Top 5 HOA Tips for Celebrating Christmas Amidst COVID-19

To say Christmas is different this year is an understatement. COVID-19 has turned the entire world upside down and with it came changes that no one saw coming. Among the things that drastically changed during this time of the pandemic is how special occasions and milestones are celebrated. This Christmas season, homeowners associations may allow celebrations in their communities but with a few restrictions to minimize the risk of contracting the coronavirus and keep everyone safe.

Here are a few HOA tips on how to celebrate Christmas or other special occasions for that matter without increasing your risk or exposure to the virus:

1. Follow CDC guidelines

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been on top of the situation since the onset of the pandemic. They have been providing guidelines on practically everything that has to do with keeping everyone safe while going about their business. With that said, HOAs should remind their homeowner-members to strictly follow CDC guidelines on celebrations.

2. Celebrate with household members only

Household members are those who live in the same house with you, which could be your immediate family and other relatives. As much as possible, it is advised that celebrations should be held among household members only as each of you follow the same health and safety protocols, and you are all aware of each other’s comings and goings.

3. Keep gatherings down to a small group only

If it really can’t be helped, and you must invite a few people over, make sure to keep the guest list to a bare minimum. In other words, make the gathering small. And since you will be inviting people from other households, you all must follow the general safety protocols recommended by the WHO and CDC: wear a face mask (and a face shield, if possible), always wash your hands with soap and water (make sure to scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds), and sneeze in the fold between your arm and elbow. Remove your mask to eat and drink, and wear it afterwards.

4. Celebrate outdoors

One of the latest findings about the novel coronavirus is that it can infect other people through airborne transmission. And airborne transmission poses a higher risk in enclosed spaces, so for small gatherings, it is strongly advised that you hold it outdoors for better air circulation, if possible. Make sure to double-check with your HOA about outdoor gatherings at this time.

5. Practice physical distancing

If you’re inviting guests, make sure to practice physical distancing (at least six feet apart from one another at all times), so arrange seats in a way that will make it easier for everyone to keep their distance.

Also, do not hesitate to un-invite those who are feeling sick on the day of your small party.

Top 4 HOA Reminders About Decorating for the Holidays

The holiday season in 2020 may not be as fun and festive as the previous years, but this shouldn’t stop you and other homeowners in your community from celebrating the most wonderful time of the year. Putting up a few holiday decorations might just get you and your neighbors in a more festive mood. Before you do any decorating, however, it is best to check with your homeowners association about regulations on holiday decorations in your community.

Common rules for holiday decorating in HOA-regulated communities

HOAs ensure the communities they serve keep a certain standard to protect property values, maintain the exclusivity of the neighborhood, and basically ensure the community remains a thriving, nurturing, and safe environment for its homeowner-members. That said, they do have a say in what homeowners can and cannot put up in front of their homes, on their roofs, and other exterior areas when it comes to holiday decorations.

1. Nothing loud and gaudy

Keep in mind that any decoration that will ruin the aesthetic appeal of the entire community is prohibited. This might mean no loud and gaudy decorations. Everything has to be tasteful. So it’s best to check with your HOA about the decorations you wish to put up before actually installing them to save you time and effort in case you will be asked to take them down.

2. Follow schedules

HOAs regulate when homeowners can finally put up their holiday decorations and when they need to take them down. Usually, homeowners can start decorating their exteriors at least one month before Christmas and remove them no later than two weeks after the holiday.

Homeowners also need to be mindful about the specific times of the day when they can turn on their Christmas lights and when they need to turn these off.

3. Be mindful of fire hazards

If you’re putting up a real tree, make sure to keep it away from the fireplace, radiator, and other fire hazards. Also make sure that the tree doesn’t dry too much that it turns into a fire hazard, so regularly check the tree stand and make sure that it has enough water at all times.

4. Keep decorations within your property

Last but not the least, when installing your decorations, make sure none of these cross-over to your neighbor’s. Keep those holiday decorations in your own home; meaning, refrain from decorating common areas (at least without the consent of the HOA).

