Category Archives: Detention Pond

How to Overcome a Lazy Board of Directors in Your HOA


A stagnant board of directors slows down the business initiatives of an Association and may cause the Community to lag behind comparable neighborhoods. Overcoming stagnation at an HOA requires establishing more open lines of communication with board members and seeking to identify key problems. Solving those same problems may also require the removal of board members in favor of more progressive executive minds.

Present Accurate Information

An obstinate board of directors may be unreceptive to vague concepts and generalized initiatives in the absence of hard facts and current comparisons. Arming yourself with thorough research into your proposal and/or requests compels board members to connect with your idea in a way that’s relevant to the geographic area. For example, presenting a proposal for tennis court lighting could use marketing research to indicate a residents (and guests-ALTA) need for features your new lighting will serve.

Listen to the Board

Candid conversation between you as a homeowner or investor and a Homeowners’ Association board of directors may reveal issues within the board that are causing the stagnation among its members. Opening up these issues and finding workable solutions to problems can make board members more receptive to new ideas because you’re seeking to address existing concerns even while moving the Community ahead. This builds a climate of trust between you and board members and lays the groundwork for more open communication in the future.

Gain Voting Rights

When reason and a well-crafted proposal fail, reaching a stagnant board of directors may involve accumulating enough power to remove certain members in favor of new voices. Homeowners have the right to elect and remove board members because they have equal ownership of the common areas. If you have the neighborhood backing, accumulating enough interest to call a vote for the removal of board members is a matter of lobbying. The Governing Documents (Covenants and By-Laws) or articles of incorporation contain the rules detailing the exact amount of votes required to gain this power. Ousting key dissenting board members may be sufficient to convince the remaining board members to listen more closely to new initiatives.

Riverside Property Management, Inc. is a leading provider of Homeowner Association management services in the North Atlanta area.  Including, but not limited to:  all accounting procedures, vendor/contract management, covenant enforcement and management consulting services.  Call today for a free quote on management of your HOA, POA or Condo Association at 678-866-1436 or go to www.riversidepropertymgt.com.

 

How to Overcome a Stagnant Board of Directors in Your Homeowners Association


A stagnant board of directors slows down the business initiatives of an Association and may cause the Community to lag behind comparable neighborhoods. Overcoming stagnation at an HOA requires establishing more open lines of communication with board members and seeking to identify key problems. Solving those same problems may also require the removal of board members in favor of more progressive executive minds.

Present Accurate Information

An obstinate board of directors may be unreceptive to vague concepts and generalized initiatives in the absence of hard facts and current comparisons. Arming yourself with thorough research into your proposal and/or requests compels board members to connect with your idea in a way that’s relevant to the geographic area. For example, presenting a proposal for tennis court lighting could use marketing research to indicate a residents (and guests-ALTA) need for features your new lighting will serve.

Listen to the Board

Candid conversation between you as a homeowner or investor and a Homeowners’ Association board of directors may reveal issues within the board that are causing the stagnation among its members. Opening up these issues and finding workable solutions to problems can make board members more receptive to new ideas because you’re seeking to address existing concerns even while moving the Community ahead. This builds a climate of trust between you and board members and lays the groundwork for more open communication in the future.

Gain Voting Rights

When reason and a well-crafted proposal fail, reaching a stagnant board of directors may involve accumulating enough power to remove certain members in favor of new voices. Homeowners have the right to elect and remove board members because they have equal ownership of the common areas. If you have the neighborhood backing, accumulating enough interest to call a vote for the removal of board members is a matter of lobbying. The Governing Documents (Covenants and By-Laws) or articles of incorporation contain the rules detailing the exact amount of votes required to gain this power. Ousting key dissenting board members may be sufficient to convince the remaining board members to listen more closely to new initiatives.

Riverside Property Management, Inc. is a leading provider of Homeowner Association management services in the North Atlanta area.  Including, but not limited to:  all accounting procedures, vendor/contract management, covenant enforcement and management consulting services.  Call today for a free quote on management of your HOA, POA or Condo Association at 678-866-1436 or go to www.riversidepropertymgt.com.

 

Get the Weeds out of the HOA Common Area.


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Some people call them weeds, other just say plants growing in the wrong place. They seem to sprout overnight and can grow flowers that emerge in a heartbeat. Recent rains have resulted in vigorous growth. If left unchecked can steal water and nutrients from neighboring plants. Where do they come? What can be done to gain control so that they do not take over your garden? Read on for tips to control these pesky troublesome creepers.

