Disaster Management Planning: 7 Tips for Your HOA

When catastrophe strikes, emergency protocols can ensure the safety of your HOA community. Given the many variables to consider when creating disaster relief policies, however, determining the most effective ways to protect your residents can be tricky.

With that in mind, here are 7 HOA disaster management planning tips:

1. Evaluate possible area-specific disasters

Determine if your community is in an area susceptible to natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, then develop implementable emergency protocols around them. It’s also a good idea to design measures for potential risks such as terrorism and disease outbreaks.

2. Consider your community’s demographics

Design evacuation protocols that provide everyone in your community realistic ways to reach safety. This includes those with mobility issues like the elderly, and people with disabilities. Families with small children should also be taken into account when developing such procedures.

It’s also important to consider your community members’ cultural backgrounds. A diverse HOA community is one where many languages are spoken, and where English may not be understood. Therefore, emergency guidelines should be available in other languages in addition to English.

3. Make your emergency policies accessible

All disaster relief procedures should be easy to understand so all community members will have no issues carrying them out when necessary. All guidelines should also be published on your HOA’s website to allow residents to ask questions about rules they’re unclear about.

4. Conform to wildfire protocols

Certain areas in the US have rigid wildfire protocols, which your HOA must adhere to, to minimize occurrence and damage of such a calamity. You must also be proactive in wildfire prevention, which means following such rules as regularly trimming landscape, avoiding the use of specific construction materials, and more.

5. Coordinate with the Emergency Management Office

An area’s Emergency Management Office can provide assistance to calamity-affected communities, so make sure to collaborate with such an agency when planning disaster management.

6. Integrate an emergency alert system into your plan

An electronic emergency alert system sends emails and text messages to residents to notify them about specific developments associated with potential catastrophes. This allows them to make the necessary preparations for such situations. Make sure records of your community members’ contact information are regularly updated.

7. Provide disaster relief training

Host meetings designed to educate community members about your emergency protocols, especially before the onset of potentially hazardous seasons. This will ensure people are reminded of the actions they should take to keep themselves safe in the event of a disaster.

Another way to educate residents about your disaster plan is to include information about it in your HOA newsletter. An article about a potential disaster and what can be done to keep safe in such an event, for example, can be extremely helpful.

How to Help Aging HOA Residents: Here are seven ways…

If you’ve been a part of your HOA community for many years now, chances are you have neighbors who’ve reached their senior years already. They may have been young when they moved in but now they have become vulnerable” members of your community; and you, as a member of the same HOA community, have a responsibility to look after them. How do you help aging HOA residents? Here are seven ways…

1. Always check on them

First off, it is recommended that you get everyone on board with your “senior citizen watch” project. Take turns keeping an eye on them and call for assistance when needed. Take this time, too, to spend a little time with them.

2. Perform regular inspections around the community

When was the last time common areas in the community were inspected and evaluated for “senior safety?” Check ramps and walkways, stairs and rails, gates, and other public areas that everyone has access to. Make sure there are designated points of entry and exit and other areas for senior residents alone for their safety.

3. Get contact details of the aging residents’ respective families

Should anything happen to your aging neighbor; should there be an emergency, who is the resident’s next of kin to contact? You have to know who to call because your neighbor’s life could very well depend on that crucial phone call.

4. Provide point persons

In the same vein, who will the senior residents call should they need help with something? It could be a home emergency in the middle of the night like a power outage or a slip and fall accident. It would be ideal if there is only one point person for all concerns, so the senior resident won’t have a difficult time figuring out who exactly to call from the list of contact persons you provided.

5. Stay up-to-date with state laws and regulations

You have to stay updated with laws and regulations regarding special privileges for senior citizens as well as local and state laws regarding disabilities in aging residents. To know these laws and regulations is to protect the vulnerable members of your community.

6. Assist aging residents with HOA rules and restrictions

Homeowners associations have their own set of rules and regulations, which are strictly implemented for the betterment of the community. And within these rules and regulations are specific guidelines for practically everything that concerns the community, including such restrictions as using specific colors on exterior walls, and landscaping. Aging HOA residents may not have the physical capacity anymore to comply with these guidelines, and this is where you come in. You can make sure that these are still followed by offering your help.