Top 4 Items on an HOA’s Maintenance To-Do List

Homeowners associations are generally established to maintain the community; ensuring that all homeowner-members follow the CC&Rs and other regulations and by-laws to maintain community standards and protect property value. And as the gatekeeper of the community, homeowners associations must ensure that all common areas and public spaces and facilities are properly maintained at all times, not only for functionality or aesthetic purposes, but also for the homeowners’ safety.

To maintain these areas, an HOA’s maintenance checklist usually has these four items on top of the list:

1. Exteriors and interiors of structures

It’s important to check the integrity of the structures within the community, especially if these receive high-volume foot traffic on a regular basis. First, the walls and foundation of the buildings will need to be thoroughly assessed, and usually, a professional is hired for the job as they have the eye and expertise to detect even the slightest and smallest risk.

Next, the interiors will be checked. This usually includes doors and windows, vents, drywall, and ceiling. Cracks, leaks, loose tiles, and chipped floorings are some of the vulnerabilities checked.

2. Staircase and elevators

Are there loose boards on the stairs? Is the emergency button in the elevator working? These issues may seem small or inconsequential, but one slip or one incident of being locked inside the elevator without any means to alert anyone is all it takes for a lawsuit to happen. Stairwells and elevators are some of the most frequently used facilities in a condominium or multi-housing complex, which is why regular maintenance is critical for everyone’s safety.

3. Public grounds

Parks, gardens, and pathways are likewise some of the public areas in a community that are frequently used by homeowners, and as such, HOAs need to ensure that members can use these at any time without slipping, tripping, or falling. Homeowners associations usually hire a professional landscape artist and gardener to maintain the grounds, making sure that grasses and bushes are regularly trimmed. Cracks on the pavement also need to be patched to prevent tripping accidents.

4. HVAC system and utilities

HVAC systems and other utilities like gas, power, and water lines could likewise be safety hazards if these aren’t maintained properly. HVAC systems that aren’t functioning properly could be energy leaks, too, which means higher utility bills for the HOA.

There are many other maintenance measures that HOA’s generally perform on a regular basis. The ultimate goal is, as always, to ensure the safety of the community.

Top 4 Safety and Security Measures for Homeowners Associations

A lot of homeowners are in the dark with regard to their HOA’s responsibility in ensuring their safety and security in the community. In general, homeowners associations aren’t entirely responsible for their members’ safety and security; however, they are indeed responsible for keeping public spaces and common areas safe.

If you’ve recently moved and it’s your first time to live in an HOA-regulated community, it would help to know at least the general safety measures that your HOA has taken to ensure that you can sleep soundly at night without worrying about your safety in your own home.

For your reference, below are some of the general safety and security measures that homeowners associations undertake:

1. Vulnerability assessment

HOA’s take the community’s safety seriously, which is why they would have regular inspections of the entire area to evaluate the community’s vulnerability to accident and danger. Usually, HOAs hire a professional security inspector to assess every corner and curb, making sure that all areas are properly checked and evaluated. Doors, locks, windows, stairs, walking paths, and such will be thoroughly checked. During inspection, you could expect a visit from the HOA personnel and the security inspector to check the safety of your home as well.

2. Maintaining a good relationship with local law enforcement

When a burglary occurs or someone vandalized a member’s home, HOAs will need to report the incident to the local police. This, and other such safety and/or security concerns, will generally require the assistance of your local police, which is why HOA’s make it a point to build a good relationship with their local law enforcement department.

3. Neighborhood security watch

HOAs rely on the support and cooperation of their members’, too; so don’t be surprised if your HOA talks to you about alerting them or a neighbor about strangers lurking around or other unusual activity that could endanger you and your neighbors.

4. Educating members about safety precautions

As mentioned above, your HOA is not entirely responsible for your safety, which means you will have to do your part in ensuring you and your household’s safety, as well as your neighbors’. From time to time, the HOA may call for a meeting to discuss current safety measures in place as well as educate you and the community about new security measures they’re looking to implement. Expect to be invited to safety seminars as well, which you have to make sure to attend.

Ultimately, keeping the community safe is a combined effort of the HOA and its homeowner-members.

3 HOA Home Renovation Regulations Every Homeowner Should Know

Every homeowner’s association has its own set of CC&Rs and rules and regulations, and each one was designed to ensure that community standards will be strictly upheld and that homeowners can co-exist harmoniously. Additionally, HOA management guidelines are included in these rules and by-laws to help the HOA Board perform its duties.