Weed seeds arrive in your yard either by wind or are carried in the birds. They could be brought to the playground equipment, grass seed, organic soil ground cover or cracks in cement.  They can also ride on shoes, clothes or even on the skin of pets.

The two basic groups of weeds are grasses and broadleaf weeds. Some seeds and shoots grow, flower, produce seed and die within a season. These are known as annual weeds.

Perennial weeds can live for several years.
The control methods you choose will depend on what type of weed in question.

If you only have a few weeds in a relatively small area, mechanical removal is often the most desirable. This can be accomplished with sharp hoes, shovels, or hand-trough. This exercise is good – even therapeutic. If herbicide applications are warranted, it is important to select one that will focus on the weeds in question and not to damage the surrounding vegetation. If you use grass murderer on crabgrass or nutsedge growing in the hybrid Bermuda grass, it won’t discriminate and will kill all the grass that the contacts. A broad spectrum herbicide can kill anything green it touches.

In gravel areas both annual and perennial weeds can be controlled by applying a post-emergent herbicide. Post-emergent which means that controls the weeds which have germinated and are growing. The most common application contains glyphosate or glufosinate as the active ingredients on the label. These herbicides work for translocation of the product through the roots to the leaves where they interfere with the growth process. Control is achieved best when applied to young plants. These two products are not selective, which means it will kill any vegetation growing in both grass and broadleaf plants.

In areas of lawn in the best control of weeds is healthy turf.  Any chemical weed control should be practiced only on well established lawns, as newly installed or seeded lawns are often injured by weed control agents. Spot treatment with glyphosate is effective especially in winter, on the dormant Bermuda grass.

Pre-emergents work very well in preventing weed germination and work best in areas of gravel. Do not use a pre-emergent if you plan to establish a Bermuda lawn from seed. The same occurs in the fall if overseeding the hybrid Bermuda grass or Bermuda – which will prevent the seeds of winter rye grass from germinating! Many pre-emergents are available at your local nursery store or home improvement  center. For example, a common pre-emergent herbicide has a chemical name: 3, 5-dintro-N4, N4-dipropylsulfanilamide. The chemical name is oryzalin. Ask the sales staff at your local hardware store or nursery for help if you are unsure which product is a pre-emergent.  Apply twice a year in April for summer weeds, and September for weed control in winter.  Ultimately, the climate and seasonality will be different in different regions of our country.

Caution: Some products are labeled to kill total vegetation. These products kill all existing vegetation, but also can remain in soil for many years and leach into surrounding areas and seriously affect or kill the plants there. If you have an area in your garden where nothing grows, a killer of vegetation  could have been applied in the past.

Be careful when using products containing 2-4-D. These are designed to be applied when temperatures are below 80 degrees or less. On warm days, this product volatilizes (becomes a gas) and can cause damage to surrounding vegetation, as it moves through the air.

Always follow label instructions exactly! We sometimes think that if a little is good, more is better. The average homeowner applies 9 times more chemicals to their property than that of a farmer on land the same size. With herbicides and insecticides, it can be deadly – to plants, pets and humans. Wear protective clothing and avoid skin contact with the product.

Trying to save money? Beware of hiring unlicensed contractors. They could be more expensive than you think.


A West Virginia man probably never thought he could be held liable for more than $1 million when he hired an electrician to replace a circuit breaker in his mother’s house.

Community Association Pool

A California community association never expected to be found responsible when a contractor’s employee was electrocuted while installing new rain gutters.

BUT THAT’S EXACTLY what happened.  In both cases the workers were unlicensed-and, the results were costly for those who hired them.

“Poor Workmanship may cause or exacerbate other problems, in some instances impairing the structural integrity of a building or improvement.  Thus, the quick and inexpensive repair may produce exactly the opposite result – increased expenses and delays.”

With escalating energy and fuel costs, increased delinquencies and bad debt resulting from current economic conditions,  Your community association board may be looking to trim expenses anywhere it can,  especially with repair and maintenance work.

Some community leaders and residents believe they can reduce costs by using day laborers or community volunteers instead of licensed contractors for such jobs.  Others might believe that licenses or permits aren’t required for smaller projects or that the permit process is a waste of time and an unnecessary expense.  Before you take another step, consider the potentially costly consequences.

