Category Archives: safety issues

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.

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

 

landscaping condo area

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.