Below you will find a list of daily thoughts and ramblings for condominium, HOA and Coop owners, board members and residents. These are intended to make you think and to give you a peek into the thoughts and minds of our principal and managers.

12/26/14

Thought for Today – The number one responsibility of both the board and management is to protect the association from harm. This responsibility often can create problems, for example an owner looking to sell their unit has a buyer that wants assurance as to how much an upcoming special assessment will be along with a guarantee that their won’t be any cost over runs. If management and or the board provide such assurance and additional work be required and or costs are incurred the association could be on the hook for those cost which could no longer be assessed against the seller or the buyer. This would leave the remaining owners to pick up the additional costs. Since the future is never guaranteed the association can’t provide a guarantee until the work is completed, and if this stops the sale so be it as the board and management have a responsibility to the association which outweighs a responsibility to any individual owner.

12/24/14

Thought for Today – No matter what you believe in, may this holiday season bring you Peace, Happiness and Love for these should be the universal goals of all mankind.

12/23/14

Thought for Today – Home is about more than just where you live.

12/22/14

Thought for Today – If only we had a magic wand, we could make sure that; contractors finished every on time, see that elevators never broke down, quite down noisy residents and owners that refuse to follow the rules, always collect every dime that was owed to all of our associations on time, make sure that no light bulb ever burned out. But as I don’t have a magic wand I will have to learn to deal with the abuse that comes from those that don’t understand that screaming and yelling won’t make the elevator mechanic magically appear or work any faster, that I can’t change a light that I don’t yet know has gone out and that the law does not allow me to hog tie and gag the noisy neighbor.

12/19/14

Thought for Today – Call us we want to hear from you! Email us we care about what you have to say, but don’t call the cell phone of one of our employees. Don’t text us. Because we want to provide you with the highest level of service our office telephone is always answered by a live human being and all call are logged into our phone system. When you call our office if the person you are looking for is not available often their assistant or supervisor can assist you and if they can’t they will be able to make sure you get a call back. When you email us at the team1@rmsaccounting.com address the email is seen by not only the field services manager for your property but also their assist and their supervisor. We what you to get the answers you are looking for but it you don’t call through our office number or email the team it’s easy for things to get missed if someone loses their cell phone, is sick or on vacation.

12/18/14

Thought for Today – We can’t help you if you don’t tell us why you are calling. I am constantly amazed that people call our office and either refuses to give the receptionist information she need to get them the help they are looking for or who leave an afterhours message that tells us little or nothing about who they are and why they are calling. The fastest way to get help is to tell us who you are, what association you live in and how we can get back in touch with you. And remember we also need to know why you are calling. Is it an emergency (you are stuck in an elevator or have water coming into your unit from a neighbors unit? Is it just a question that can be handled by one of our administrative staff? Like when is my payment due or how much is my monthly assessment? Maybe it’s an update on a project that is taking place or something else we will have to looking into for you. We can’t help if you don’t tell us what you need. Please be courtesy to our staff remember they are trying to get the information necessary to make sure you get the answers you are looking for and most of the time there may be more than one person that can help you.

12/17/14

Thought for Today – You are not an owner unless your name is on the deed. We received a call today about a violation notice sent to the owner of a unit, the call did not come from the owner it came from the owners’ son who wanted to know why a violation notice was sent to his parents regarding him as a guest improperly storing a vehicle on the property. When he was informed that the rules did not allow guest vehicles to store on association property he said but I am not a guest I am an owner as I pay the bills for them so the rule does not apply to me. When we told him that if he was not an owner of record he was a guest he was very upset and told us that notices should not go to his parents who are the owners but to him as the notice just upset his parents. Since he was not an owner and could not supply a POA (Power of Attorney) we had to tell him that we have no choice but to send notices to the owners of record at the address they provided for legal notice.

12/16/14

Thought for Today – For a small association trying to keep their costs under control and that can’t afford full time security, it’s up to the residents to make sure security doors close behind them and that doors are not propped open. As a resident you are the first line of defense in making your home secure. Don’t do things that attract the attention of “bad guys” this includes having packages delivered signature released so that they can just be dropped outside of the building or in the mail room. Don’t leave valuables in your car where they can be easily viewed and stolen. Don’t let people you don’t know into the building, let them ring the person they are visiting to be buzzed in instead. Alarms and additional security are available but are costly and even the best alarm, video or security guard will not be able to keep bad people out if residents don’t provide the first line of security by keeping doors locked and not providing admittance to those they don’t know.

12/15/14

Thought for Today –Remember when leaving a message or sending an email to management be sure to include the name of your association, your name, your phone number, your unit number and as much information about the reason for your call is possible.

12/12/14

Thought for Today -As the parking lot fills with cars and the building fills with owners returning to their winter home it’s important to remember to be curious to all your fellow residents. Keep noise levels down, remove laundry from the laundry equipment as soon as possible after the machines complete their cycle, park in your own parking spaces, make sure that your guest follow association rules and remember to greet your fellow resident with a smile and a friendly word.

12/11/14

Thought for Today – We encourage you to thank the unsung heroes of your association, the board members that work hard to make the right decisions which will not only keep costs down but also protect and preserve the property while making it the best place to live it can be. They spend countless hours reviewing email, proposals, financial statements and overseeing management. Even if you don’t agree with all their decisions you have to acknowledge that they perform a difficult but necessary function one that makes the lives of all owners and resident better.

12/10/14

Thought for Today – All I want for Christmas is? Come on tell us what you are hoping to get this year in the comments.

12/09/14

Thought for Today – This time of year many owners have family and friends visiting, some come only a short distance other travel from far away. Please help make sure that all our visitors see what a wonderful community you live in. All this takes is a few friendly words to a stranger and a smile.

12/08/14

Thought for Today – This time of year many owners have family and friends visiting, some come only a short distance other travel from far away. Please help make sure that all our visitors see what a wonderful community you live in. All this takes is a few friendly words to a stranger and a smile.

12/05/14

Thought for Today – Smile it’s contagious.

12/04/14

Thought for Today – Before you dip into the eggnog, think about your neighbor that may not have friends or family nearby. Nothing adds more to holiday cheer than sharing a little of it with a neighbor. While many of us are enjoying the holiday spirit other find this time of year depressing, maybe they miss loved ones a family that has passed on or who are far away. Just a small effort can make a world of difference to these people so spread some cheer and be sure to include them where you can.

12/03/14

Thought for Today – As the holiday approaches remember that it’s important to remember to put safety first. Avoid real trees they may look and smell nice but can also be a fire hazard. Look for the UL label on lights and other decorations to make sure they have been tested and are safe. Don’t overload electrical outlets or overcrowd rooms blocking exits. Keep paper and other flammable objects away from lights. We want everyone to have a happy, safe healthy holiday, so protect yourself and your neighbors by turning putting safety first.

12/02/14

Thought for Today – As an owner you are entitled to see association records in Florida. While the records for the association we manage are all available on a secure web portal so that any owner can view them at any time, not all management companies provide this kind of access. If your management company does not provide on line access to records you can request an appointment to review the records. Make your request in writing by certified mail to the associations address of record and the association will have 5 days to grant access. Better yet think about hiring us and letting us put your records on line so that every owner has access.

12/01/14

Thought for Today – Remember board members volunteer their time, they are not association employees. If you have a problem, need information or want to make a complaint you should contact management not disturbed a board member. Management keeps the board informed but also allows them to have the same peaceful enjoyment of their home that every owner is entitled to.

11/28/14

Thought for Today – Please respect the rights of others and avoid parking in spaces that belong to other owners without their permission. Make sure your guests park in designated guest spaces and that all guest follow association rules. Remember you are responsible for your guests.

11/27/14

Thought for Today – Remember your holiday spirit, many of your fellow owners will be having guests and sometimes people that don’t live in condominiums just don’t realize how much noise can carry in the close quarters of a condominium, so cut them a little slack and if the noise gets to loud remember a friendly word to the unit owner will go a lot farther than a bad aptitude to solve the problem.

11/26/14

Thought for Today – What do you like best about your HOA or Condominium Association? Of all the housing choices you had when you purchased why did you choose to purchase in a Condominium or HOA? What do you like best about living in the association?