BUYER BEWARE

Some of the drawbacks of using an unlicensed contractor are obvious.  Shoddy workmanship, inability to enforce warranties, lack of manufacturer warranties, damages to the property and improvements and failure of completed work to comply with applicable building codes are frequent complaints.  If the work performed by the contractor does not comply with local or state codes and ordinances, the building department or agency with jurisdiction may stop the work and, if the work is complete, require corrective work to be performed.  Corrective work may consist of hiring a licensed contractor to remove the improvement altogether or prepare and submit the documents necessary to obtain a permit.  Of course, the corrective work is an additional expense not contemplated when initially engaging the contractor.  Moreover, the local enforcement authority generally has the power to levy fines for building code violations.  The fines, which may accrue on a daily basis, may result in a lien against the property.

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Poor Workmanship may cause or exacerbate other problems, in some instances impairing the structural integrity of a building or improvement.  Thus, the quick and inexpensive repair may produce exactly the opposite result – increased expenses and delays.

Unlicensed contractors requiring large upfront payments without performing the services leave the property owners without much recourse because state recovery programs are often limited to resolving disputes with licensed contractors.  If the work is done well, is any harm done?  What about small projects that are not likely to result in building code violations or major damages, such as installing gutters, replacing a few roof tiles or hanging a ceiling fan?  Why can’t residents volunteer to help out when it comes to certain maintenance projects?  Is hiring someone who is licensed in another state such a bad idea?

UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES

Using an unlicensed contractor may have negative impacts that are immediate or delayed.  That’s a lesson learned by the man in West Virginia after he hired an electrician to do some work on his mother’s house.  Sometime later, a cable company employee was working on a cable attached to a nearby utility pole and fell, breaking his hip.  The cable company worker filed suit against the utility company, the cable company and this West Virginia man, the son of the owner of the property.  The injured cable worker claimed the wiring from the utility pole to the circuit breaker was faulty and later discovered that the electrician that the man had hired was not licensed to perform the work.

In a community association, all owners and residents are affected when problems result from code violations.  How would you feel if what you considered a routine project for your unit resulted in displacing almost half of the residents of your building?  Residents of a condominium development in Florida have paid dearly – both emotionally and financially – when a do-it-yourself home improvement project went awry.  A fire started in the condominium unit when an improperly mounted ceiling fan fell and created a short circuit.  An analysis revealed there was no fan box, as required by the city’s building code.  Also, the fan was attached to the drywall with just a toggle bolt instead of being secured to a ceiling joist or beam.  While the association’s master insurance policy covered most of the repair work, it did not reimburse the owners for replacement housing, furniture storage or the long, costly legal battle that ensued.

CHECK IT OUT

We require all vendors to pass a rigorous screening process before being approved to service any of the associations we manage.  Vendors are also required to provide Proof of, and continuously maintain workman’s compensation & liability coverage to avoid cancelation of their contracts.

Associations should require contractors to provide proof that they are licensed and insured.  Ask to see a copy of their license.  Ask for a copy of their liability and worker’s compensation insurance.  If the contractor won’t provide proof of insurance or the declaration page for insurance has a different name, steer clear.  You can also find out whether a contractor is licensed by going to the appropriate state agency.

Associations and consumers in general, should be suspicious if a contractor asks for a large down payment, requests payments be made to an individual rather than the company or asks that checks be made payable to “cash”.  If you are told the work doesn’t require a building permit or you’re asked to apply for the permit yourself, you should also be concerned.

Board members have a fiduciary duty to the association and its members to make decisions in good faith, as a reasonably prudent person would in similar circumstances, and in the best interest of the community.  While board members may rely upon the advice of experts, and they often have a stronger legal defense when they do so, they must insure they have the information necessary to make informed decisions.

Cutting corners-either in time or money-can have costly consequences.

Read from source at http://www.communityassociationmanagement.com/facilities-a-maintenance/vendorscontractors/202-cutting-corners.html

2011 – The Year of the Missing Money


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Published: 02 December 2011 – Written by JWW

If there was a single theme running through news stories and articles about condo and homeowner associations in 2011, it was the shortage of money to carry out their responsibilities.

