Category Archives: safety issues

monopoly board

Prioritizing Maintenance Requests 

Maintenance requests come in all shapes and sizes, from burst pipes to refreshing exterior painting and everything in between. Experienced facilities managers know that not all maintenance requests are created equal. 

All work orders need to be prioritized in order to know what order to complete each request. Knowing how to prioritize comes from years of experience and knowing that some tasks need immediate attention while others can wait. Either way, regular maintenance is meant to keep your tenants safe, the property protected, and ultimately to keep your tenants happy.

While tenants may feel as though every request deserves the highest priority, it is important for the safety of the property and the people living there to rank work orders or requests. 

Most maintenance requests can be categorized into levels of priorities such as: emergency, high priority, medium priority, low priority, and regularly scheduled maintenance. 

Emergency Prioritization 

Most urgent or emergency tasks are fairly obvious in nature. For instance if your building is on fire, has a flooding issue, a gas leak or safety issue, then all other requests should be put on hold until the property is safe and properly cared for. 

Other emergency events such as the following could also fall into this category. 

  • Exposed power lines
  • Total power loss
  • Act of nature such as a tree on the structure or loss of functions such as heat, electricity or plumbing
  • Loss of water to entire building or flood/overflowing plumbing
  • Power or a/c loss in the server rooms
  • People stuck in elevator

Not only can these events pose a danger to the people living there, but they can be financially crippling. It is always a good idea to have a list of vendors that can quickly respond in an emergency situation. 

kitchen fire High Priority

This level of priority translates into tasks that need to be completed in a timely manner or they will become larger and more unruly as time passes. Examples of these types of requests could be: minor leaks, pest infestations, broken appliances, or locks in need of repair. 

Promptly addressing these tasks will ensure that the property remains safe, habitable, and will potentially decrease financial loss. 

Medium Priority

Medium priority tasks may not seem a medium level to your tenants as they may not see the larger picture of tasks on your “To Do” list. However, these tasks are important, but not as important as an urgent situation. 

These tasks may include seasonal maintenance tasks such as debris and bush removal for fire prevention, slip prevention in the fall and winter, and other issues that could pose a risk in the near future. While each of these are time sensitive, but not urgent. 

Low Priority 

Lower priority tasks often fall into regularly scheduled maintenance that can wait until the proper time of year. These include: gutter cleaning, exterior painting, capital repairs, landscaping, and aesthetic changes. 

Communicating these levels of priority may help members of your community understand why some tasks take precedent while others must wait a bit longer to be addressed. Drop us a comment on your methods of prioritizing maintenance requests. 

 

paperwork

Protecting Tenant Data 

Landlords and homeowner associations often are privy to a wide variety of tenant data from financial statements and credit scores to personal contact information. With this access to tenant information comes a great responsibility to protect that data from cyber criminals and anyone looking to use it with malicious intent. 

Think about the vast amount of data that could be collected from a digital or physical file on a tenant. Social security numbers, credit card numbers, addresses, personal contact information, and banking numbers are just the start of information that could be mined from a database kept by landlords or homeowners associations (HOAs). 

Today, let’s take a closer look at what type of information is usually retained regarding individual tenants and how your company or organization can help keep that data secure. 

computer data

Types of Data Landlords Keep 

In order to keep an apartment complex, apartment units, or homeowners associations running, there needs to be a fair amount of sharing of information in order to pay the bills, mortgages, and vendors who service the community. 

That being said, there is quite a bit of information needed by landlords. Some of these types of data include: 

Tenant Files 

These files will include the basic contact and rental agreements signed between the management company and the tenant. It will include names, addresses, background information, any pet agreements, and car information including registration and license for parking areas. 

Additionally, the tenant files will include when the person(s) began renting and the date they moved out. 

Financial Files 

Renting an apartment unit or being a part of a homeowners association involves the payment of money on a monthly or quarterly basis. 

With payments, comes a bevy of information about credit cards, credit scores, bank routing numbers, and financial information that, if stolen, could be used maliciously. This information could be used for fraud, identity theft, or phishing scams

This information is required by landlords and each state has its requirements for the amount of time that rental business owners must retain financial records.

Vendor Files 

In order to successfully manage a property many landlords and HOAs rely on third party vendors to complete things such as: landscaping, pool maintenance, snow plowing, plumbing, electrical, and the list could go on and on. 

All of these invoices and receipts could also have vital financial and personal information that would be alluring to cyber criminals looking for vulnerabilities. 

phone apps

How To Protect Sensitive Tenant & Vendor Information 

There are many ways that a landlord or property management company can protect data. From using secure passwords to limiting access to sensitive data, here are a few of our suggestions as a reputable property management company. 

  • Use strong passwords. We also suggest investing in a password manager to keep track and choose strong passwords for the multitude of files and data you will collect. 
  • Limit access to sensitive data to only those who need to use it for work. 
  • Install antivirus software and keep it updated. 
  • Install all patches as recommended by manufacturers. 
  • Limit internet use and non-work use for work devices to stop the problems of unsecure websites. 
  • Use dual authentication or multifactor authentication. 
  • Encrypt your emails, especially those with financial information. 
  • Dispose of files (properly) after the required holding period. 

Need more advice on keeping sensitive data private? Our expert team of professional property managers are highly skilled and experienced in all Thayer & Associates best practices.