7. Hold special events

Often, < a= rel”nofollow”href=”https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-of-older-adults”>senior citizens feel lonely and isolated because of their impaired mobility and cognitive function. Community events held especially for them will help ease their loneliness, make them feel they still matter, and that they are an important part of the community.

The Roles of 4 HOA Board Member Officers Explained

As a homeowner it will not be unusual for you to wonder what is expected of board members from your homeowners’ association (HOA). You might even consider volunteering for your HOA or aspire to become a board member yourself. Either way, it makes sense to be aware of each board member’s role.

There are usually four officials who make up the board of directors. These are volunteers elected by members of the community and thus don’t receive compensation. They include the President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. The purpose of the HOA board is essential to manage the association via their respective duties, as outlined below.

President

The HOA President’s primary responsibility is to manage protocols in making decisions affecting the association. The position requires qualified individuals possessing a good grasp of association bylaws, regulations, and inner workings. The President leads the conduct of association or community-wide meetings and can delegate committees to manage certain tasks. Finally, it is the President’s duty to achieve a fully functional HOA.

Vice President

The Vice President assumes the functions of the presidency in the event the President is unable, for some reason, to perform duties the position calls for. The vice-president should, therefore, be likewise familiar with the association’s bylaws and regulations. When not standing-in for the President, they may be delegated key association functions as well.

Secretary

The Secretary has the responsibility of handling all association documentation, safe-keeping of records as well as prompt submission of legal documentary requirements. Other tasks involve normal secretarial duties like issuing meeting advisories, recording minutes of meetings, and dissemination of important documents to other board members.

Treasurer

The Treasurer is responsible for managing association funds, maintaining complete records of the fund and all transactions authorized by the association. The Treasurer also prepares the annual budget and ensures sufficient reserves for sanctioned investments or unexpected expenditures. The Treasurer has to duly inform other board members of the HOA’s financial standing and report any discrepancies thereon. The Treasurer also must observe regulatory compliance concerning HOA’s financial operations.

Members of the community are as important as elected officials and thus it’s significant that they get involved in association elections and meetings. With a board working in unison, combined with the participation of the community, you can expect to have a place that would be pleasant to live in.

Do you have any other questions about the HOA Board Member roles? If so, kindly contact us through our corporate website or give us a call at (888) 828-9444. We’d be happy to answer all your questions!

3 Common Questions About an HOA Board of Directors

Every homeowners’ association (HOA) has a Board of Directors that’s tasked with managing, improving, and protecting its community. If you’re part of such a community, knowing more about your HOA Board of Directors can help you stay updated on all matters concerning your residential area.

To give you a better understanding of the HOA Board of Directors, here are the 3 most commonly asked questions about it.

1. What are the different roles of the Board of Directors’ members?

An HOA Board of Directors usually has four to five different offices, which can take the form of the following:

  • The President is the Board’s executive officer. They preside over decision-making proceedings and are responsible for ensuring the proper execution of solutions to all issues affecting the community. They also co-sign checks and sign contracts.
  • The Vice-President performs the President’s duties should said President be absent, in addition to other responsibilities.
  • The Secretary regularly updates information about members, notifies members about meetings, takes meeting minutes, signs contracts on the HOA’s behalf, and records votes.
  • The Treasurer signs checks, receives and deposits money, maintains financial records, prepares the yearly budget, and schedules the yearly examination of accounting books.
  • The Member at Large is the HOA board’s fifth voting member, and performs any assigned duties.

2. What are the HOA Board’s other duties?

The HOA Board may also:

  • Determine the annual HOA fees
  • Employ an independent contractor or manager
  • Protect homeowners by adopting and modifying rules and regulations concerning HOA members’ personal conduct and the use of shared spaces

3. Why should an HOA’s Board of Directors be homeowners in said HOA?

It’s in everyone’s best interests that an HOA’s Board of Directors is composed of people who live in a community governed by that HOA. Homeowners have a firsthand experience of the many issues affecting their community, like HOA fees, the proper maintenance of shared spaces, and more. As such, homeowners have a vested interest in finding the best solutions to problems impacting their community.