First, the trend of owners not paying their association assessments due to a weak economy, continued strong, which meant that associations had less money to carry out their required operations.  Then, the foreclosure crisis also continued strong, again leaving associations short, as owners in foreclosure usually stopped paying assessments.  Those associations in states that gave them six month of assessments in a foreclosure process may have been a little better off than those in states without the lien priority, but they still found it was tough to collect.

Then, the mortgage banking industry started piling on, by slowing down foreclosures, so that they would not be responsible for a home’s assessments until the last possible minute.  This dragged out the time frame when associations were receiving no income from a unit, placing a tough burden on the owners who were paying, and on boards to struggle with reduced revenue.  Some states tried to help out associations, and some attorneys got creative in forcing foreclosures, but that was only in a few states.

The following news story leads from 2011 show a growing trend that is entirely preventable, but sadly, is often ignored:

  • FL: President of homeowners association accused of embezzlement
  • OH: Prosecutor’s filing indicates women may plead guilty to stealing $1.6M
  • NC: Parkwood president: Embezzler took at least $150K from HOA
  • WA: Former HOA president is headed to trial
  • IA: Muscatine woman gets probation for theft from homeowners’ association
  • FL: The former manager of a luxury Aventura condo building, accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars, turned herself in to jail officials.
  • LA: Former president of Montz associations pleads guilty to theft
  • TX: HOA dues disappear in elaborate scam
  • NC: Theft of money from Parkwood involves ‘many thousands of dollars’
  • CO: Embezzler involved with HOA in Aspen called a ‘habitual criminal’ by DA
  • OH: Man pleads guilty to theft possibly totaling $200,000
  • NY: Ex-school board member admits stealing funds
  • CA: Neighborhood-association embezzler is sentenced
  • ME: Convicted condo embezzler arrested
  • CA: Diablo Grande embezzlement is news to sheriff
  • WA: Prosecutors: Issaquah HOA president bilked organization
  • FL: Charge: President bilked own homeowner association
  • MD: Grand Jury Indicts In Theft Scheme Case
  • WI: Franklin police probe suspected condo association fraud
  • WA: Former Olympia-area homeowners association worker guilty of theft
  • NJ: Former property manager in Freehold Twp. accused of embezzling $75K
  • GA: Former HOA treasurer arrested
  • CA: Former Palo Alto neighborhood association admin accused of embezzling $65K
  • GA: Manager gets 3 years probation for fraud
  • NJ: Three charged with thefts from Aberdeen condo association
  • OH: Woman gets prison for bilking condo associations
  • NJ: Mother, daughter charged in scam – Indictment: Condo funds misused
  • Toronto condo owners allege massive fraud
  • NY: Dare’s role in Pastures cost association $100,000
  • VA: Fraud at Koger may tally $2 million
  • WI: Treasurer of Kansasville home owner’s association reportedly forged checks
  • FL: Four charged in multi-million dollar fraud scheme at Hallandale Beach condo
  • NJ: Readington condo official admits stealing $200K
  • PA: $600K Swiped From Montco Condo Association
  • CA: Sheriff’s Deputy Who Took Money From HOA Sentenced
  • FL: Four charged in multi-million dollar fraud scheme at Hallandale Beach condo
  • FL: HOA bookkeeper confesses to embezzling
  • CA: Manager steals $70K from neighborhood group
  • SC: Woman charged with embezzling $14K in HOA funds
  • IN: Mishawaka embezzler to testify against co-defendant
  • IL: Regent Realty owners indicted in fraud
  • NY: Green Mansions Manager Indicted For $162K Theft
  • MA: Yarmouth condo office manager sent to jail
  • WY: Embezzler gets lengthy sentence in Fox Park case

When times are tough, people who need money will justify taking it from others. Every community association related blog and web site wrote articles about how to prevent theft, but, as with anything, there have to be people in place who will actually do the checks to see that everything is as it should be.

The result of all of this, was all too often, delayed or ignored maintenance, assessments increasing to cover revenue shortfalls, a lot of hard feelings and a lot of litigation, all of which will have long-term effects on associations. To be honest, I don’t really see any improvement in the short term, and for the long term, that is going to depend heavily on the economy, and whether or not the housing industry rebounds.

When I used to do seminars for association board members, I would tell them that it wasn’t their job to keep assessments low, but to spend the money wisely. After this year, I think I need to change that to:

It’s your job to collect the money efficiently, watch over it like a guard dog, and then, spend it wisely!

To all of you who donate your time and talents to keep your association going through these tough times:

THANK YOU!