11/25/14

Thought for Today –See no mold there must be no mold is often the attitude of association boards of directors. We all know that mold can be an expensive problem to solve, that it is often not covered by the associations insurance and that it can cause health problems as well are hurt property values. South Florida may not be the mold capital of the world but it is probably a close runner up. Mold results from moisture and stagnant air combining with dark places. Mold can grow inside walls, under wall paper, in cabinets and under carpets. If an area of your unit has prolonged exposure to moisture, chances are mold can grow there. To prevent mold dry up moisture immediately. Keep you unit well ventilated and see that you’re air conditioning is running even when you are away for prolonged periods. Your air conditioner draws moisture out of the air helping prevent the formation of mold. If you suspect you have mold notify the association manager or if the association is self-managed the board of directors so the problem can be addressed before it spreads.

11/24/14

Thought for Today – Todays call from a prospective Condominium client. “Hi this is ______ we are looking for a new management company for our association. We already have a quote of $_Low Ball___ from ______________ but we are not sure they can provide the level of service we are looking for. What would your fee be?” When I asked if they knew what the fee included. The answer was “management.” But truth be known the fee included very little as this particular company has a host of other charges, these additional charges include: administrative expense, mileage reimbursements, violation notices, legal coordination, late notices, stationary, correspondence and many more items that are included in our basic fee. The moral of the story is that you need to be sure you are comparing apples to apples and that the apples you are comparing are the kinds your want. Not all management companies provide the same services and it’s important that your association gets the services it needs and wants at a known price that includes everything so that you won’t be surprised after the fact.

11/21/14

Service and Emotional Support Animals are not pets. Their owners are entitled to have them in their home. Associations must make reasonable accommodations and allow then even when no pet rules are in place if owners request reasonable accommodation. Failure for the board to act on these requests puts the association and the board at risk.

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11/20/14

One fast growing common expense for associations in South Florida is the cost of Water and Sewer services. While there is very little that can be done about the increasing rates association are paying for water and sewer there is something every owner can do to help control these costs. If you want to help keep maintenance fees in line you can have a direct impact by having your units plumbing inspected regularly for plumbing leaks. Dripping faucets, toilets that just keep running and showers that leak use up a lot of water. Multiply this by all the faucets, toilets and showers and we are talking about some real water waste which costs your association real money. Remember every drop of water is paid for twice–once as clean water and then again as sewer cost.

11/19/14

Decisions of the board remain in effect even after the board members who voted for it, resign, die or are replaced by a newly elected board or board member. The same is true for contracts approved and entered into by the board, waivers granted and tenants or purchasers approved. A newly elected board needs to carefully consider the consequences of overturning decisions of prior boards as this could result in liability and legal expenses for the association.

11/18/14

The time to control expenses is before purchases are made and purchase agreements are signed, not when payments are processed.  All too often associations try to determine if expenses are in line with amounts budgeted after commitments have already been made, products have been received or services have been performed. By this point in time failure to meet a payment obligation does not relieve the association of responsibility, it simply puts the association at risk for legal actions and liens.

11/17/14

Should condo owners be allowed to charge their electric cars from outlets that are fed by electricity which is a common expense? With the increase in the number of Hybrid and fully electric vehicles, sooner or later the board will be asked to allow an owner to charge their car in the association garage.  How should the board respond to these requests?

11/14/14

Because you have done it wrong in the past, is not an excuse to do it wrong today. Many times when we take on a new association, we find they are not properly following the law: They may not be funding or even voting on funding of reserves. They may not be providing Notice to the Owners of board meetings. Maybe they are just not complying with provisions of their governing documents. Part of our job is to make sure the association operates properly as required by law and to do that we have to get them back in compliance.

11/13/14

Boards are elected to make the hard decisions: These decisions almost always mean short term objections from some owners that don’t want to have increased costs, a special assessment, the inconvenience of construction or an increase in maintenance to cover increased costs.  Polling the owners or looking to make everyone happy is a sure formula for disaster.  Individual owners make decisions on what is best for them, but boards have a fiduciary responsibility to make decisions on what is best for the association.

11/12/14

There are three basic kinds of owners in most associations. They are the Doers. Doers are always looking to get involved they don’t want to get in the way of progress.  They want to be part of it and they want to move the association forward. Most associations have far too few Doers. There is the Silent Majority.  As long as maintenance fees stay reasonable and the property does not deteriorate they are happy.  They prefer not to be involved and hate drama. They don’t come to meetings. Finally there are the Complainers.  Unlike the Doers, Complainers don’t really want to roll-up their sleeves and find solutions. They want is make noise and create problems so that they can be in the limelight. (Everyone that has a complaint is not a complainer, the true mark of a complainer is that while they always have a complaint, they never have a solution and are always unhappy with the solutions proposed by others.)

11/11/14

Often the hardest part of our job is getting a decision from the board of directors. While we agree it’s important to have the facts, failure to make a decision never solves a problem.  Board members are elected to make decisions and get things done, many time putting a decision off leads to things getting worse and/or additional costs and inconvenience.

11/10/14

Stop making “Band-Aid” repairs.  I cannot tell you how much money some associations literally throw away by hiring unqualified contractors who make cheap repairs that don’t last.  For example, there is no worse way to overspend money than to keep patching roofs that need full replacement.   It never pays to make cheap repairs especially when it ends up costing more than a permanent high quality repair.

11/07/14

I am sometimes told by owners that “the association can pay for that” or that it’s not my job to “clean up, if I see a mess, the association gets paid to do that”. The truth is the association has no money.  It is simply a conduit for the owners. The money the association uses to pays bills belongs to the unit owners.  When we have to get a contractor to pick up trash for a move out, or just clean up after an owner that could not properly bag his trash and place it in the dumpster, the association does not pay–the payment comes from all the owners and this means there are less funds available to handle other activities that require the associations attention. It’s important to remember you are the association and the association is you.

11/06/14

Thought for Today – It’s getting close to time for the annual member meeting at many associations. If you are an owner, this is your meeting.  The agenda is all about you, the owners. You get to decide who the board will be for the coming year and how you will be represented. But to be heard you need to show up and to vote. If you can’t show up, return your proxy and voting certificate. Not sure about how to complete these, then call management, or a board member or another owner and ask for help. If you want to be heard and can’t be there for the meeting or don’t do well speaking in front of a group, prepare a written statement and ask that it be read into the record. As an owner you do have a voice but you have to speak up to be heard.

11/05/14

You should not complain about the budget and try to remove or reduce necessary expenses and then ask why the association is not spending more on cleaning and maintenance. These things all have costs associated with them. Budgets are not about what owners can afford as much as about what is required to meet the obligations of the association and allow the board to meet its fiduciary responsibilities.

11/04/14

Thought for Today – As managers we may advise on policies but it's up to the board to set policy and our job is to implement the policies the board sets.

11/03/14

Sometimes problems are beyond the control of the board and or management. This weekend we got a load of calls from owners about water problems, these included water shutoffs due to an owner not taking proper care of their hot water heater, by getting it replaced before for it failed, flooding all the units below his. This then required the water be shut-off to all units in the stack and a water main break at the street on the city’s water supply line for which a number of residents called to let us know that the water being shut off was intolerable. 

10/31/14

What do you fear? I fear the 1{0728698ad12cd7122aa8cf37b2a467797a4e0be40016be14bd5e6bc593ebb934} or 2{0728698ad12cd7122aa8cf37b2a467797a4e0be40016be14bd5e6bc593ebb934} minority of owners that show up at every board meeting, yelling and complaining about things that just don’t fit the facts, having an adverse influence on a well-meaning board resulting in a  changed course, making the cheap fix that costs more later, not enforcing the rules, or failing to put the association first.   Remember the majority of owners think that the board is doing a good job so there is no need for them to show up or make their voice heard.

