Category Archives: safety issues

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.

key in a lock

Staying Safe in Your Condo Community This Summer

Most people tend to think about their home as a safe haven. It’s where you go to relax and feel comfortable. Often it is a place where people let down their guard and can feel protected from the risks of our world whether it is burglary or theft, or possibly a global pandemic. 

Add to this sentiment that summer is usually synonymous with a loosening of rules, and an atmosphere of unwinding, and there are risks that you will want to avoid. 

Staying safe is our number one priority, as it is yours. Unfortunately, this summer is looking a little different than most with the global health crisis and political unrest that our country is going through currently. Today’s blog is meant as a few simple reminders of how you can stay safe in your condo unit and the common areas with personal safety and medical safety in mind. 

red door

Lock Up 

Just like any other time of the year, we remind our clients that locking your doors and windows is a good deterrent for any burglar. While we often see condo units with windows open during the warmer months to allow in the fresh air, remember that the summer months tend to see a spike in burglaries. According to a report in the 2020 State of Safety in America, nearly 40% of all Americans reported a personal experience with either violent or property crime in the past 12 months. These numbers are generally higher during the warmer summer months when people let down their guard and leave doors and windows open. 

Get To Know Your Neighbors 

One of the best ways to spot someone who shouldn’t be in your condo common area is to know the people who live around you. The more neighbors you know, the easier it is to recognize when a stranger is in the area. 

Knowing your neighbors also comes in handy when you want someone to “have your back” so to speak. For example, if you head off on vacation, you have friends and neighbors who can keep an eye on things for you and be alerted should something look amiss. 

pool

Follow Safety Guidelines

Given that we are all trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus, it is a good idea to follow some personal safety guidelines as well in your condo community. Depending upon the guidelines set up by your specific municipality, you may want to maintain social distancing, wear a mask, and sanitize areas where you have been. Wash your hands often and try to wipe down areas that could be high traffic areas such as doorknobs, stair railings, or common area furnishings. 

It’s also a good idea to follow any written guidance from your HOA board to keep you safe this summer. Follow any rules that they put forth for your common areas, amenities, and for outside entertaining locations. 

 

Handling a Hoarding Situation

According to the Mayo Clinic Hoarding Disorder Department, hoarding is a disorder characterized by persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. Understanding the emotional, physical, social, and financial impacts of this disorder is one thing. For property managers and HOA boards, this disorder takes on legal implications as well. Let’s take a closer look at what hoarding is and how living communities deal with it. 

What is Hoarding? 

The hallmark of hoarding is the collection of items such as newspapers, magazines, sale items, mail, photographs, keepsakes, food, clothing and, in some cases, animals. As with any illness, hoarding can range from mild to severe. Most people with a hoarding disorder may not see it as a problem, which makes treatment a challenge. 

Some of the symptoms that distinguish this disorder include: 

  • Excessively acquiring items that are not needed or for which there’s no space.
  • Persistent difficulty throwing out or parting with your things, regardless of actual value.
  • Feeling a need to save these items, and being upset by the thought of discarding them.
  • Building up of clutter to the point where rooms become unusable.
  • Having a tendency toward indecisiveness, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, and problems with planning and organizing.

When the Problem Occurs in a Community

Scientific American estimates that between 5-14 million American adults currently struggle with compulsive hoarding disorder. For most of these people, the struggle plays out in the privacy of their own homes. In those situations, family and friends deal with the hoarding mess. 

For those hoarders who find themselves living in an association such as a condo or apartment complex, the issue becomes apparent to neighbors who may take issue with the problem. One of the first things a homeowners association will do when facing a hoarding complaint will be to determine if the situation is indeed impacting the health and/or safety of unit owners around them. 

Determining if a unit owner is merely cluttered or indeed a hoarder, can be difficult. Property managers and HOA boards often look at the following questions to determine the difference. For example, does the hoarding collection block emergency exits or doorways? Does the hoarding interfere with ventilation or sprinkler systems? Is the hoarding attracting pests through improper food storage? Is the situation creating a hazard for other residents? If the answer to any of these is yes, then the board and/or property managers will need to take action to ensure the health and safety of all who live in the community. 

In most states, the landlord and/or HOA has a responsibility to provide a habitable and safe dwelling. This duty is often referred to as the “warranty of habitability” and is implied in nearly every standard HOA governing documents. In exchange, most states require tenants to keep their units “clean and sanitary.” 