Courtesy of: http://communityassociationsnetwork.com/wordpress/?p=332

With over 40 years of combined industry experience, the Executive Staff of Riverside Property Management  knows that the most successful communities are those where there is a sense of unity and pride among the membership; this unity and pride begins with a firm foundation comprised of:

Well defined policies and objectives
A strategic plan and future vision
A proactive Management team
Mutual team trust and respect
Timely and open communication
Excellent customer service
Industry knowledge
“Out of the Box” Thinking
Services designed to meet your needs

Give us fifteen minutes of your time and we can show you how to put your community on a fast track to success; if you don’t believe us, feel free to call upon any one of our satisfied clients. (678) 866-1436 or info@riversidepropertymgt.com

Old Ben Was Right


One of the earliest advocates of preventive maintenance was Ben Franklin. He wisely wrote: “A little neglect may breed mischief…for want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost…” Old Ben nailed what happens when relatively small repairs. Little things have major impact on homeowner association assets. For example, a small lack of flashing can lead to major dryrot, structural problems and major expense. Ka-CHING!

Preventive maintenance is critical to managing an HOA’s assets. When executed properly, it extends the useful life of buildings, grounds and equipment. Stretching out useful lives means stretching member contributions and reducing downtime from component failures. Preventive maintenance involves fixing something before it breaks. Here are five objectives for a every preventive maintenance program:

  1. To perform maintenance that keeps the property safe and functioning.
  2. To promote the most effective and efficient use of resources.
  3. To estimate the human resources needed for proper operation and maintenance.
  4. To determine long range funding requirements and project scheduling.
  5. To evaluate the effectiveness of the maintenance effort.

Preventive maintenance programs are common with elevators, HVAC and pool equipment, usually because there is a service contract. Other components, like paving, roofing, decks and paint require monitoring and planning.

Functional obsolescence is also a legitimate concern. Lack of parts, improvements in efficiency, computerization and changes in fire and building code can make equipment obsolete even though it’s working just as designed. This is particularly applicable to elevators, boilers, pumps and HVAC. Buying new equipment is often a great investment in reduced operating costs. For example, by replacing all common area lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs, the light level will be significantly increased, the energy consumption reduced by 70% and the useful life of each bulb extended by 10-15 times thereby saving an enormous amount of labor costs. Within 12-18 months, the cost will be recouped in energy savings and then, it’s money in the bank.

So, what is the best way to address major preventive maintenance? Two words: Reserve Study. A Reserve Study identifies all the significant components that the HOA is responsible to maintain, assesses current condition, cost of repair and replacement and charts a 30 year maintenance plan to keep the components in their best condition.

The Reserve Study can provide for cyclical preventive maintenance so components achieve their optimal lives. For example If cracks, minor repairs and sealcoating are performed at least every five years on asphalt paving, major repairs will not be required for 20-30 years. If this relatively inexpensive preventive maintenance is not done, significant and costly major repairs will be required much sooner. Pay a little to save a lot.

A Reserve Study will also guide the board how to systematically accumulate funds without special assessments. A full funding plan will have all owners contribute a fair share relating to the benefits received. A fair contribution plan means no one will get a better deal than anyone else and the money will be there when needed. The Reserve Study is absolutely the best way to prepare for a future which will certainly come to pass.

Remember Old Ben’s nail analogy. Little things have a way of causing great things to happen. But rather than fail in the little things, plan for them and hit this nail right on the head.

by Richard Thompson

On the Fence


Fences provide privacy, boost safety and security and can add just the right aesthetic touch to the landscape.  But they also require maintenance, repair and replacement.

Fencing can be an ongoing problem for all associations, especially as communities and their features begin to age. Associations must budget for the care of these integral structures. Deciding when and how to repair your fencing, replace worn down or rotting parts or hire someone to handle maintenance can mean the difference between meeting or exceeding your annual budget. Fence

When faced with aging fencing and the high costs of replacement, community associations have to form a strategic plan of action to ensure a cost effective use of operating funds, while at the same time employing an effective use of reserve funds. The case study that follows demonstrates how investigation into a current maintenance process can result in better service for residents, cost savings, improved budget forecasting and an increase in reserve funding levels.