10/30/14

Safety First at Halloween time.  Remember that a candle in a jack-o-lantern may look good but it’s also a fire hazard.  Why not use a LED flashlight instead or a glow stick. Parties this time of year are all the rage, but remember not to disturb your neighbors as even though it may be the night of the living dead, we want everyone to wake up safe and sound in the morning. For more tips on Halloween safety check out this web site    http://www.cdc.gov/family/halloween/index.htm

10/29/14

Some things just doesn’t make sense. In a recent California case, an HOA was found liable when the board failed to take action to deal with second hand smoke coming from a tenant renting a unit in the association, after an owner living next to this tenant complained about the infiltration of the second hand smoke. It seem the court felt that the association had an obligation to do something, even if the association’s documents did not require the association to be smoke free and the smoker was doing so in his unit and on his patio. It seems the board’s failure to act even when there was no clear course of action it is going to cost the association and its owners. The good news is the jury awarded only $15,000 not the $120,000 that the complainant was asking for. Now you may think “only in California”, but don’t bet on it. http://ht.ly/CvyBz

10/28/14

Rules, like most things, work best if you remember to keep things simple, clear and easy to follow. It should not take a law degree to know what is and what is not allowed. 

10/27/14

Rules, rules, rules–they seem a lot like body fat, a lot easier to add than to lose. It’s important when thinking about making rules to follow some common sense guidelines: Create rules only if it’s absolutely necessary. Base the rules on the authority provided in the governing documents. Be careful that your rule doesn’t unreasonably limit the activities of residents.  Try to balance protecting freedom with protecting property values and resident safety.

10/24/14

Under the heading “no good deed goes unpunished” is the budget work that management does before submitting the budget to the board. After working hard to reduce major increases by reducing other expenses and by finding cost savings, it seem no matter how small the increase, we now have to try to do the impossible by finding ways to reduce the increase down even further to or past zero.  Sure does make you think about just sending out the first draft that had a large increase and then letting the board beat us up so that we can send them our final draft with the small increase. Too many boards believe that no increase is warranted and want to cut budgets to the bone.  The same boards then complain when they can’t keep the level of service they had in the past, or when an unexpected items comes up and there is not enough money to deal with it. Better to have a small increase each year than to just keep cutting service until there is nothing left to cut and a large increase is required.

10/23/14

Directors need to be able to turn the other cheek. We know that being on the board can be a thankless job and that some owners complain no matter what you do or how hard you work.  It is important to keep your emotions in check and not let anger boil over at board meetings. Don’t make it personal, stick to the facts and stay calm.

10/22/14

Beware of  Toxic People. You know these people they always have something negative to say, never offer a positive idea or solution and turn every discussion into a fight.  You will not be able to appease these people so don’t even try. What you do need to do, is to manage them so that they don’t take over every meeting and prevent you from getting things done. To do this, it’s best for the board to have a policy that allows owners to speak on each agenda item, but that limits the time each owner can speak. The policy should also let all owners that wish to speak on an item make their comments without being interrupted or responded to by the board individually.  Once owner comments are completed the board members can address questions raised by any owner or owners they choose, or simply move on to the board discussion of the agenda item. Any further comments from an owner on the item would now be out of order, hence allowing the board to avoid getting into a heated discussion or argument.

10/21/14

It’s your unit, it’s your responsibility!  We are often told by owners whose guests, tenants or contractors have damaged association property that we should look to the guest, tenant or contractor. It’s important to understand that as an owner you are responsible for the actions of your guests, tenants or contractors. If damage is done to association common elements, the association should and will bill the owner whose guests, tenants or vendors did the damage.  It is then up to that owner to deal with their guest, tenant or contractor. It is not the association’s responsibility to track down and collect from these people or to process your insurance claim, that is the responsibility of the unit owner that brought those who did the damage onto the property.  It’s also important to remember that the owner’s responsibility for damages to common elements is not predicated on whether the damage was done intentionally or by accident. 

10/20/14

Are fines a good deterrent to rule breaking? Florida allows association to fine owners who fail to follow the rules.  To do this the association must have several things in place. The first thing required is a fining policy that explains how and when fines will be assessed. Next is a fine review committee to which owners can appeal fines they feel are unwarranted or unfair. This fine review committee must be made up of owners that are not on the board and who do not reside with board members. They must also be willing to meet regularly so that owners can make timely appeals. It’s also important to remember that the daily amount of a fine and total amount of a fine for multiple days is limited.

10/17/14

It’s budget time again and while no one want to pay more, it’s important to remember association budgets are based on the costs of operating and maintaining the association’s property.  Add to this the cost of amenities and you get what is needed for the coming year. From this you can then deduct any non-owner revenue the association will be receiving, such as laundry money, rents and other fees. The balance of what is needed will have to come from owner maintenance assessments. Want to lower the assessments, you will have to find something on the expense list your can reduce or eliminate.

10/16/14

When you own a Condominium or home in a HOA it’s important to remember that while the community has a board of directors and management, both depend on you to help keep them informed of maintenance and other items that come up. A simple phone call to the management office when you notice sprinklers that are going on at the wrong time, lights that don’t work, trash left where it should not be or a water leak helps us start working to solve the problem sooner. Don’t assume that someone else will report the problem or that it’s not your responsibility to let us know. It is after all your property and in most cases your home and both the board and management rely on you letting management know when you spot a problem.

10/15/14

Four simple rules for community association living; 1. Respect your fellow owners and residents. 2. Know, understand and follow the rules. 3. Communicate in a positive manner. (This does not mean everything you say has to be positive, just that there is a nice way to point out problems and that this often gets you heard a lot better than being nasty.) 4. Pay your maintenance and other fees on time. (When you don’t pay, it means others have to and puts an unfair burden on your fellow owners.)

10/14/14

Does your association have a written policy in place that outlines the qualifications for purchase and rental of association units? A written policy statement that spells out the basis on which an application will be approved or denied helps make sure that everyone is held to the same standards, and that everyone (buyers, sellers and renters) know the criteria on which their application will be evaluated.

10/13/14

In the constantly changing environment of Florida Law and Court Decisions it’s important to stay up-to-date on how these changes affect Condominiums, HOAs and Coops.  We appreciate today’s presentation of the 2014/2015 Legal Update by Michael S. Bender, Esq with the Law Offices of Kaye Bender Rembaum PL. It is presentations like this that help our staff and the board members of the association we serve stay up to date on the latest changes in Florida Law so that we can all do a better job in successfully guiding the association we serve. 

10/10/14

No one benefits from adversarial relationships. We sometimes find that a board member or board of directors wants to treat the association vendors as the enemy watching over their shoulder and questioning every item and recommendation they make, getting bids on even small jobs and always choosing the lowest bidder and then expecting the highest quality. The truth is vendors should be your partners and a fair price is more important than the lowest price. When vendors are treated as partners and paid fairly they can often help the association find better way to deal with issues and problems bringing cost savings and better service to the association. 

10/09/14

As an owner you are entitled to see all association documents and attend all board meetings except those with legal counsel or that deal with confidential employment matters. You are not entitled to an individual explanation of every action taken by the board or action taken by management. It’s important to remember that management reports to the board and that the board is elected to supervise management, make decisions and set policy. It would not be prudent or cost effective for the board or management to explain each decision and action to each individual owner.

10/08/14

Board members should never accept a complaint directly from an owner or resident of the association. All complaints should be directed to the manager or management of the association. It’s important to let owners and residents with complaints or concerns know that in order for their complaint or concerns to be addressed they must go through proper channels. Its management’s job to respond to all owner or resident complaints or concerns received and to keep the board informed of these.

10/07/14

Ethics is doing the right thing, even when it’s the wrong thing for you. It can’t be learned in a class room, but it can be learned from those that set a good example. Ethics sometimes require us to say things that boards don’t want to hear, but need to be said.

10/06/14

Leave it to the professionals.  This is one of the things we tell our boards all the time, as even the best intended acts can often have unanticipated and negative consequences. Take for example the board that wanted to make sure that their community was safe so they all took it upon themselves to approach anyone they thought did not belong. They would stop these people in the parking lot, pool area, and in the lobby and ask them “who are you?” and “what are you doing here?”, or “what unit are you visiting?”. It turns out that the attention of several of these well intended board members was addressed to the same resident who was the tenant of a unit owner, and this tenant felt they were being picked on because they were a member of a minority group.  Each board member was acting on their own, and did not know about the actions of their fellow board members, but this tenant felt that she was being targeted by the board and it could result in legal action by the tenant against the board members and/or the association.  It’s just a bad plan for board members or owners to address these issues on their own. A better course of action would be to inform management and/or the police if someone is acting suspiciously.  Don’t put yourself or your association in danger, call the professionals.