Within these CC&Rs and rules are regulations on home maintenance that every homeowner must follow, which also covers home improvements and renovation. If you are a homeowner looking to renovate your home, it is strongly advised that you seek prior approval from your HOA to ensure that work will run smoothly, thus reducing the risk of costly delays.

You should also take note of these common HOA home renovation regulations:

1. Schedules

Depending on the scale and scope of your renovation project, the HOA might impose a strict schedule for the entire project, from the general timeframe (start and completion) to specific daily schedules (8:00 am to 3 pm on weekdays only and no weekend work, for instance). In general, this rule is imposed in consideration of your neighbors who may be disturbed by all the construction noise.

2. Materials

Apart from checking the materials you’ll be using to ensure their safety for the community and also to make sure that these are in keeping with the corresponding stipulations in the CC&Rs, materials here also refer to how these will be delivered to you, where you will be storing them, and how you will be using them. Again, this is in consideration of your neighbors and the community. In general, anything that can potentially disrupt the peace in the community will need to be pre-approved by the Board (and even by your neighbors if the Board decides to bring it up at a community meeting).

3. Clean-up

HOAs enforce daily clean-up to prevent accidents and also to maintain curb appeal. During clean-up, the homeowner and construction workers should be careful not to damage adjoining or nearby properties. In other words, make sure not to accidentally leave debris, remnants, or dirt on the neighbor’s yard.

The point of getting prior approval from your HOA is to ensure that your renovations are within the HOA’s rules and regulations, especially if the project involves installing a new plumbing system for a new bathroom or an electrical system for a new wing. Approval is also needed if you will be doing major work on the exterior of your property (which will be visible thus could affect the overall appeal of the community).

Not all home renovations need to be pre-approved, however. Homeowners associations generally allow such interior renovations as replacing the kitchen countertop and sink, adding a fresh coat of paint on the walls, installing new wallpaper, or updating interior trims.

Top 5 Tips for HOAs on How to Enhance Curb Appeal

Properties in a developed community, whether a multi-family building or a gated community with single-family units are usually governed by a homeowners association; that is, these properties must be managed and maintained by their respective homeowners based on the guidelines and regulations mandated by the HOA’s CC&Rs and by-laws.

But just as each homeowner is expected to maintain both the interior and exterior of their property, the HOA also has a responsibility to maintain the exteriors of the community. Doing so not only ensures that community standards are upheld but also to make the community more appealing to potential home buyers and renters.

On that note, here are a few tips for HOAs on how to enhance curb appeal:

1. Re-paint exterior walls of community buildings and structures

From the community center to the administrative office building, playground, and clubhouse, these are public structures in a community that are generally the responsibility of the homeowners association. This means that other than their interior upkeep, their exterior maintenance is likewise the responsibility of the HOA. And the first thing that potential home buyers or renters and even guests notice is the exterior appeal of these structures. Make sure to add a fresh coat of paint once you start to notice the old paint peeling off.

2. Maintain plants and gardens

One of the things that make a community truly attractive to a potential homeowner as well as visitors is landscaping; not so much as the landscape architecture itself but more of how well it is maintained. Make sure that the grass is regularly cut; plants and flowers are healthy, and trees and bushes are groomed as well. HOAs are reminded not to overlook the importance of well-kept landscaping.

3. Have all necessary safety measures in place

While these aren’t exactly related to aesthetics, safety measures are nonetheless an important consideration for potential homeowners especially if they have young children in their care. Make sure that public spaces for kids, like the park and swimming pool, are installed with the appropriate equipment and that safety measures are in place.

4. Make sure all surfaces are clean

Walls, floors, walkways, porches, and other exterior surfaces are clean. Regular power-washing is recommended to remove stubborn grime and dirt.

5. Work with the community

Get everyone involved. Ask for volunteers who will keep an eye on the community’s public structures. They can alert the HOA for repairs and maintenance that need to be done. This helps ease the burden of the HOA Board.