FINDING A FIX

A community of approximately 700 single-family homes located in North San Diego, Calif, was recently faced with the challenge of developing a long-term strategy for managing its fences. Like many communities, this association had been allocating resources for fencing only through reserve funds, and solely on the basis of major component replacement and repair.  The existing wrought iron fence was installed in 1990, and originally was painted with two-part epoxy paint that lasted about nine years. Subsequently, the fence was painted in 1999 with Frazee Am-Plate paint, which did not last as long and is currently deteriorating.

In reviewing its procedures, the association sought to find a long-term, sustainable process for managing its fence maintenance and repair budget. With the assistance of its management company, the association conducted a study and analysis to review the fencing asset and refurbishing project.

The association had been using a deferred maintenance-only approach for the community’s 28,000 linear feet of fencing, which comprises approximately 2,600 four-by-four wooden posts and nearly 3,200 iron panels. The fence was being repaired only when there was noticeable damage or paint erosion, which is often costly and inefficient.

Under the deferred maintenance and replacement approach, which was dictated by a previous reserve study, fencing was broken into four categories: phases one, two and three and pool fencing.  All fencing components had a remaining life of two to seven years with a total replacement cost of more than $1.6 million. All the wrought iron fencing was slated for painting costs of $180,000 every five years using reserve funds. Until recently, the association did not incorporate into the operating budget a proactive annual maintenance component to coincide with strategic designations of reserve capital.

There’s a better way to maintain fences. You wouldn’t repair your car only once every seven years; you perform ongoing maintenance. The same logic can be applied to repairing and maintaining the association’s fencing.

The other issue for the association had been response time. Previously, when a homeowner submitted a request for fence repairs near or around his or her home, the process from initial review of the request to completion usually took two months or more. To begin to resolve the inherent problems in that approach, the association needed to investigate the costs related to a broader scope offence overhaul and repairs.

The association collected three bids to bring the fence to like-new condition using reserve capital and then funds from the operating account for ongoing maintenance. The association’s reserve study analysts deemed the funding strategy acceptable upon the premise that the maintenance program would be reviewed on an annual basis.

PROBLEM SOLVED

Beginning this year, the association started using an immediate portion of reserve funding-approximately 25 percent of the $1.6 million estimated for complete replacement-to update its fences. The association allocated enough reserve funds to add a buffer to all of the contractor bids, which were substantially below the allotted amount. It wanted to allow enough room in case there were rising costs. In addition to the earmarked funds to replace the fencing, all of the bids included quotes to maintain the fencing in a like-new condition for an indefinite period of time. The maintenance includes 40 hours per month, allocating $1,600 in labor costs and $600 per month for materials. This monthly maintenance strategy allows the association to implement ongoing, proactive fence maintenance rather than the reactive, deferred maintenance-replacement approach that was so problematic.

In addition, the association allotted $100,000 every eight years in reserve funds as a strategic designation of capital that allows for catastrophic fence failure or other needs. In total, the association will designate approximately $1.6 million for fence repairs over the next 30 years. This new program shares the cost between reserve funds and the operating budget. It’s the most cost effective and desirable way to maintain the fence for the life of the homeowners association. The association will put out a secondary bidding process in the future to account for up-to-date considerations and cost changes.

The new fence maintenance program addresses several major issues that the association had been facing. First, the program allows for improved service to residents by greatly reducing the need for delayed emergency repairs. Next, the program will save the association more than $500,000 in maintenance costs over 30 years. Finally, by allocating fence repair and maintenance costs to both operating and reserve funds, rather than the previous reserve funded-only “major component and repair” line item, this approach has raised the association’s reserve funding level more than 30 percent.

Keeping Children Safe at Play


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What would be more delightful or heartwarming than the sights and sounds of laughing and playing in your community?

 

Every effort should be made to ensure that the joys of childhood continue in associations, especially with the importance of putting community back into community associations.  From a child‘s perspective, “kid friendly” means fewer rules and restrictions. From the adult’s perspective, it means only implementing and enforcing those rules that are absolutely necessary to protect themselves, the children and association property.

 

The existence and enforcement of reasonable rules can protect an association from liability, but liabilities remain, especially when the association doesn’t or can’t enforce those rules all the time. Just as an owner might sue an association based on the board’s failure to enforce a nuisance rule, an owner also could sue if the association failed to enforce a rule that prohibits children from climbing common element trees or playing in common element parking areas. Theoretically, the association passed the rule because of the inherent danger associated with the activity, thus the association had a duty to enforce its rule to prevent the danger. Would such a theory hold up in court? Much stranger things have happened.