10/03/14

The other day I noticed that some of our competitors are now marketing how big they are. Their ads proudly proclaimed that they are one of the 10 largest companies in the business serving associations in many states. I know what size does for them, it increases profits and makes them less accountable to their clients and the owners that live in the association they manager. Our goal has never been to be the biggest in the business we would rather be known for being the best. We don’t want to cover the world as we would rather be hands on with our clients and be sure that they can access not only their property manager but all of our staff and supervisors as well as the principles of our firm. If you are lucky enough to be part of a south Florida Association we would love an opportunity to show you just what first class service is all about.

10/02/14

Being on the board can be a thankless job, worse yet for many, it can seem to last a lifetime.  In our busy world, fewer and fewer people are willing to devote the time and energy required and today’s culture is more about self than self-sacrifice. Sometimes the only way to grow the next generation is like growing a garden by planting the seeds of service early with new owners, inviting them to participate and in showing how you value their input so that when the time is right they can take on the responsibilities.

10/01/14

One of the things that makes managing associations worthwhile is the number of owners that show their trust in us every day and nothing is more gratifying than being brought back to manage an association we left because the board did not want to allow us to maintain our ethical standards.

09/29/14

One of the toughest tasks of being a manager is dealing with owner that either through advanced age or mental disability can no longer care for themselves. Many times these residents don’t have family or their family lives far away and takes no interest in how they are getting along.  While we feel for those that can no longer care for themselves we also recognize that they can create life and safety hazards for other owners and residents. Take for example the owner that leaves the stove on and starts a fire or the hoarder that never throws out the trash and hence attracts rodents and other vermin. While there may be help available from local sources to better enable the aged or infirmed to stay in their home often time these owners and resident resist or refuse to take advantage of this help.

09/26/14

Sometimes boards and owners think “insurance will take care of it”, the hard fact is that neither insurance or a lawsuit will fix damage to association property. While it is true that collecting on an insurance claim or lawsuit can offset the expenses of making necessary repairs caused by an accident or negligence of people or business that work on, live in or visit your association these things don’t make the required repairs and put things back the way they were. It’s up to the board and management to see that necessary repairs are made first to protect life and property then to put things back the way they were. Waiting for insurance proceeds or to win a lawsuit are not good reasons to delay doing necessary repairs for the repairs are the responsibility of the board and management and need to be addressed in a timely manner.

09/25/14

In south Florida where sun, wind, rain and salt air are constantly assaulting your building and working to deteriorate them, it’s important to remember that proper painting and water proofing are the first line of defense in preventing expensive concrete and metal restoration. Paint is not about making it look pretty, it’s about protecting the underlying structure.  Saving even tens of thousands of dollars by putting off painting can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in restoration expenses.

09/24/14

Owners have the right to record board meetings. Recording may be audio or audio visual. While the board can set reasonable rules governing the recording such as that the recording device must be stationary or that the board and members present must be notified that the meeting is being recorded. The board cannot impose unreasonable restrictions or forbid the recording of a meeting. This is another good reason not to guess or make general statements when as a board member you are not sure about the answer to a questions or feel that answer,  though well intended, may create liability for the association. The best answer when you not sure is “I don’t know, I will have to look into that”. More associations and board member have been sued or defamed over well intended answers to questions that were just wrong or inaccurate. So remember always behave as if you are being recorded and it might show up on the evening news and never guess or fake an answer.  When you are not sure just say so.

09/23/14

How do you choose your vendors? Is price the number one concern? Is it service? To you take into account the quality of their work? Do you consider reliability? Do you tell your vendors what you want and expect them to provide a bid on just what you have asked for or do you look to your vendors for their experience and ask them to help you in finding the best solutions for your association? Vendors can be a valuable resource for any association. Chances are they have seen and dealt with the problems or challenges you are experiencing before and can help you find cost effective solutions that will serve your association in the long run. The best vendors are the ones that want to be partners in making your association better.  They are in business for the long haul and not looking for a quick profit.  They also may not be the cheapest choice but that does not mean they are not worth paying a little more as you will always know that they are doing the right things for your association and that they stand behind their work.

09/22/14

I would rather be criticized for action than inaction.

09/19/14

Association records are the property of the association and with a few statutory exceptions for medical, open legal matters and confidential personal information, every owner has a right to examine and review these records. They have a right to request copies and pay a reasonable fee for these copies or to use their cell phone camera to take pictures of these records. While associations can set reasonable rules as to the times and number of examinations an owner may conduct per year, the best policies make it easy for owners to access association records as a well-run association has nothing to hide and the records make this clear. Records can also be made available over the internet using a web portal to which owners have access. 

09/18/14

I have gotten so tired of board certification classes that were taught by lawyers and left board members more confused about everything except that they needed to call their lawyer, that I wrote my own board certification class. This class has been approved by the state of Florida and covers the A-Zs of what every board member should know.  From Fiduciary responsibility to how and when board meetings should be called. It includes not only what financial information the association must provide but the best practices for boards in managed and self-managed associations. If you are interested in getting certified to serve on an association board or just want to know more about how to make your association better, classes are scheduled for the second Wednesday of every month at 5:00PM. https://royalemanagement.com/free-condominium-board-member-certification-classes/

09/17/14

Being an association manager requires us to be part fortune teller, part psychologist, part social worker, part engineer, part magician and have the wisdom of Solomon.

09/16/14

What would you do? An owner complains that smoke from the unit below is coming into his bedroom and making it difficult for him to breath. The owner below is a heavy smoker and says that while he understands that some people don’t like smoking, he does not smoke in the hallways of common elements and what he does in his unit is his business. Both owners are good people that follow the rules, pay their assessments and try not to cause problems but they are both frustrated and want the board to do something to put an end to their frustration.

09/15/14

What do you call someone who has to take information written in an alien language, by a race that perished long ago and which has been twisted by those that claim to speak that language, sometimes for the benefit of the organization some times for the benefit of the current inhabitants who must serve the current rulers while protecting the inhabitants and solving problems never dreamed of by the alien race that created the organization?  — A Community Association Manager.

09/12/14

When a problem occurs like the pool having to be resurfaced or the elevator motor seizing up and having to be replaced, which will require time and also inconvenience owners, it is inevitable that I will get a call from an owner explaining that they are being inconvenienced or that this will create additional expenses for them as a tenant will not be able to move in when planned or that their friends that were going to use their apartment canceled because the pool will not be available. Then comes the question. “Who is going to pay me for my out of pocket costs and inconvenience due to this problem.” This is where I have to explain, that as an owner it’s their property, they are responsible. When you own property, sometimes things go wrong and you have to suffer the inconvenience or costs. Sometimes things break or have to be replaced and this is not anyone’s fault,  it’s just in the nature of property ownership. The board and management are nothing more than your representatives, and while they are dealing with the problem for you, they are not responsible for its occurrence or your costs and inconvenience. 

09/11/14

Security is everyone’s responsibility. Every owner and resident can help increase security adding to the personal safety and property protection for all. Make sure all entry doors to common elements are securely closed each time you enter or leave the building.  Don’t provide access to strangers to association property, let whoever they are visiting be the one to provide access. Don’t prop open exit doors and report anyone that does not belong to police. If owners and residents keep their eyes open and report unusual activities and those that don’t belong to police, the community will be a safer place for everyone. The best security an association can have is owners and residents that pay attention and who know their neighbors.

09/10/14

Sometimes the fastest and best answer is to call the local police. If you have an after hour’s noise complaint or a complaint about an intruder the best answer is to call the police. Management can’t make anyone quiet down or arrest anyone, but the local police can.  While management is empowered to send violation notices, the police have the power to arrest which often gets much faster results. So next time someone is having a loud party into the wee hours of the night, first try asking politely if they can turn it down or maybe just invite you and if that does not work call the police. It you see an intruder or someone that does not belong, call the police as they are best equipped to handle this kind of problem.