If there is a hoarding situation in your community, you will want to inform the HOA board of your concerns so they can take up the issue with the individual unit owner and determine if legal action needs to be taken. 

Does someone in your HOA have a hoarding situation? How does the board handle it? Contact Thayer Associates on our contact page or call us at (617) 354-6480

 

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. 

 

Common HOA Rule Violations

Do you live in a community with a Homeowners Association? They really can be lovely with the extra amenities like a gym, pool, or rec room. And it’s an added bonus not to have to worry about taking care of the outside of your home. Think of all the time and effort you save not having to mow the lawn in the summer or shovel in the winter.

There are, however, rules that must be followed if you live in a community or association. These rules are put there to maintain peace and allow for homeowners to be respectful and considerate to all who live in the community.

Property managers often deal with some of the violations to these rules. While every HOA community is different and the rules differ by location, there are some common violations such as:

Trash and Recycle Issues

HOAs try to keep the community looking clean and tidy. To do this they set rules about when and where trash can be put out for collection. Usually the rule includes the time at night before trash day (maybe 6pm) till the next day when they are to be taken in. Be sure to check with your HOA about what time and where the barrels should be placed.

Pet Issues

Most HOAs allow pets, but there are usually rules about the size and breeds that are deemed allowable. Be sure to also check where dogs can roam on leash in the complex. Be respectful about cleaning up dog waste and be aware that not all people are “pet people.”

Landscaping and Decorations

The outside of your condo or the walkway leading up to your residence is usually the domain of the association and whatever landscaping team they employ. Ask before decorating or adding flowers to this area. While it may seem like a no brainer that flowers will be allowed, it is best to ask first as some communities have gardeners or are trying for a uniform look.

Most communities have some sort of guidelines about when holiday decorations can be up, when they can be taken down, and what sort of decorations are permitted. Just about everything about the outside appearance of your condo is probably a part of the HOA rules, even down to the color allowed for mailboxes.

Parking Violations

In most communities there are rules about which parking spots are for residents and which ones are meant for visitors. Be sure to park in the correct locations and ask family and friends to park in the designated areas. In addition, be sure that work trucks such as cable and repairmen park in places that are not intruding on others.

If you’re new to your HOA board or looking to move into an HOA community, be sure to get a list of all the rules to be sure you do not face a fine or written violation.

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.

 

How Secure Is Your Homeowners Community?

New England, and Boston in particular, is a pretty safe place to call home. Unfortunately, no community is immune to crime. Burglars are always looking for vulnerabilities and cracks in security systems to infiltrate and take advantage. This is true in single-family residences, apartments, and condos as well. Security, therefore, is one of the main tasks of a solid homeowners association.

If you live in a condo in the Boston area or in the surrounding communities, how secure do you feel your condo association is? Do you feel safe walking at night, visiting common areas, or navigating the parking lot? These are all things that can point to good security within an association. Let’s take a closer look at some of the security protocols your association can and should be maintaining for the safety of all who live in your community.

 

Smoke, Fire, and CO

It is imperative that an association understand and maintain these three security practices when designing and building a condo complex. It is the board’s duty to maintain, repair, and replace common area security for smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide detection. Compliance for these fundamental security steps is mandated both locally and federally.

Screening Vendors

Most condo associations have common areas that are maintained by outside vendors. For example, vendors are used to maintain elevators, landscaping, pools, gyms, and gardens, as well as to paint, and repair the exterior areas. HOAs should regularly screen the vendors to make sure they have the proper permitting, licensing, and insurance. Many HOAs make it a policy to inform owners when a vendor will be on the property and for what reason. This screening and communication can give owners a sense of security when they find repair personnel around the grounds of their building.

 

Access and Surveillance

No one likes a security camera watching them at every turn, but they are a big deterrent for criminals who do not want to see their crime on the nightly news or social media. Surveillance cameras can be a great deterrent in both interior and exterior common areas. In addition, many HOAs have access keypads that make common areas accessible to only community members. Include well-lit walkways, driveways, and ancillary parking lots and condo owners will have peace of mind when they are at home.

What are some of the security protocols that your association uses? What protocols do you feel are missing. Join in the conversation in the comments below. The next blog will take a closer look at digital security for association data. If you have questions about security in your HOA, call Thayer & Associates, Inc., AMO at 617.354.6480 or visit our website.