Parking Issues in an HOA 

What’s one real hot button issue in homeowners associations? Remarkably, a truly contentious topic tends to be the application of the rules and regulations dealing with parking and parking spaces within the community. It may seem like a minor problem to some, but to many unit owners it can become a hassle that can cause tension within the community, and between neighbors. 

What Are Typical HOA Parking Rules? 

Most homeowners associations clearly spell out the rules and regulations for parking, but if they don’t, the executive board may need to tighten up the language in the governing documents. 

Common parking rules include a list of where parking is not allowed. Those areas could include: handicapped spaces without a permit, loading zones, guest-only parking, or fire hydrant access areas. They are ordinarily marked with signage to indicate the violation area.

Governing documents also typically regulate what types of vehicles can use the parking areas. For instance, some HOA prohibit commercial vehicles or oversized personal vehicles such as: work trucks, RV’s, junk vehicles, trailers, campers, and boats. The basic premise of this rule is to maintain the high standard of appearance of the community. 

Another concept that the HOA governing documents may mention in regards to parking is the problem with abandoned vehicles. Some HOA communities prohibit owners from parking in a particular spot for longer than a specified amount of time which could be 24 hours or something similar.  Often the basis for this is to ensure that HOA members are not parking abandoned vehicles on the property for an extended period of time.

As you can see, most HOAs have rules in place to regulate: what types of vehicles are allowed (commercial, recreational, etc.), where members may park, and how long a vehicle may be parked in one spot. Enforcing these rules then becomes the problem of the governing board of the HOA. 

Enforcement of Parking Rules 

Within the private roads and parking lots of a community, an HOA board can issue warnings, serve tickets, and in some cases tow an offending car. Not all HOA boards will be as strict as towing or involve serving tickets to their community members, but all too often, they will need to remind owners of the rules and the consequences of not following said rules. 

Do you have a parking issue in your community? How was it handled? Were you satisfied with the results? Questions or comments? Contact Thayer Associates on our contact page or call us at (617) 354-6480

 

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. 

 

The Hatfields and the McCoys: Diplomacy is Best in a Time of Conflict

The names Hatfield and McCoy are synonymous with feuding clans that dates back to the time of the Civil War. It was believed that the McCoys were Unionists and the Hatfields were Confederates with obvious opposing views. These American Appalachian mountaineer families carried on a legendary feud that has made its place history so much so that whenever there is a conflict, even in today’s society, the names are still mentioned. 

What Should I do If I am Involved in a Conflict? 

Solving conflicts may not be the easiest situation to deal with but there are usually guidelines that your homeowners association (HOA) can follow in order to resolve the conflict before it becomes a Hatfield vs. McCoy situation. 

After an event or dispute, the first thing that happens when one of the parties involved wants a conflict resolution is that one person must initiate the dispute resolution process to get the ball rolling. The process is probably laid out in the governing documents under what to do if you have a complaint or want to resolve a dispute. A written request will trigger the process. It is common for a member of the association and any owners involved in a dispute to be identified as the parties that will be actively participating in dispute resolution.

After the written request for a meeting, it is common that both parties come together to voice their concerns and their hopes to find a remedy to the situation. The location of the discussion is usually a quiet, neutral location where issues can be talked about at length and with the governing rules in mind. The ultimate hope is that the two parties will come to an agreement and resolve the issue or issues during the meeting. 

What if a Resolution is Not Found? 

If the meeting does not seem to solve the issue, then usually a third party will be requested to mediate the conflict. The third party must be neutral and able to present a resolution that takes the concerns of both sides into consideration. This resolution will be put into writing at the conclusion of the meeting.

This all sounds plain and simple, doesn’t it? Well, when emotions are involved nothing is so simple. That is why it is so important for HOAs to have a solid and experienced executive board that can come together and mediate these events. If you find that conflicts are not being met head-on in your community, then you may want to suggest a conflict resolution meeting or a mediator to resolve the situation. 

Amending the Governing Documents for your Association 

If you live in a community association, whether it is a condominium, townhome, or apartment complex, you know that you live by certain rules usually determined by the governing documents of your homeowners association (HOA). Some of them may be in regard to financials, while others may help keep the peace and general running of the property with specific rules for unit owners. Every once in a while, those documents will need to be amended. Here is a quick guide on that process. 