09/09/14

As a unit owner you are responsible for the maintenance of your unit. This includes maintenance of the plumbing connections that serve the plumbing fixtures, dishwasher and refrigerator water supply lines along with drains and sink traps. Should one of these systems or connections fail and create damage to the association common elements or your neighbors you are also responsible for the damages. Having the right insurance as a unit owner not only protects your personal property, it can provide protection should something happen and you be unintentionally responsible for damages to the common elements or your neighbors property.

09/08/14

Condo's tend to spend more money on attorneys per dollar of revenue than any other business on the planet. While it's important to have and ask legal counsel legal questions, it's a poor place to go for advice on operations as you generally get an expensive and totally useless answer. 

My advice is never ask a lawyer if you can or should do something.  Ask them if we do X, what is the worst thing that can happen and what are the chances it will happen. Then it's up to the board to decide if they can live with that or not. 

Somewhere along the line, way too many board members have gotten the idea that if an attorney says its ok, they and the association are protected. If this were true the courts would be empty.

09/05/14

Under the heading of no good deed going unpunished, is the association where the board was in the process of getting information from engineers and contractors about concrete restoration but had not yet voted on a special assessment because they did not have all the facts. During the interview  to approve a purchaser, the prospective buyer asked “I know that you are planning a concrete restoration project, how much will the special assessment be and when will it take place?”  In an effort to be helpful this board member said “well it should be $XXXX.XX but nothing is official yet. We are still working on it.”  The buyer heard it will be $XXXX.XX. When the special assessment came out to be much more than what the new buyer expected, he sued the association, running up a legal bill and possibly costing his new neighbors thousands of dollars. The moral here is the board members should never discuss association business with buyers. nor make presentations or promises. The correct and safe answer would have been “I am sorry those decisions have not been made by the board, so I can’t comment on them.”  This would of saved the association thousands of dollars and the board lots of grief and aggravation. 

09/04/14

Election season is just around the corner.  While you may not be ready to run for state office, your association board of directors could be just the right place to get your feet wet. Before you run for the board ask yourself these simple questions. 1. Am I doing this to make my association a better place for all the owners and residents and not because I have personal agenda? 2. Can I evaluate information that I receive and make a decision then stick with it?  3. Am I will to put in the time and work that will be required which includes being prepared for and attending all board meetings? 4. Can I do a job with little or no praise when things go well and where no matter what I decide someone will likely let me know they are unhappy with my decision?  If you can answer yes to all these question then you could make a good candidate and future board member.

09/03/14

We have just 4 more seats available for tomorrows Lunch and Learn Seminar “Building a Budget that Works for Your Association”. This is the perfect place to learn the ins and outs of the budgeting process. For Reservations and information call 954-563-1269 today.

09/02/14

Board members fulfill their fiduciary duty by:

  • Establishing and adhering to a budget. A good budget is developed through an objective, step-by-step process based on historical data and careful research.
  • Reviewing financial statements regularly. The statements include a balance sheet, budget comparison report, income report, check registry and more.
  • Putting policies in place to reduce the risks of fraudulent activity. These include, for example, requiring two signatures on checks, not signing blank checks and sending payment only when an invoice is received.
  • Hiring an accounting firm to perform an annual audit. An auditor will look for missing check numbers, missing bank statements, duplicate payments, payments to unfamiliar vendors or suspicious journal entries.
  • Adopting an investment  policy. A good investment policy protects principal, liquidity and yield.
  • Conducting a reserve study and updating it regularly. A reserve study identifies the expected remaining life of each major component, estimates of the cost to replace it and the amount that should be saved on a monthly or annual basis.

08/29/14

If you could change one thing about the condominium or home owners association in which you live, what would that be?

08/28/14

While it’s important for owners to be able to express their views and ask questions of the board at board meetings, it’s also important to maintain control of the meeting, not allowing it to degenerate into a conversation with one or a few owners that get the meeting off topic and off schedule. To keep board meeting from being hijacked, it’s often best to set up some simple rules that allows owners a limited amount of time before each agenda item is discussed, to be heard. Then each owner who wishes can express themself and the board can wait to respond or not respond until after all owners have spoken and the floor is closed on the item to further owner comments and opened for board discussion. This avoids needless arguments between board members and owners, and allows the board to answer a question raised by several owners one time and not repeat themselves. 

08/27/14

Many associations in Florida vote each year to waive the reserve requirements, believing this will keep monthly fees down and hence protect the association and owner value. Owners often feel that there is no reason for them to put money away for a roof, concrete restoration or other items that will not be needed for years into the future. But this fairy tale seldom has a happen ending. When the cost of the special assessment necessary to handle these items is such a large lump sum that it is impossible for some owners to come up with, forcing them to become delinquent or to try to sell their unit with the special assessment hanging over their head like an albatross.  The burden of these additional delinquencies then falls even harder on the owners that can and do pay.

08/26/14

Sometimes the best answer is no. Yesterday I went to meet with a new association. Three members of a five member Board showed up for the private meeting and they started by telling me they were a hands on board. When I asked what that meant, they told me that they not let the association manager direct the employees and oversee everything, including deciding which bills to pay and when.  They also said that the three of them got together to make decisions every morning. When I asked if they posted notices of these meeting and kept minutes they told me they did not as they “were not board meeting’, which they only had once or twice a year.  But they kept everything transparent by sending a monthly newsletter to owners letting them known what was going on.  Here is where I lost the account “I told them that since 3 of them represented a quorum of their 5 member board, they needed to post a notice of their morning meeting and keep minutes, under Florida law.” When I told them as managers we could not participate in meetings that violated state law. But we could post a notice of the daily meetings and develop a standard set of minutes that could be easily updated and completed.   I could tell by their reaction that they wanted a manager that took orders regardless of whether the orders were legal or correct. While I know this board was well intentioned, they are also a manager’s nightmare and not the right fit for our firm.

08/25/14

Sometimes the law is an ass. Take for example a recent Second District Court of Appeal of Florida, which in principal allows the use of a restrictive endorsement on a check or a simple note sent with a check to absolve the payer of the balance owed on a debt to the association.  It basically concluded that the act of depositing the check is an acceptance of the terms regardless of the intent of the association on whose behalf it is being deposited. For the technical legal reasons that the court overturned years of practice and put another hurtle up against an association collecting what it is due you can read the decision and learn how this judge tried to read the mind of the legislature or better yet let your state representative know that association needs to be protected from this kind of action by deadbeats that want to work the system. Let your legislatures know that it’s time to take action and see that association can collect what is owed to them by updating the law and making it harder to walk away for association debts. 

http://www.2dca.org/opinions/Opinion_Pages/Opinion_Pages_2014/August/August%2008,%202014/2D13-3636.pdf

08/23/14

Like it or not dogs and other pets are invading many pet free communities.   As there are doctors and other health care professionals that are willing to certify their owners need an “Emotional Support Animal” there is little the association can do about this. While we all understand the need for a “Service Animal” such as a Seeing Eye dog, even the definition of service animals blurs, because they can be required for many illnesses both real and imaginary. Adding to the issues it that there is no real way to determine if the animal really has the special training required to make it a service animal.  Talk to three law firms and you will get five opinion’s on just how much and what the board can ask, if anything, when an owner makes a request for a “Reasonable Accommodation” for their animal to live with them at the association.  The only thing they all seem to agree on is that a request must be made by the owner to the association and that the association must act on the request.

To make matters worse, once a “Reasonable Accommodation” is made allowing the NON-PET “Service Animal” or Emotional Support Animal” into the building, privacy laws do not allow the board to provide any information about the disability or reason for the accommodation other than it is a “Reasonable Accommodation approved by the board based on HUD requirements under the Fair Housing Act.” 

08/22/14

While everything you try will not be successful, failure to try will grantee failure.

08/21/14

Property Manager: Someone who is expected to keep everyone happy, while enforcing the rules, taking responsibility for the actions of vendors, putting out fires and holding back floods.  Additional helpful skills: pinches pennies like Scrooge, see the future like a fortune teller and remains calm no matter how much he or she is abused. You must also be responsible for all failures while leaving credit for successes to the board of directors.  

