Monday, July 27, 2015

What Your Association Board Does for You

As a recognized homeowners association, our community has a board to help our HOA run smoothly. The board consists of volunteers who execute a wide variety of tasks you may not be aware of; however, their work affects every single resident.

One of the most important things the board does is create and enforce the association rules. While some residents may not like being told what they can and can’t do, ultimately the board is looking out for the greater good. By enforcing the rules, the board is doing its best to keep property value up and conflicts down. Of course, the board wants to make sure the rules are beneficial for the majority—and hopefully all—residents. You are welcome to raise concerns about the rules at open board meetings.

Another major responsibility of the board is to collect assessments from homeowners. Collecting this money is important for the stability of the association, because the assessments pay for the common elements enjoyed by all residents. Assessments also help to replenish the reserve funds, which pay for any major repairs the association may need. The board is responsible for the association’s finances, and collecting assessments is how it ensures that the association remains solvent.

Finally, the board acts on behalf of the association by hiring managers, attorneys, contractors and other professionals who help better the association. Board members also help conceive and lead many of the projects that will improve the HOA.

While it’s a big job, board members are happy to serve the residents and make the community a great place to call home. So why not learn more about what these volunteers do by talking to your board members, attending an open board meeting or even running for a seat on the board during our next election? The more people we have looking out for our association, the stronger it will be.

Monday, July 20, 2015

How to Avoid a $100,000 Board Mistake

Real Cases that Caused Real Problems for Associations

4 Things Every HOA Director Must Know

1. Families with children under 18 are protected (They have legal "familial status")
Associations should not make or enforce rules that treat families with children differently than families of only adults. Rules that single out minors such as “Adult-Only Swim Time” and “Children under age X must be accompanied by a parent,” may well be Fair Housing violations unless you can prove your rule is specifically related to health and safety. This applies to all common areas, not just pools. Not sure if your community rules are correct? Seek legal guidance immediately.

2. Be smart about making accommodations.
When a request for an accommodation—such as a ramp, service animal or special parking space—is made by a person claiming a disability or handicap of any kind, share the request immediately with legal counsel experienced with Fair Housing laws for review. Never assume that you can ask residents making these requests questions about the severity of their disability or details about their medical records. Get legal advice on how to handle the request. Our experience is that no matter how well intentioned a board of directors may be, it is very easy to violate these important laws inadvertently.

3. Let a professional review your community rules.
Now is the time to have your community rules reviewed by your legal advisor. Compared to the cost of fines for a Fair Housing Act violation, the expense of having an experienced attorney review your current rules and policies is negligible.

4. AMG is here to help.
Since 1985, AMG has helped guide and assist associations with everything from board training and writing effective policies and procedures to setting up financial systems and creating connected communities. Contact Corporate Vice President Spencer Ferguson, PCAM, AMS, CMCA, at (888) 908-4264 or for immediate assistance.

We have qualified managers and connections to expert lawyers and other professionals who can help with FHA and other issues.

About the Fair Housing Act and What It Means for You

The federal Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968, prohibits discrimination in residential housing based on color, race, sex, religion and national origin. Over the years, it’s been augmented to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and familial status. The Fair Housing Act absolutely applies to community associations, and we’ve found that the Act’s guidance on discrimination based on “Familial Status” is often misunderstood or overlooked.

Familial Status
  • Definition: one or more individuals who have not attained the age of 18 years being domiciled with (i.e., living in the same household as) a parent or another person who has legal custody of such individual or individuals, or the designee of such parent or other person.
  • Law: It is unlawful to discriminate against a person in the terms, conditions or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin.
Bottom Line

It’s against the law for you and your association to deny or limit access to your common areas, swimming pool or any other facilities just because a household includes one or more children under the age of 18. That means rules, conditions and policies about use of your facilities should not be solely age based – for example, “no children allowed.”

About the Americans with Disabilities Act and What It Means for You

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. The ADA is one of the United States’ most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life—to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services and to participate in state and local government programs and services.

Are You Covered?

The ADA prohibits discrimination in places of “Public Accommodation” on the basis of disability and requires that private entities make alterations if they open their premises to the general public. “Public Accommodation” as defined in the ADA does not include residential facilities; therefore, common areas of a homeowners’ association and common elements of a condominium (such as the clubhouse and pool) are likely not covered by the ADA because use is restricted exclusively to residents and their guests—these facilities are not open to the public. The exemption from the requirements of the ADA would generally not apply if the Association were to open its common areas, such as the clubhouse or pool, to use by the general public who are not residents or guests of residents. For instance, if the Association were to rent the use of the clubhouse or pool to the general public or host events open to the general public, then the ADA rules would likely apply.

Bottom Line

When you or your community receives a request for an accommodation, don’t say no or even ask questions about the requester’s disabilities—some questions can get you in trouble. Call your legal advisor. While the ADA may not apply, other statutes may. Be prepared to be reasonable and to make or allow reasonable accommodations, perhaps even if not required. Always follow your lawyer’s advice!

Dos and Don'ts of Rule Writing

Following are some rule-writing dos and don'ts that will help keep you out of hot water, saving your association legal troubles and costly fines:

Don’t write rules about status or people; for example, rules applying only to children, teenagers, people with disabilities, etc. Do write rules about problem behaviors.