Top 3 Things Renters Need to Know About HOAs Before Signing the Lease

If you’re considering a rental property that belongs to an HOA-regulated community, you should take the time to go over the HOA’s Covenant, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) before signing the lease because there might be a couple of stipulations or regulations that you won’t feel comfortable living with. You should also read the fine print on the lease contract regarding HOA dues because you could be paying annual membership that your landlord already covers. In any case, it pays to go over the lease contract and HOA regulations as this ensure a smooth moving-in process and an even smoother residency in your new community.

Now if you’re renting an HOA-regulated property for the first time, here are some of the things you need to know about HOAs:

1. Members pay annual dues on top of other fees

Membership dues could cost you anywhere between $300 to a staggering $3,000 per month, depending on the location, type of community, property, and public amenities provided by the HOA. The schedule of payment will depend on the HOA. On top of this, the HOA may also charge you for additional fees from time to time. These could be to cover repairs and maintenance, replacement of old equipment, and other incidentals. Usually, there is an emergency fund for these things but if the cost exceeds the fund, members will have to share the load. Members may also pay an additional fee to build up the reserve fund once it gets depleted.

2. Your landlord will enforce HOA CC&Rs, and rules and regulations

Since you will be moving into a rental, you will have a landlord who will oversee everything, which includes ensuring that tenants abide by the HOA’s CC&Rs and by-laws, as well as applicable rules and regulations. Expect to hear from your landlord about these things from time to time if they have been contacted by the HOA for a violation or complaint, or other reasons.

3. HOA CC&Rs are different from the HOA’s rules and regulations

In general, CC&Rs outline what every household member should do regarding the maintenance of their properties. These could include painting exterior walls with specific colors only, mandatory landscaping of the front lawn, street parking, payment of dues and fees, and whether or not you are allowed to have pets other than cats and dogs.

Rules and regulations, on the other hand, have more to do with day-to-day living in the community. These usually include when to take out the trash for garbage collection, where you can place trash bins outdoors, and such.

In general, these are rules and regulations that haven’t been covered in the CC&Rs or by-laws. And these are more flexible compared to the two as these could be easily amended to keep up with changing times.

3 Essential Skills Every Successful Property Manager Possesses

Property managers are often employed by owners of rental properties to handle related tasks for them. In other instances, property managers are hired for their services by owners of second homes or vacation homes who can’t be physically present to oversee the maintenance of their property. Whatever the purpose, property managers play a vital role in the upkeep of the property in the absence of the owner.

With that said, it’s important to be selective about your choice of property manager because the wrong one could cause you to lose your investment. While technical skills are critical to their role, soft skills are just as important. For your reference, these are the essential skills that make a successful property manager:

1. Strong communication skills

This is the most essential skill that every property manager must possess because the lack of it could cause a slew of problems for you, especially if their job is to oversee a rental property. With strong communication skills, the property manager knows how to start a dialogue with a tenant, listen when needed, and speak up when necessary. Communication skills will also help in vetting tenants, discussing repairs and maintenance checks with contractors, and talking to every other important personnel related to the upkeep of a property. Likewise, strong communications will help you and/or your tenants with things related to the HOA, if your property belongs to an HOA-regulated community.

You can find out whether or not the property manager has strong communication skills when you interview them for the job.

2. People skills

People skills is a general term used to cover everything about people relations and is closely related to the above. In a nutshell, a good property manager can forge and nurture relationships and partnerships not only with their client/s, which are the property owners, but also with everyone who is and will be involved in all things related to your property, from tenants to contractors, the HOA board, and the like.

Suffice it to say that a property manager who lacks people skills shouldn’t be in any type of job that involves constant interactions with others, especially professionals offering services for the maintenance of your property.

3. Leadership skills

A property manager who possesses strong leadership skills knows when to lead and when to let others take the spotlight. Leadership isn’t focused on managing a team alone; more importantly, it is focused on building and teaching others so they too can become leaders someday. This skill is important in a property manager because it allows them to be open to suggestions from others while also being able to take the reins when necessary. A good leader teaches the team as much as they learn from them.

HOA Financials: Fees and Dues Every Homeowner Should Know About

Homeowners associations are established to ensure the safety of their member-homeowners, protect property value, and maintain the community they serve. To put it another way, homeowners associations are there to protect the interests of both the homeowners and property owners (if these are separate entities).