What are the Governing Documents? 

If you are new to living in an HOA, you may not be aware that there are three main documents that help your community function. The basic HOA legal documents that may need amending are the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). You should have been given digital access to these or a printed version upon signing your lease/mortgage with the community governing board. If you do not know what these are or can not find these documents, ask a member of your HOA board and they will help get you acclimated to the paperwork. Your property management company should also have an idea where you can gain access to this information. 

Why Amend Governing Documents? 

The reasons for a change or amendment to a governing document can be varied. For example, some communities find that there are inconsistencies in documents that help manage the community. Others find that local, state, or federal statutes or laws have changed that make it necessary that the community makes changes to its governing laws as well. The list for why a document needs to be amended is long, but the process does not need to be equally painful. 

Here are just a few possibilities as suggested by Echo Educational Community for HOA on why amendments sometimes need to occur. 

  • To eliminate obsolete provisions.
  • To eliminate provisions no longer observed or enforced.
  • To eliminate provisions that conflict with current laws.
  • To eliminate provisions required by the Department of Real Estate in a start-up project that are no longer needed.
  • To eliminate developer privileges no longer being used, such as two-class voting or exemption from use restrictions.
  • To improve poorly drafted documents by clarifying ambiguous provisions.
  • To tailor documents to fit the living experience of owners/members.
  • To provide for changes in technology (satellite dishes, home office use, etc.).
  • To make documents more “user-friendly” – better organization, add a table of contents and descriptive paragraph headings, etc.
  • To eliminate or correct mistakes and errors.

How Often Should Amendments Occur? 

Optimally, governing boards of HOAs should try to review the documents every few years but, occasionally, events or issues arise where the documents need to be evaluated in a limited time period. Usually, it is recommended that the community’s attorney amend the documents with input for the board and community members. Someone with knowledge of the community and how it is run would be a best-case scenario. 

Does your HOA need help with updating or amending their governing documents? Visit our website and contact our professionals who can help get you started. 

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. 

 

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.

Managing Cars and Parking Facilities in Condos

The demand for parking has increased dramatically over the past few years. In fact, the city of Boston and the surrounding communities have been ranked as some of the worst places to find parking. Despite the newer parking apps and a pilot parking program called “Performance Parking,”  finding a spot within the city and near your condo or living quarters is a near impossible feat. That is why, when a condo or association offers parking spots, they are considered priceless.

Managing these highly coveted parking spots does take planning and supervision. There are inevitably battles over spaces, guest parking and the size of spots that can be a source of constant headaches. Each association deals with these issues in varying ways with some commonalities. For example, most condo units that are lucky enough to come with a parking spot are usually either considered deeded parking, assigned parking spaces, or some are first-come, first served. Some condo associations determine the proximity of the spots and the number of spots based on the unit’s number of bedrooms, seniority or fee structure. The means by which each parking spot is allocated will somewhat determine how to solve parking issues that come up over the years.

Each condominium association will normally have what is called CC&Rs which stands for covenants, conditions, and restrictions. These clearly spell out the parking guidelines and rules for each unit. Depending upon your association’s rules, issues such as snow removal, security, larger cars, visitor parking, and commercial vehicle parking should be clearly understandable. If a rule is violated there could be complaints filed and fines assigned to each infraction or potentially a loss of assigned space.

Special circumstances are also an occasional issue when it comes to managing parking spaces within a condo association. If a unit owner is dealing with a disability and proves the medical need to be parked closer to an elevator or ramp then the community will need to deal with rearranging the parking in order to accommodate the owner. In addition, with the dawn of hybrid cars, many condo owners are now requesting that there be spaces designated as charging stations that can be used to power up their vehicles. Finally, seasonal issues may also come up where a unit owner needs to park an RV or boat for a short time. All of these issues are something your condo association or your property management company should be able to mediate and safeguard.

Thayer Associates are experts in managing and resolving parking disputes. We understand the value of a clean, well-maintained parking spot. We also know that commuters in our region face tight quarters and weather that sometimes is not cooperative. Questions? Call Thayer & Associates, Inc., AMO at 617.354.6480 or visit our website.