Because of their knowledge, experience, and personal stake in the betterment of their community, homeowners make ideal candidates for an HOA’s Board membership. It’s, for this reason, it’s extremely rare for an HOA’s Board of Directors to have members who aren’t part of the HOA.

Do you have any other questions about the HOA Board of Directors or HOAs in general? If so, please feel free to contact us through our corporate website, or give us a call at (888) 828-9444. We’d be glad to hear from you!

3 Key Benefits of Hiring an HOA Property Management Company

Homeowners associations or HOAs are generally established for two primary reasons: to take care of the community that it serves and to ensure that community standards are followed to maintain property value. These two general reasons may look simple enough on the outset but looking deeper, each of these entail a series of tasks and processes, often tedious and complicated. How can an HOA management company help?

Whether the HOA is a newly established one or it’s been around for awhile but basically run by the Board of Directors and board members, hiring the services of an HOA management company will take on most of the burden. Here are a few key benefits to having an HOA management company help with operations:

1. Fulfill HOA duties and functions on a budget

One of the key takeaways to having an HOA manager take care of the association is that they can fix your finances. This means, once they come onboard, they can immediately check your books to first see if these are balanced; and secondly, to see which areas of operations you’re bleeding money and which ones need immediate attention (and funding). They can help you come up with a workable budget for HOA operations.

2. Serve as an all-around go-to person

If a homeowner has a complaint or concern, or needs something fixed, they can go to the HOA manager to discuss their issue. A key benefit to having an HOA manager onboard is that they have the time to be present for the community. Unlike with the HOA Board’s directors and members who have day-to-day duties and responsibilities who aren’t always available, an HOA manager can be there with one phone call.

The same goes for emergency situations, whether repairs, medical emergencies or natural disasters, a representative from your HOA management company will be there to assist or take charge in some instances.

3. Enforce rules and regulations

One of the biggest challenges for HOAs is getting every homeowner within their jurisdiction to follow the rules. There will always be one or two who will try to bend the rules, and often, they can be a cause for disputes and disagreements between neighbors. As a third-party overseer, the HOA manager can enforce rules and regulations without worrying about stepping on someone’s toes (or ego) or hurting the feelings of a neighbor. They are the neutral player that every HOA needs to ensure that regulations are strictly followed.

In a word, an HOA manager can make your HOA more effective.

5 Ways an HOA Can Effectively Save Money

Homeowners associations or HOAs collect fees from its members to have funds for its operations. But regardless of the size of the HOA and the total amount of fees collected each month, there will be occasions when the association will fall short on funds, especially funds for unforeseen and unplanned expenses. So how can your HOA save money? So Cal Enterprises shares some tips:

Conserve energy

The bulk of expenses for HOAs goes to utility bills, which are primarily electricity and water bills. Here are ways to conserve energy:

1. Turn off and unplug equipment

Even if you’re not using a piece of equipment, it is still using up power by simply being plugged in. Make a checklist of all the equipment in common areas and evaluate their usage. You can create a schedule for usage of specific equipment, too, so they all don’t need to be simultaneously plugged in.

2. Discuss energy conservation programs and options with your provider

If you haven’t yet asked your energy provider about their conservation programs and options, now’s the time to do. The government usually gives incentives or credits to energy providers that help conserve energy, which means there’s a good chance that your provider has one or several. If they don’t, find out if you can switch providers. If you can, shop around for one in your area that has such credits or incentives.

Conserve water

Another huge expense for HOAs is its water bill. Here, you have several ways to conserve water:

3. Schedule your sprinkler system

There is a common misconception about sprinklers: that if you set them to automatically turn on and water the lawn for short periods at small intervals several times per week, you’ll be saving more. Truth is, the more often you turn on the sprinkler system, the more water it uses up even if you did set it to work only for short periods at a time. The more cost-efficient system would be to turn it on fewer times fewer week but working for longer intervals.

4. Utilize a rain gauge

If you haven’t installed a rain gauge, it’s high time that you do. Rain gauges save water that you can be used for the HOA’s irrigation system. Utilizing these water conservation gadgets can significantly cut your water usage.

Re-evaluate service contracts

5. Update your contract with vendors

If your HOA has been around for a good number of years, you may have forged a good working relationship with select vendors. Check your current contract with each one and discuss new terms you can both agree on that can help you save on professional fees and supply costs.