An HOA is run and managed by volunteer homeowners that make up the Board of Directors. They ensure that the HOA is fully functional and fulfills its duties and responsibilities. And part of their responsibilities is to ascertain that funds are available for both maintenance purposes and emergencies. Where do the funds come from? They come from the community itself; homeowners, in other words.

What every homeowner should know about HOAs is that they too have a responsibility to the association just as the association has a responsibility towards them. Payment of fees and dues is arguably one of the most important responsibilities of a homeowner. Here are some of the fees and dues that homeowners should expect to pay to their HOA:

1. HOA membership fee

Depending on your city or state and the size of your household and property, your HOA membership fee could range anywhere from $300 to $500 per month (some HOAs have a much higher membership fee). A part of the fees collected will go into maintenance funds/daily operational expenses and another portion of it will go into the reserve fund, which can be used for emergency repairs and other unforeseen expenses.

2. Assessment dues

In a nutshell, assessment dues are fees collected from homeowners to pay for expenses that aren’t covered by the membership fee, homeowner insurance, or reserve fund, whichever is applicable. These additional HOA expenses typically include emergency repairs, natural disaster response, and emergency assistance to homeowners the costs for which have exceeded the amount of money kept in the reserve fund.

Understand that for such assessment dues, it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re using the facility that needs repairs or whether or not you were directly affected by the natural disaster/emergency. You, as a member of the association, have a responsibility to the HOA, and this includes payment of assessment fees.

Homeowners may be required to pay assessment dues for a certain number of months until such time when the reserve fund is in the positive again. This arrangement, however, depends on the HOA.

While both financials may seem very basic, there are specific inclusions and considerations for each one and this is actually where the hard work lies. For the HOA membership fee, for instance, the HOA must be able to determine an accurate monthly budget for daily operations as well as allocate a feasible amount for the reserve fund and have a little wiggle room to cover bad debt and deferred equipment repairs or replacement.

Usually, HOAs hire the services of a professional property management company to assist them with their financial duties and other HOA obligations.

Understanding HOAs: A Short Guide for Homeowners

If you’re buying or renting a new home in an apartment complex, gated compound or community, multi-family building, or condominium, there’s a good chance that the property belongs to a homeowners association. Most communities in the country have their homeowners association, which means you’ll hardly find a house or residential property that isn’t a part of a homeowners association or similar organization.

Before you sign the contract, take the time to learn about the HOA that covers the property you’re looking to move into for your peace of mind. And if you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of homeowners associations, here’s a short guide to help you better understand what an HOA is all about. Below are the basic things everyone should know about an HOA:

1. HOAs are the gatekeepers of the community

The above statement may seem a little vague but that’s actually what they do; HOAs are the designated gatekeepers of the community. They ensure that the community maintains certain standards to preserve the value of the properties it covers. HOAs also ensure that homeowners are safe and secure in their own homes. And finally, HOAs assist homeowners for their needs, from home repairs to emergency assistance, especially during natural disasters and other unforeseen events.

2. HOAs have a special set of CC&Rs

Every HOA in the country has its own set of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). Within these CC&Rs are ruled that homeowners must follow. These rules cover everything that has to do with the property, homeowners, and the community; from the color of the exterior walls to landscaping, street parking, bikes and other toys in the front yard, garage gate, to the number of people in the household and everything in between.

3. HOAs collect fees

HOAs collect membership fees either monthly, quarterly or annually depending on what’s stipulated in the CC&Rs. Bear in mind that the bigger your property and household, the higher the fees to be collected from you. In other words, HOA dues/fees aren’t standard for every homeowner in your community.

4. HOAs can evict homeowners

In cases where the homeowner was found to violate one or several rules covered in the CC&Rs, the HOA has the power to evict them. But rest assured that eviction is the last course of action. In general, the homeowner will be approached by the HOA first to talk about the supposed violation. A written warning is also usually given, and finally, a hearing with the HOA Board of Directors could ensue to put the issue to rest and resolve it once and for all.

Review the HOA’s CC&Rs before signing the lease/deed of sale. Buyers whose offer to buy has been accepted have the legal right to these HOA documents.