08/20/14

Help Wanted: No pay, lots of responsibility, little input and lots of angry calls from those you work for if you make even the smallest mistake. If you like reviewing financial information, dealing with emergencies, not being appreciated, this is the perfect job for you.  You can serve you neighbors and be abused by them all at the same time. To apply simply run for the board of directors.

08/19/14

When the Lord said love thy neighbor as you love yourself, he left out even if you have to pick up their share of the association maintenance expenses. But that is just what happens when one or more owners don’t make the required monthly maintenance payments.  Their neighbors have to make up the short fall. That’s why it’s important to get tough on non-payment as early as possible.  It’s also important to turn these non-payers over to your lawyer or collection firm right away as the longer you wait the greater the   amount owed and the less chance you have of them ever being able to pay.  Every board should have a policy in place directing any account that is past due by 2 months to be turned over for collection without discussion or approval.  This should be automatic. The sooner you turn it over, the sooner the owner will know the association is serious about collecting.

08/18/14

If you don’t trust that your manager and or management company are looking out for the best interests of your community it’s time to look for new management. While it is appropriate to ask questions when you don’t understand or need more information we sometimes see board members that treat their manager as the enemy. This is just unproductive. Board members can’t and should not be expected to be experts in all the areas that effect their association.  It’s the job of a professional manager to help them stay on track and assist them with areas they don’t have the knowledge or experience to confront on their own.

08/15/14

As a board member you don’t have to be an expert on everything. It is perfectly acceptable to hire experts and rely on the information they provide. For example if you have to do a major renovation or construction project, you don’t need to have the expertise of an engineer; what you do need to do is hire an engineer you can trust and rely on their advice. 

08/14/14

One of the biggest mistaken beliefs that boards have when it comes to hiring a management company for their association is that they think they are saving money by hiring the management company with the lowest monthly fee.  The costs of having a cheap manager can far out weight the cost of having the right manager. For example many managers make up for low fees by charging all kinds of other fees that push up monthly costs. These extra fees include charges for:  violation notices, late notices, office supplies, mileage, emergency calls and they even have fees for forwarding an account to the association attorney for collection. Some management companies are in more than just the management business they own: landscaping companies, plumbing companies and even general contracting firms that they use these to provide services and create extra profits– often at a cost higher than you could get the same services from an independent provider. While we all know price is important, it’s what and who you get for your money that should be most important.  It’s also important to clearly understand just want is and what is not included in any agreement. 

08/13/14

How would you feel if your condominium decided to go smokeless? The more we hear the worse second hand smoke seems to be for you. Couple that with the fact that many older condominiums share common vents and smoke can filter from one unit to another and the smoker below of next store may be affecting you. Would you vote to approve an amendment to your documents to make your association smoke free? Would finding out that going smoke free might lower your association insurance rates be meaningful? Would you be willing to keep your guests and tenants from smoking anywhere on association property?

08/12/14

How would you feel if your condominium decided to go smokeless? The more we hear, the worse second hand smoke seems to be for you. Couple that with the fact that many older condominiums share common vents and smoke can filter from one unit to another and the smoker below or next door may be affecting you. Would you vote to approve an amendment to your documents to make your association smoke free? Would finding out that going smoke free might lower your association insurance rates be meaningful? Would you be willing to keep your guests and tenants from smoking anywhere on association property?

08/11/14

One of the most difficult things for many boards to do is to run board meetings that actually get things done and allow owners an opportunity to speak while staying on schedule and on time. Sometimes it seems like one board member or owner can get and keep things off track forcing meetings to last well past the time during which anything can be accomplished. Has your board meeting ever been hijacked? What did you do to get back control?

08/08/14

One of the things that I find sad about managing condominiums and HOAs is the lack of interest taken in the association by many owners. At most board meetings, unless there is a vote taking place to impose a special assessment, less than 5{0728698ad12cd7122aa8cf37b2a467797a4e0be40016be14bd5e6bc593ebb934} of the unit owners show up to listen and provide the board with input. At most annual meetings we have to fight to get a quorum and often that is only possible through proxies. While board members don’t need to be second guessed on every decision, they do want and appreciate input from owners before decisions are made. The board members in the associations we manage work hard and sincerely want to do what is best for their associations. They respond to email, spend time on the phone with management, participate in meetings and do their homework, all of this, for no pay and often little if any appreciation. 

08/07/14

Today’s lesson: For those that don’t know it, a fair is a place you can ride rides and win prizes.  Your association operates according to its governing documents, local, state and federal law and when it comes to compliance with the law, what is fair and what is legal can look entirely different.

08/06/14

Does your community have a fining policy in place for owners that just can’t seem to follow the rules? Are fines a last resort? Do board members and owners alike realize the purpose for a fine is to promote compliance and not to raise money for the association? Florida law no longer requires the ability to levy fines to be in your association documents but that does not mean that a fining policy does not have to be created by the board and carefully thought out or that it will make all non-compliant owners compliant.

08/05/14

Do you know what the association’s financial statements really say? Reading and understanding the associations financial statements is one of the most important jobs board members do. The statements tell you a lot about the ongoing operations of the association. They tell you not only who is paying and who is not paying but how good a job you did on your budget and if the manager or others in charge of day to day operations are maintaining tight controls of your expenses. To get the whole pictures you need more than just the Income / Expense statement and Balance Sheet. Want to know more join us for a class on using and understanding association financial statements.

https://royalemanagement.com/hoa-condominium-board-seminars-free-lunch-learn/

08/01/14

Well meeting actions that are not well thought out can cause serious problems.  Take for example what happened at one association when the board president invited a couple of his fellow board members over for a beer and to review the roof bids. Because the board at this association was made up of five members, three members being present constructed a quorum of the board and this well-intended discussion over a few beers turned into an illegal meeting under Florida law.

When a few owners found out they accused the board of holding secret meetings, which ultimately led to a recall action. Although this may seem like a common-sense action to address a condo issue, with some of your fellow board members over a few beers, it is actually against the law. The goal of the law is to make sure that these kinds of meetings are held “in the sunshine,” not in the shadows; but in the open and in the presence of the owners. Both Florida statutes (718) and HOA (720) include language that require both proper notice and that meeting be open to all unit owners.

07/31/14

What if we held a meeting and nobody came? The sad fact is that associations hold many meetings where none of the owners show up to ask questions or just to observe. For many of these owners their condominium or HOA ownership represents 10{0728698ad12cd7122aa8cf37b2a467797a4e0be40016be14bd5e6bc593ebb934} of more of their net worth, not to mention the place they live or will retire to. But yet when the board is discussing important matters like budgets, updates to the rules or just how they are going to be spending the hard earned dollars of the unit owners no one is interested. No one shows up until the notice of special assessment is being approved, this is generally too little too late. Your board wants your ideas, suggestions and support and they want it during the decision making process, it does not do anyone any good to just show up after the necessary decisions have been made to complain about those decisions.  Being on the board is hard work, it often involves complex decisions and hard choices and a little informed support from owners makes the job easier and the decisions better.

07/30/14

As much as we would like to communicate with every owner and resident to make sure that all of their concerns and questions are answered the time and money are not available in most cases to address everyone on a one-on-one basis. For those that want a deeper understanding of contracts, payments and items in progress, we provide newsletters, the ability to listen in on board meetings from anywhere over the phone and a web portal with all of the associations’ information. We also gladly respond to email but unfortunately sometimes we don’t have the information or the item may be in progress and we are waiting on bids from contractors or the board to act. That being said, if you are the joint owner of a unit you need to communicate with each other. When we provide information to one of the joint owners in a unit it’s their job to share that information with their fellow owners. 

07/29/14

I have gotten so tired of board certification classes that were taught by lawyers and left board member more confused about everything except that they needed to call their lawyer that I wrote my own board certification class. This class has been approved by the state of Florida and covers the A-Zs of what every board member should know.  From Fiduciary responsibility to how and when board meetings should be call. It includes not only what financial information the association must but the best practices for boards in managed and self-managed association. If you are interested in getting certified to serve on an association board or just want to know more about how to make your association better, classes are scheduled for the second Wednesday of every month at 5:00PM.