These money saving tips can help you get started on your campaign to lower your HOA expenses for a more efficient HOA management and operations.

HOA Management and Condo Management

For multi-family housing, which is usually an apartment building or a condominium, may be regulated by a homeowner’s association (HOA) and managed by a property manager or a building administrator. The HOA itself may be managed by an HOA management company. The setup varies; and it is usually upon the discretion of the unit owners, real estate developer, and the HOA.

Assuming the condo community is managed by an HOA, which in turn is managed by an HOA management company, the most common question that unit owners and tenants ask is if an HOA management company is necessary, thinking that hiring such services means higher association dues. The answer is “yes,” and here’s why: the association’s finances are better managed.

HOA finances

Budgeting

One of the biggest challenges that HOAs deal with on a regular basis has to do with finances; specifically, budgeting and reserves. How do they ensure that there is always enough for emergencies, from unforeseen equipment breakdowns to natural disasters, for instance? How can they make sure, too, that they have enough money for daily operations? From landscape to building maintenance, and other services needed to ensure the safety, comfort, and security of the community

States generally have specific regulations regarding HOA or association budgets. For instance, the HOA may be required by local regulations to update their budgets annually, taking into account financial challenges experienced the previous year.

Fundraising

For emergencies, HOAs should have a reserve fund. Unforeseen circumstances that may require funding include emergency equipment repairs or replacement, unscheduled facility and utility upgrades, and disasters and accidents (such as flooding, and fires).

Usually, association dues only cover operational costs and money that goes into the reserve fund is usually “charged” as an additional expense or fee. This additional burden isn’t usually welcomed “with open arms,” as one could imagine. The better alternative is to hold a fundraiser.

The challenge here isn’t the type of fundraising to hold but rather, the amount of money that the reserve must have at all times. Financial forecasting is needed here.

Professional assistance may be called for

Understand that homeowners/condo associations are run by volunteer residents, which means they have a life outside of the association. They have day jobs, families, and other responsibilities to take care of. What this translates to is basically overlooking and neglecting association duties without meaning to. And the HOA aspect that usually takes the brunt is finances.

An HOA management company usually has an accounting/financial expert that oversees the HOA’s finances. In general, HOA management companies ensure that the association is fully functional, serving the interest of both the community and its members.

A Primer on Homeowners Association Rules and Regulations

Homeowners associations or HOAs are there to serve the homeowners and the community. Unfortunately, they have gotten a bad reputation because of misconceptions and misinformation. And the most common (and reputation damaging) misconceptions about HOAs is that they are too restrictive; too strict to the point of being “dictatorial.”

But if one were to shift their perspective and truly see HOAs from the point of view of an entity tasked to take care of the community and its homeowners, you’d probably gain a better understanding of why rules and regulations are imposed in the first place.

Here are a few things to know about :

The Board of Directors has a say in the rules and regulations

HOA rules and regulations are generally first drafted, decided on, finalized, and implemented by the property developer. When the HOA is turned over to the homeowners, there will be an election for the Board of Directors and members of the Board will then be the ones to implement these rules. They may also vote to add, amend, or remove certain stipulations. Board members are homeowners within the same community as well, which means they understand the sentiments and needs of homeowners.

The HOA preserves the community

Within a community, specific standards are expected to preserve the community’s good reputation. There are guidelines for public behavior, parties, street parking, use of common areas and facilities, structural design, and such. All these are meant to maintain a certain standard of living meant to preserve the community’s reputation and way of life.

HOAs may affect property value

In relation to the above, how well or how poorly the HOA preserves the community may directly affect property value in the area it covers. If your HOA’s rules and regulations are well-implemented, maintaining community standards will be easy and this benefits your property as well. While it is not a “sure-fire” way to protect or enhance property values, they certainly won’t negatively impact others’ first impression of the homes within your community if they are followed. And this could be good if you plan to sell your home in the future.

Adversely, if the HOA doesn’t do its job, the community’s overall value may decrease, which could directly impact your home’s value.

Do you have more questions regarding homeowners associations? Please feel free to send your questions online or call So Cal Property Enterprises, Inc. at (888) 828-9444; we’d be glad to hear from you.