 

Summer Fun at the Homeowners Associaition Pool

Associations should pass only rules that are essential to the health, safety and welfare of their residents–and ones that they can and will enforce. But what rules are essential? Each association must answer that question based on the circumstances and needs of the community. However, let’s take a look at the tree-climbing and parking-lot rules mentioned earlier.

 

A rule against children climbing trees on common elements could recognize both that children occasionally fall out of the trees they climb and that the trees can be damaged. Often the tree is too small for the size of the climber or the climber has tried smaller and weaker branches. In both cases, the damage to the tree may be accompanied by injury to the child. These certainly are legitimate interests, but do they warrant a rule? The association should ask first whether it needs the rule as a warning. In my opinion, most courts will recognize that children are naturally interested in climbing trees and may be injured by doing so. The courts also will recognize that it would be difficult, at best, to keep children out of a good climbing tree. Moreover, every child and parent already knows that if a climber falls from a tree, he or she likely will be injured. Thus, the rule is probably not necessary as a warning

 

The association should explore next whether it needs the rule as a deterrent-preventing climbing through fear of consequence. If the fear of falling is not a natural deterrent, I suspect that the fear of a fine or sanction (which mom or dad would have to pay) is not likely to do the trick–at least from the child’s perspective. Nor will it have a deterrent effect on parents. Those parents who would keep their children out of trees even if no rule existed don’t need the rule. Similarly, those who feel it is OK for their child to climb trees probably would find the rule silly and would not be deterred.

 

Then, does the association need the rule to protect association or owner property, or limit association liability? As for the property issue, trees lose limbs and branches naturally, so the loss of a few to climbers probably isn’t a big deal. If damage occurs to a tree on a lot, the owner probably has the right to make a claim against the master policy as well as his or her homeowners insurance policy.

The liability issue is more problematic. The mere existence of the rule may invite liability because the association will not be able to monitor all trees all the time. In actuality, most associations will not watch their trees unless a board member or manager just happens along and sees a climber.

 

Although it might seem ludicrous, a litigant certainly could claim that he or she relied upon the association’s rule to keep his or her child out of trees, and thus out of harm’s way.

 

The real problem, of course, is that this rule is not kid friendly. And, if the association passes such a rule without one or more of the elements mentioned earlier being of primary concern to the welfare of the association, the rule is not likely to have a positive effect.

 

Similarly, a rule prohibiting children from playing in common element parking lots appears to be a no brainer because it benefits all. However, looks are deceiving. In this case, both children and parents should know that playing in the parking lot is inherently dangerous. Parents also know that smaller children must be watched because a passing motorist may not be able to avoid a child darting between parked cars. Motorists also know to drive cautiously in a residential parking lot. Accordingly, a rule against playing in the parking lots is superfluous for warning purposes.

This rule won’t deter children from playing in the parking lots. Presumably, smaller children will be kept from these areas by parents or older siblings. Older children probably will play there whether the rule is known to them or not. Kids have been playing ball and skating in streets and parking lots as long as there have been streets and parking lots.

 

Finally, the existence of this rule is likely to have little positive effect on the association’s liability in the event of a tragedy. Let’s say that a child is injured by a vehicle in the parking lot. The association’s liability for such an incident, if any, will probably concern the lighting level in the parking lot or perhaps poorly placed plantings that impeded the driver’s view. If these circumstances contribute to the likelihood of the injury, having a rule against playing in the parking lots will not protect the association from liability. And, as in the previous example, a grieving parent could claim that, had the association enforced its rule, the child would not have been injured or killed.

 

So what appear at first impression to be two reasonable rules really have no redeeming value; they are not kid friendly. They are difficult or impossible to enforce. If anything, they might add to an association’s potential for liability. In short, they’re unnecessary.

 

The only kid-centric rules associations must have are those related to the swimming pool. Some associations also have rules related to the minimum age for use of tennis courts. Associations with a workout facility may need to have rules about equipment use as well. Otherwise, the best rules for children are the ones imposed by their parents.  After all, the parents will be held responsible for damage done by children that is not covered by insurance.

 

Source: http://www.communityassociationmanagement.com/rules/violations-and-enforcement/2473-children-at-play.html

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Piedmont Heights

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Piedmont Heights Condominium Association

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