07/28/14

In the end it's all about the people.

07/25/14

Although your HOA or Condo Board of Directors may seem like local government, with the power to enforce penalties for various violations large and small, the fact is that your HOA and Condos are legally corporations and not the government. Therefore, the corporate voting model is used. Each property owned represents one share of the HOA or Condo, and gives the right to one vote. While we often hear complaints from owners that someone owning multiple units gets multiple votes, it’s important to remember they also have multiple maintenance and other fees to pay and a bigger investment in the property.

07/24/14

Sometimes it’s all in how you ask the question! For example, an owner that asks the board or manager, “The association seems to spend a lot more on __________ than it has in the past, I was wondering why?” Will generally get a much better response than one that asks “Why are you people spending so much on _____________?” Boards and managers are much more open to people that want to understand and help find solutions than to those that only want to place blame or create controversy. 

07/23/14

What was the primary reason you purchased in your condominium association or HOA? Was it: the amenities, the maintenance, rules, or something else? We want your comments so please tell us why below.

07/22/14

Something I have learned as a manager: The world can be a lonely place for board members trying to resolve association problems or issues. There can be meetings after meetings for discussion, planning and to meet with experts in which owners don’t take any real interest, but once a decision has been made and contracts have been signed, everyone wants to know how and why the decision was made and what if…

07/21/14

Does your association have a code of ethics for board members? Would you as a board member be willing to sign a code of ethics?

07/18/14

Owners hate it, boards fear it and managers dread it, but concrete restoration is a necessary evil of life in South Florida. Wind, rain and salt air do their best to destroy your building, it may take years but these things weaken the concrete and steel supporting it.  While a good coat of paint that is replaced on a regular basis will delay this destruction, eventually repairs must be made to the underlying concrete and steel. Failure to make needed repairs is not only an aesthetic issue, it’s also a safety issue. We have all seen news stories of balconies falling off a building and people being injured or killed because the balcony could no longer hold the weight. This is what happens when necessary maintenance and repairs are not done when needed. Add to this the fact that the costs and work needed increases dramatically if deterioration is left unchecked.  

07/17/14

Owners hate it, boards fear it and managers dread it, but concrete restoration is a necessary evil of life in South Florida. Wind, rain and salt air do their best to destroy your building, it may take years but these things weaken the concrete and steel supporting it.  While a good coat of paint that is replaced on a regular basis will delay this destruction, eventually repairs must be made to the underlying concrete and steel. Failure to make needed repairs is not only an aesthetic issue, it’s also a safety issue. We have all seen news stories of balconies falling off a building and people being injured or killed because the balcony could no longer hold the weight. This is what happens when necessary maintenance and repairs are not done when needed. Add to this the fact that the costs and work needed increases dramatically if deterioration is left unchecked.

07/16/14

Want to keep your monthly maintenance fee from increasing? Don’t complain, pitch in. There are many services your association pays for that could easily be provided by owners willing to help out consistently. These services include simple things like changing light bulbs, policing the grounds, doing some spring planting, and emptying trash cans. All of these things cost your association money which if saved, could be used to help keep maintenance fees down. It’s important to leave things like plumbing and electrical repairs to the licensed, insured professionals, as if these are not properly handled, they can create a danger to life or property as well as a big liability for the association.

07/15/14

Does your association have regularly scheduled board meetings? One of the simplest ways to give everyone access to what is going on in your association is to have regularly scheduled board meetings. For example, the board meets the first Thursday of every month at 6:00 PM. This allows owners, board members and managers to plan.  It also provides a regular forum for owners that want to make a request or complaint about a management or board decision.

07/14/14

Many times boards have to make the choice from a group of bad choices. For example, should we foreclose and incur more legal fees or do we wait for the bank to take action?  Do we spend money on patching an old roof which may give us another year of life or do we replace the roof? While the choices are not easy they must be made and all that can be asked of board members is that they make the best decisions possible with the information they have and within the time frame required. For even the failure to make a decision will and does have consequences.

07/11/14

Yesterday I listened to a board member complain that the decision he and his fellow board members made did not work out as planned, which gave an owner an excuse to berate the board at the last meeting. He felt that maybe next time something like this came up, he should just not vote, and that way he could not be held responsible.  No person or board will be right every time they make a decision. Board members have to do the best they can with the information available at the time to make the best decision possible.  While it’s easy for someone to say what they would of done or what you should of done, after the fact, board members need to make decisions based on what they know and what they believe is in the best interest of the association. 

07/10/14

Owners should expect management to: Treat them with respect, listen to their concerns, return phone calls and emails in a timely manner, treat all owners equally, provide easy access to association information, respect their rights and privacy, properly handle all payments, process applications for purchase or lease in a timely manner and to diligently work in the best interests of the association at all times.

07/09/14

A manager has nothing do except; supervise vendors & contractors, make sure the property is safe, make sure it well maintained, get bids and information for the board, handle rule violations, answer questions and respond to requests from board  members & owners, handle emergencies, provide access to units for repairs and maintenance of common elements, make sure all meetings are properly noticed, keep expenses in line with budgets, follow up with vendors that don’t perform,  see that checks are signed by board members so association bills can be paid,  develop information for the annual budget, explain why expenses like utilities and insurance (over which they have little or no control) have increased, keep owners and board members informed and treat every owner like they are the only owner.

07/08/14

How good of a job did you do on you budget? Now that the year is half over it’s a good time to review the budget and current financial statements to see how good of a job you did when you prepared the budget. Will your budget cover the cost of operating your association for the rest of the year? Have you had unexpected expenses come up that will lead to a shortage of cash and make it hard to pay your bills? If your actual expenditures and revenues are not on track with your budget and you are running low on cash there only three things you can do. 1) Update your budget. (This requires all the steps that were taken to approve the original budget but it will allow you to adjust the amount of your monthly maintenance fees.) 2) Reduce your spending by delaying projects or other items. (This is only possible if your budget contained discretionary items.) 3) Implement a special assessment to make up the shortfall.

07/07/14

Like it or not, being on the board is a political position and it requires the skills to deal with owners and fellow board members that don’t always agree with your point of view. As a board member you need to quickly develop the skills to deal with those that don’t agree with your decisions and actions. being-politically-smart

07/06/14

Like it or not, being on the board is a political position and it requires the skills to deal with owners and fellow board members that don’t always agree with your point of view. As a board member you need to quickly develop the skills to deal with those that don’t agree with your decisions and actions.

07/05/14

Under Florida law a board cannot prevent an owner from videotaping a meeting. This includes both board meetings and membership meetings. Chapter 718 (Condo Act) and Chapter 720 (HOA Act) make explicit this right of owners. Recording is limited to all OPEN meetings of the Board and the membership and not to meeting with the association attorney that are privileged.

07/04/14

From all of us at Royale Management Services to the board members, owners and resident we serve happy 4 of July.

07/03/14

But it’s not supposed to be a life sentence! Many board members tell me the only thing more difficult than getting on the board is getting off.  Although everyone wants to comment on how the board does business, most of the time they would rather comment from the sidelines than take a turn in the hot seat. Keeping your association healthy requires grooming the next generation of board members so that they will be able to bring new energy and new ideas forward but also understand the association history.

07/02/14

Leadership requires the ability to work with others, build consensus, share information, make decisions and move on.

07/01/14

Once a board or member meeting has been opened and a quorum has been established the meeting remains open until a motion to close the meeting is made and approved even it one or more of the board members needed to establish a quorum leaves the meeting. The vote required to pass any item is a simple majority of the board or members present regardless of whether or not there are still enough board members or members present to establish a quorum.

06/30/14

When a quorum is not present for a board or member meeting the meeting the meeting will fail for lack of a quorum and does not take place. This means that no business or other decisions can made. While it is ok for board members or managers at one of these failed meeting to share information and or announcements with owners present they should not discuss agenda items or debate business that was to be brought before the properly called meeting.

