

Know the Liability Requirements

Most HOAs require that individual unit holders have some liability insurance in case a visitor gets injured in a unit. The master insurance should have liability insurance to cover common area accidents but your unit also needs to be covered. Talk to your insurance agent about how much is reasonable and if your HOA has any requirements of level of coverage.

When it comes to insurance, it is essential to know the types, limits, and requirements for your individual insurance and what is covered in the master insurance policy. If you have questions, request a copy of your HOA insurance policy and discuss what gaps need to be filled with your individual agent. 

 

Thinking about Joining the Condo Board?

Are you a born leader and want to get more involved in your community? Want to have a say in what happens to the finances, rules, and maintenance at your community? Being a part of the Homeowners Association Board may be the right fit for you.

A homeowners association is the cornerstone of a planned residential community. Properly run, the board can promote a feeling of community and keep things running in a way that community members would like. This is especially true of the common areas and services offered at many condo associations. Board members can decide to improve areas, change rules, and offer incentives for long-term residents.

There are usually four main board members positions: the president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer. Together they usually serve without compensation unless the bylaws of the community allow it.

If you are considering becoming a part of your condo board, here are just a few of the job responsibilities you may find yourself taking part in.

Budgets and Finances

Board members should be very familiar with the finances that run your community. This means understanding the governing documents including the bylaws of your association. The board must decide what are the necessary expenses and costs of operation and administration, plus a reasonable reserve for capital repairs and emergency events. The board will then adopt a budget and collect assessments from the homeowners. In a way, an HOA is merely a way for the homeowners to pay for the various expenses of operating the property including the pool, gym, tennis courts or other services that your association provides. Most importantly when it comes to finances, a board provides adequate insurance coverage, as required by the bylaws and local governmental agencies.

Rules and Bylaws

While enforcing the rules of your community may not sound fun, it really is in the best interest of everyone if these rules are followed. Most of the time the job just entails passing rules and advertising the rules. On occasion, however, homeowners must be reminded in writing of the rules that are being broken and what the consequences will be. Even more rarely, a board member will need to authorize legal action against owners who do not comply with the rules.

Maintain Common Areas

Board members have the duty of making sure that the areas that all residents use are kept safe and clean. That may mean prioritizing maintenance work, budgeting for larger projects, and allowing for regular inspections. A board that is well put together can avoid crisis events if a maintenance schedule is carefully followed.

Are you looking for what a board’s legal responsibilities may be? Follow the link, or contact Thayer & Associates, Inc., AMO at 617.354.6480, or visit our website.

 

The Importance of Proactive Property Maintenance

Isn’t it great when everything in your condo works well and runs smoothly? Yeah, we think so too! No one wants to be living in a building where the elevator is under repair, the pool is closed again, or the grounds look disheveled. That’s why we advocate for proactive property maintenance and here is why.

What is Proactive Property Maintenance?

Managing a community is tough work. It takes diligence, communication, and a whole lot of patience. In our world, there are some managers who are reactive and some that are proactive. The former simply waits for something to happen and then takes action. The latter takes the initiative to recognize when an issue is brewing and acts to fix things before they actually become a problem.

Avoid Crisis Mode

Every condo community has its fair share of emergencies. A cracked pipe, broken water heater, or furnace that quits in the middle of the night are usually the culprits. Most of these cannot be foreseen unless the manager has some sort of sixth sense. But there are some events that can be avoided if regular maintenance is conducted. Annual inspections and repairs should be done on all utilities that the condo association is responsible for. By keeping a watchful eye on these services and equipment, property managers will be able to anticipate that a problem is forming and avoid the crisis mode that sometimes occurs when an emergency pops up.

Reduce Overall Costs

Let’s face it, repairs can get costly especially if the fix happens in an emergency setting where help needs to arrive during off-hours. Being proactive about pool maintenance, elevator inspections, and other condo utilities can mean savings for the association and eventually the condo owners themselves. Remember that emergency calls cost more than regular maintenance.

Access to the Best Contractors

Sometimes when an association is known for reacting to one “fire” after another they can get a reputation as being hard to work with. Condo associations that are proactive and plan ahead tend to get access to the better contractors who have “been around the block” and know a thing or two about staying on top of repairs and annual maintenance.

Does your condo association react or are they more proactive? Saving money, better access to assistance, and saving yourself from crisis mode is a way to keep your community happy. Check out some of our services that can help your community. Call Thayer & Associates, Inc., AMO at 617.354.6480 or visit our website.

 

Protecting Association Data from Cyber Crimes

In our last blog we examined the physical security needs of homeowners associations and how screening, communication, surveillance, and access limitations can bring peace of mind to homeowners. This week, we are looking at some of the steps an HOA and Condo associations can protect their communities from cyber crimes.

Think about all the information that a condo association has at its fingertips. The data kept for Board of Director purposes and billing purposes may include each homeowner’s name, address, phone number, email, bank check routing number, tax information, credit card number, and probably social security number.

Given the scope and depth of the data that a homeowners association has, it would stand to reason that there would be many layers of security to protect that data. Unfortunately, many HOAs do not have the resources to protect sensitive data as they should.

Knowing that defenses may be down in a small business like an HOA, hackers have been known to attack in some common ways. Here are a few questions to consider when arranging your HOA cybersecurity measures.

Who should have access to the data?

Cyber experts believe that HOA boards should determine exactly who can gain access to sensitive data and who will not be given access. Keep the list of people who will have access to only those who will need it to deal with finances and condo owner issues. In addition, HOAs should limit where the data can be accessed. Unfortunately, an association’s odds of falling victim to a successful data breach increase every time someone downloads association information and stores it on their personal computer.

 

Is there an IT consultant who can help?

Every HOA should have an expert they can call upon when there are questions about things like firewalls, dual authentication, passwords, backups, and how to maintain security for the HOA server. An HOA can hire IT experts on a full-time basis, or as contractors. This person can train personnel as to what to look for in suspect or malicious emails, viruses, and security breaches.

 

What type of cyber insurance does your HOA have?

Board members for your HOA should routinely check with their condo insurance broker about the community’s potential cyber risks and what type of cyber insurance coverage may be appropriate for your association. Known also as cyber liability, cyber risk, or data breach insurance, this type of liability insurance protects the HOA in the event of data breaches, viruses, network attacks, computer theft, and other losses or compromises of the HOA’s computers, network, or websites.

Cybercriminals only need to see a small vulnerability to make their way into your HOA data. Do you have a strong security protocol for your association? For more information contact Thayer & Associates, Inc., AMO at 617.354.6480 or visit our website.