Hiring a property management company? Be wary of these three red flags…

Property owners can earn a good income from their property provided they have the right property manager looking out for their best interest. One of the biggest and most common mistakes that property owners make is hiring a property management company in haste. In their desire to earn from their investment as soon as possible, they fail to realize that entrusting their investment to the wrong property management company can turn their asset into a liability in a matter of months.

Protect your investment; choose your property management company wisely. Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

1. The company has a real estate “side business”

The company’s primary business may be property management but they have a side business: selling real estate. Why is this a red flag? First off, property owners think that a property management company that also sells real estate is the perfect entity to oversee their property because they have a deeper understanding of the business, both from the perspective of the owner and the seller. Unfortunately, it’s not as black and white as it appears.

Usually, property management companies like this offer to manage your property so they can have first dibs on it if you decide to put it on the market. So really, their interest is more on getting their hands on your property solely to earn from it, both as the property manager and broker. It’s a win-win for them, not so much for you.

2. They don’t have a *good* network of vendors and suppliers

When your property gets damaged by the renters or it needs emergency repairs, who do they turn to? If they only know one or two vendors, suppliers, and contractors to do maintenance jobs, you could be looking at long delays caused by emergency repairs. Also, you have to wonder why they don’t have a good network of contractors ready and willing to take on jobs at a drop of a hat. Could it be a lack in business ethics? Or perhaps they also try to get a commission for every commissioned job? There could be a number of reasons but one thing’s for sure: your property could end up more damaged than managed if you hire this type of property management company.

3. Frequency of tenant eviction

This red flag isn’t something that property owners even consider asking about, but not doing so could mean having long periods of vacancy on your property, which means potential income lost. In a word, a property management company that seems to be in the habit of evicting tenants mean only one thing: they do not screen applicants thoroughly.

Take your time choosing your property management company. A little bit of effort could save you future stresses and headaches.

5 Things You Should Know About Homeowners Associations

Before you purchase or move into a new home, you should check first if your house is part of a community that belongs to a homeowners association (HOA) because this will spare you from surprise dues or fees that you’ll be asked to pay monthly (or at regular intervals), and you’ll also know things that you’re allowed to do and what you shouldn’t do if you want to avoid trouble.

To help you get started, here are five things you should know about homeowners associations, with a particular focus on the one thing that could affect your lifestyle: fees.

1. Fees vary from HOA to HOA

HOA fees or dues largely depend on two things: location and services. As with real estate, the location of the HOA greatly affects how much each HOA member will be charged for their regular dues. Suffice it to say that the more expensive the location, the higher the fee.

Additionally, the amenities and services that the HOA provides dictate the amount of HOA dues. Fees could be anywhere “between $100 and $700 per month.”

2. Special assessment fees may be required from time to time

Depending on the HOA’s financial structure, homeowners may be charged an additional assessment fee from time to time. Essentially, these charges may be due to major repairs that need to be done on the community’s common areas or facilities and the HOA doesn’t have enough funds to cover the expenses. Check your HOA’s financials for such emergency expenses to see if these are already covered in the monthly dues.

3. Mortgage lenders consider HOA fees

Believe it or not, mortgage lenders (banks, generally) will look into the HOA and your fees before approving your mortgage application. Mortgage lenders consider how the HOA dues could affect your finances overall, seeing these as critical factors that could affect your ability to pay your mortgage dues. In general, the higher the HOA dues, the lower your mortgage loan (so you’ll have a lower monthly mortgage due).

4. Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions

One of the most crucial factors about HOAs that homeowners neglect to check before moving in is the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) document. The CC&Rs basically dictate what you can and can’t do on your property, and the community. Some HOAs have exaggerated restrictions like dictating the accepted paint on your home’s exterior walls. Be sure to check every condition and restriction to avoid being penalized or worse, kicked out of the community.

5. Conflict resolution

In relation to the above, check to see how the HOA resolves disputes or conflicts between neighbors, as well as the fines or penalties given for violations of the rules. As mentioned above, homeowners may be charged a fine or, in extreme scenarios, kicked out. Some HOAs even attach a lien on, or foreclose, the property.

Feel free to send your questions online or call (888) 828-9444 for questions or inquiries.