06/28/14

Board members have a Fiduciary Duty to the Association. According to Wex; A fiduciary duty is a legal duty to act solely in another party's interests. Parties owing this duty are called fiduciaries. The individuals to whom they owe a 

06/27/14

Having good legal counsel for your association is important but having good legal counsel does not mean having the most expensive legal counsel or including them in every business decision your association makes. Like any other expense legal expenses need to be managed and legal counsel needs to be used properly.

06/26/14

Decisions should be made by the board not an officer or officers and once the board has spoken the officers have an obligation to see that the board’s decisions are followed.

06/25/14

Officers on a board of directors, including the president, serve at the pleasure of the board and can be removed or replaced by the board at any properly noticed meeting at which there is a quorum. While the board does not have the power to remove a member from the board, they do have the power to remove an officer from their position.

06/24/14

There are both good and bad reasons to be on the board of directors. A bad reason is to accomplish a personal agenda. A good reason is to help make the association a better place to live and own for everyone. Becoming a director should not be about you, it should be about giving back to your association.

06/23/14

It looks like the Florida Legislature made it ok again to foreclose on owners that don’t pay their assessments. Coming July 1, 2014, the debt owed to an association is no longer merged with the title when the association forecloses.  While we are not attorneys it sounds to us like association can once again take steps to get the deadbeats out.

06/20/14

Successful communities all share one thing in common; "Directors direct (via Board of Directors) and Managers manage." When these two roles get intertwined, problems arise that undermine the communities’ successful operation.

06/19/14

Makes sure you get the right insurance coverage for your condominium unit. While it is true that the association must buy insurance covering the common elements and physical property, unit owners still need insurance to protect their personal property and the improvements they have made to their units. They should also have liability coverage. It’s important to be sure you have the right coverage, for example, condo owners should have an H06 policy while owners of townhomes and single family homes should have an HO3 policy.

06/18/14

Many times, owners and residents contact Association management about illegal activities and expect that something be done about it. Association management is not a law enforcement agency, and is not equipped to do the job of the police, hence we tell them to, “Call the police as the activity about which you are calling is not within the purview of the Association". The witness(es) to illegal activity need to participate toward the resolution of the problem by reporting their observation to the police who are fully equipped to handle illegal activities. 

06/17/14

We all know the older you get the more care you need, well the same is true for your condominium. As things get older they tend to wear out and need to be replaced. These things can include plumbing systems, electrical panels, elevators, windows, doors and much more. Some of these things are the responsibility of the unit owner and some are the responsibility of the association but ether way unit owners have to pay as the only source of funds for most associations is the unit owners. 

06/16/14

As an owner in an HOA or condominium association, the best way to protect your rights and the value of your investment is to participate in your community. Attend board meetings, review financial statements and vote in elections.

06/14/14

Sometimes owners forget that the association really has no money of its own.  When they suggest that the association spend its money, they are really suggesting that the association spend the money it collects from them and their fellow owners. It’s important to remember the only source of funds that associations have is their owners.

06/13/14

In the condo world often loose lips can end up costing a lot of money. A board member or screening committee member that says the wrong thing to a prospective renter or purchaser can create a lawsuit, legal fees and penalties that just were not in the budget. We know of instances where associations ending up paying to settle lawsuits because a board members told a prospective renter who was pregnant that she would not be approved because the building did not allow children (this was not a 55 and older community) and in another case an association president told a blind buyer prospect that purchase would not be approved because the association did not allow dogs and hence his seeing eye dog would prevent his purchase from being approved. Both of these well-meaning but uninformed association representatives put the association at risk of being sued, penalized by the government or both. In one case the association got lucky, the blind man simply explained that his dog was not a pet and asked the association representative to check with their attorney before making a final decision as he did not want to sue is future neighbors. But in the first case the association ended up with a large legal bill, a damage payment and a fine.

06/12/14

Regularly scheduled board meetings make life easier for everyone. One of our most difficult tasks is trying to get board members to agree on a date and time for a board meeting when we need the board to vote on items. Conflicting work and travel schedules make coordination a pain and sometimes leave board members left out when a majority agree on a date and time when they are not available. A regularly scheduled monthly meeting lets everyone; board members, managers and owners, know when the next meeting will be held so that they can plan ahead. For example, the association could have regularly scheduled board meetings the second Monday of every month at 6:00 PM. This would let everyone know to keep the second Monday of every month at 6:00 PM available. If for some reason there is no business to discuss, a meeting could easily be canceled, however the board should also create a rule that two board meetings in a row cannot be cancelled as this assures owners a regular forum to present complaints and requests.

06/11/14

Does your association have rules that are unenforced because they are old and no longer make sense? It’s important that all rules be enforced equally, so that when a violation does occur of a rule that is still necessary; non-enforcement of old used rules does not give rise to a claim of selective enforcement. If your rules are out of date then update them and remember the board can only propagate rules when the association gives them the authority to do so.

06/10/14

Board members should be careful what they say to prospective buyers or renters. It’s a natural instinct to be helpful and share information for most board members and while this is an admirable trait when it comes to owners, it can create problems when dealing with prospective buyers or their representatives. In today’s litigious society, all too often people are looking for someone to blame and worse yet someone to pay and you don’t want to say something that makes you or the association a target.  It’s best to make it clear up front that you are simply a board member and can’t speak for the association as that can only be done by the board at a properly called board meeting. Questions about possible future special assessments, maintenance fee increases, policy changes should not be answered as there is no way to predict the future.

06/09/14

You have heard the expression too many cooks spoil the broth, well the same thing can often be said about the directing of projects around your association. To accomplish a large project on time and on budget, it’s important for everyone to understand the chain of command. Contractors and venders should have one point of contact: the manager. The manager then reports to the board and the board makes decisions and reviews progress as a board at board meeting.  Board concerns and questions for contractors and vendors are relayed to the contractor or vendor through the manager.

06/07/14

Associations should adopt minimum standards for contractors and publish them to the owners. These standards should include insurance requirements, including (at least) workers comp, auto liability, general liability, property damage and completed work coverage. They should also require proof of licensure and that building permits be pulled where required. These standards should apply to work performed for owners in their units as well as work performed for the association.

06/06/14

It’s Friday so we thought we would play a little game of bad manager and we invite you to join in by answering the following question as a comment to this post. The worst thing our manager ever did was?

06/05/14

Board members and managers need to be careful what they say when doing a new owner orientation or interview.  Comments about future special assessments or past building maintenance could end up coming back to haunt the association. It’s important not to forget the interview or orientation is an opportunity for the association to go over the rules and responsibilities of prospective owners along with the opportunity to verify information on the application, it’s not the appropriate place to provide information which may or may not affect the prospect consummating their purchase. Board members should also make it clear that they do not speak for the board in these meetings as the board only speaks at properly noticed meetings.

06/04/14

If you are an owner in a Condominium Association or HOA we would love to hear your ideas of how we could foster greater participation of owners in the communities we manage. What would make you want to attend board meetings? How can we get more owners to return proxies and actively participate in elections?

06/03/14

Because “it’s always been done that way” is not a good reason for “doing it that way”. Over time, even well intended rules, policies and operating principals can become out of date and or stale, laws change, association demographics change and the financial position of the association changes. Each of these things should lead to revaluations of the status quo. 

06/02/14

It’s a board meeting if a quorum or simple majority of board members are present together to discuss association business and if it’s a board meeting, then it should be properly noticed and have the minutes recorded.

06/01/14

Florida HOA and condominium owners have the right to record and or videotape Board meetings and member meetings (except certain closed meeting such as with legal counsel). Section 720.306(10) ("Any parcel owner may tape record or videotape meetings of the board of directors and meetings of the members. The board of directors of the association may adopt reasonable rules governing the taping of meetings of the board and the membership.") Similar verbiage is found in the Condo Act at Section 718.112(2)(c)-(d)("Meetings of the board of administration at which a quorum of the members is present are open to all unit owners. A unit owner may tape record or videotape the meetings. The right to attend such meetings includes the right to speak at such meetings with reference to all designated agenda items. The division shall adopt reasonable rules governing the tape recording and videotaping of the meeting. The association may adopt written reasonable rules governing the frequency, duration, and manner of unit owner statements.")("A unit owner may tape record or videotape a meeting of the unit owners subject to reasonable rules adopted by the division.")

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