 

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. 

condo pool

Pool Safety in Your HOA Community 

If your community has a swimming pool as one of it’s amenities, consider yourself lucky as we embark on what is promising to be a scorcher of a summer in Massachusetts. Last year at this time many homeowner’s associations made the difficult decision to keep community swimming pools closed due to the coronavirus. This year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),has given new guidance that allows pools to open for the season. 

As pools begin to reopen this year, now seems to be a good time to review pool safety in your community and what the responsibilities of the HOA may or may not entail. 

lifeguard jumping in a pool

Lifeguard or No Lifeguard? 

Every community eventually faces this question regarding whether to staff the community pool with a trained lifeguard or to have a “Swim at Your Own Risk” policy. There are pros and cons to each in regards to cost and liability. 

Sadly, the CDC reports that there are more than 3,500 unintentional drownings every year across the country. To prevent this, many associations hire trained lifeguards or pool monitors to regulate behavior and the amount of people in the pool at any given time. The benefit of this is the added security and peace of mind that comes with a certified lifeguard at the pool’s edge. Unfortunately, hiring a lifeguard or even a pool monitor can be expensive and prohibitive for smaller communities. 

The “Swim at Your Own Risk” policy also comes with advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the cost savings of creating rules and allowing community members to follow independently is remarkable, but it comes at the risk of loss of life should a swimmer encounter trouble. The safety of the swimmers is left up to the guests at the pool, often with an emergency phone setup to use in the case of a situation should arise. 

Having a lifeguard means the liability and insurance for the pool area safety lies with the vendor supplying the lifeguards. Conversely, the “Swim at Your Own Risk” policy does come with liability issues for the HOA. Each community should review their insurance and liability requirements before opening the pool and other amenities each year to their community members.

condo association pool

Create Rules and Regulations for Pool Area 

Regardless of whether your community pool has a lifeguard or not, there should be a list of rules prominently displayed that explains what behavior is allowed and what is not. These could include: 

  • No Diving
  • No Running on the Pool Deck
  • No Glass Containers in the Pool Area
  • No Electrical Devices in the Pool or on the Edge
  • No Fooling Around in the Pool or on the Deck
  • No Swimming Alone 
  • No Swimming During a Storm
  • Swimming Only Allowed During Posted Hours
  • ____  Number of Guests Allowed 

Cleanliness of Pool Area 

Depending upon the property management rules, your pool area may be a carry-in-carry-out pool, meaning whatever you bring there, must leave with you. That includes trash, chairs, and towels. Having rules about the cleanliness makes the pool area nice for everyone in the community.

Looking for more ideas on ways to keep your pool area safe this summer? Check out the guidance from the CDC and property management resources.  

 

gazebo and green grass

What Does Landscaping Say About Your Community? 

We all know the old adage that a “picture says a thousand words,” but did you know that landscaping, and the image that it portrays, can be just as important to a homeowners community? 

In fact, according to landscaping professionals, “landscaping can be one of the simplest ways that your community establishes its identity. Simply by insisting on annual flower rotations at entrances and regularly filling in mulch or pine straw, the community keeps a vibrant appearance and demonstrates that the residents care about their homes.” 

Look around your community. What does the landscaping say about your homeowners community? 

landscaped walkway

The Importance of Landscaping 

One of the top reasons why many residents choose living in a community is the bonus of not having to mow, weed, edge, trim, and plan out plantings or gardens every year. 

And, it’s not just during the warm, growing months that landscaping pays off for the community. During the cold winter months, the walkways are shoveled and the driveways plowed and treated by an adept landscaping crew. 

For many residents, this release from having to maintain the landscaping every weekend is enough of a benefit and why they find professional landscaping within the community advantageous. For others, there are a number of ways that landscaping curates an identity for the community. 

Here’s how…

Increases Curb Appeal 

In the world of real estate, curb appeal can either draw in a buyer in seconds or repel them even faster. This is true in single family residences and homeowner’s communities as well. 

Just like at any property, landscaping can send a signal to buyers that the property is well cared for and maintained throughout the year. Well-manicured lawns, carefully edged gardens, flower beds that are weed-free, walkways that are not overgrown, and trees that are mature and healthy can tell a home buyer how healthy the community is as well. If HOA communities hope to attract quality buyers, the landscaping needs to shine. 

walkway with landscaping

Promotes Safety

Landscaping isn’t just about mowing and planting. It is also about maintaining a safe environment for all community members. Professional landscapers can help keep the community safe by trimming and pruning tree branches before storms or ocean winds create a hazardous situation for structures and people living in the area. 

Landscaping also helps promote safety by keeping walkways and driveways clear of debris or overgrown bushes or trees that could pose a hazard for the residents walking or driving in the area. Removal of roots or pavers that are loose in the entertaining areas can prevent falls that could result in injury. 

During the winter months, landscapers often take on the job of shoveling, plowing, and de-icing walkways and steps that could pose a slip-and-fall threat for residents. 

Can Help Maintain & Increase Home Values 

Realtors have found that good landscaping can help maintain and even increase a home’s value. This goes for communities as well as single family homes.

In fact, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) suggests that you can increase your home’s value by 5% to 15% by spending the equivalent percentage on landscape maintenance and upgrades. A home or community’s value can be assessed in one viewing by a potential buyer. Make sure that the first impression is a vibrant and positive one. 

 

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. 

 

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. 

 

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

 

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

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.