For example, don’t deny children access to the pool or pool area if a parent isn’t with them. Don’t outlaw only infants and kids who aren’t potty-trained from swimming in your pool. (What about adults who are incontinent?) In this case, do write policies that require people, in general, who are incontinent or not potty-trained to wear appropriate waterproof clothing in the pool.

Do create rules that get at the root of health and safety concerns.

Concerned about horseplay, roughhousing, bad language and unreasonably loud noise at the pool? Don’t refuse access to children and teens. Instead, do simply prohibit the unsafe behaviors: running on the pool deck, profanity, rough play and diving. Be sure to include language stating a consequence: for example, “violators will be asked to leave the pool and may lose access, possibly facing suspension of future use by the board of directors.”

Do watch your words! Don’t use these red flag words:

“child,” “children,” “parents,” “adult,” and any words having to do with age such as “ages” and “years old.”

Do be smart.

Want an adult swim time at your pool? Communities should not have “adult swim", because it’s a possible FHA violation to restrict only families or kids. However, you can have times for “lap-swimming” only. By mandating lap swimming only, you are likely not discriminating against children or families because they could also swim laps.
As if it weren’t complicated enough, there are state regulations that seem to contradict the FHA. For example, North Carolina requires swimming pools operating without a lifeguard to post a sign in a prominent place that reads: Children should not use the swimming pool without adult supervision. What should you do: Comply with NC law or federal FHA law? In many cases, federal law supersedes state law. It’s a challenge. Protect yourself: Consult your legal advisor for sound advice.

Don’t risk making a mistake that could cost your association $100,000 or more... Call AMG today—we will help you get qualified legal representation, before it is too late.

Information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be relied upon other than as general information, which may or may not apply to particular circumstances. Association Management Group encourages all communities with legal questions or concerns to consult with their attorneys for guidance. If you do not have a legal advisor, AMG can help you retain a qualified attorney.

For immediate assistance call (888) 515 1477

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Home Buyers Beware: The Importance of Home Inspections

A home is typically the most expensive purchase a person will ever make. Because of this, as much as you may like that property you recently found, it’s critical to get it inspected before finalizing the deal. An inspection gives you an idea of the home’s physical condition, including the heating system, central air system, plumbing and electrical systems, the roof, attic and visible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation, basement and structural components.

A home inspection addresses what needs to be repaired now and what might need to be repaired in the future. If you have a property inspected before signing a contract, you might be able to negotiate a lower price that reflects the inspection’s findings. Simply because a house needs repairs doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it. The buyer must decide how much to spend and how much work he or she is willing to do after the purchase.

Home inspections don’t cover everything, though. Inspectors aren’t required to identify conditions that are hidden or could be considered latent defects. They don’t have to move personal property, plants, snow or debris to inspect an item, and they aren’t liable if they miss something. Inspectors also don’t have to evaluate systems that aren’t easily accessible, and they don’t have to note whether termites, mold, hazardous plants or animals are present.

It’s not possible to know everything about a house before buying it, but an inspection should give you a good idea about its condition. While the cost of a home inspection is typically based on the size, complexity and number of systems in the property, an inspection can cost as little as a few hundred dollars. Some inspection fees are based on a percentage of the asking price. When calculating the time for lab results, inspections should take only about three weeks to finalize. But that money and time could mean fewer negotiations and surprises, a lower sales price, a decrease in the likelihood of litigation for improper disclosure and an increased chance of closing the deal.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Results Are In: HOA Residents Are Happy

We’re confident that most residents are happy living in our communities—and we certainly hope you are among them. But how do the more than 62 million Americans who live in homeowners associations and condominium communities feel about their own associations? Are they happy with their elected boards? How do they feel about the rules? What about their association assessments?

The Foundation for Community Association Research sponsored a recent national public opinion survey to answer these and other questions. Here are some of the key findings:

  • 70 percent of residents in common-interest communities say they are satisfied with their community association experience, while 8 percent express dissatisfaction and 22 percent are neutral on the question.
  • 88 percent of residents believe their association board members strive to serve the best interests of the community, while 12 percent disagree or aren’t sure.
  • 73 percent say their professional managers provide value to their communities, while 21 percent say their managers aren’t an asset to the association and 6 percent say they aren’t sure.
  • 76 percent believe their own community association rules “protect and enhance” property values. Only 3 percent say the rules harm property values, while the rest see no difference.
  • 81 percent of residents say they get a “good” or “great” return for their association assessments, while 18 percent say the return is “not so good or bad.” The rest were unsure.

At Association Management Group we’d like to think that the residents living in our communities are having a positive experience. We encourage you to get involved in your community. There is no substitute for active and constructive involvement and no better way to build a true sense of community.

If you’re especially pleased about your community, share that too! It’s always good to know when your association manager is on the right track. If you have a story you would like to share about your community, how your community works together, your community involvement helping residents, please submit your story. We might just feature it on our blog.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Benefits of Living in Home Owners Association (HOA) Community

Benefits of Living in Home Owners Association (HOA) Community

Autonomous owned home or even living in an apartment complex independently have its own drawbacks. Living in a homeowner association community brings several benefits in so many aspects that have led to increase the HOA members from 10,000 to more than 330,000 in the past decade. No doubt, HOA community caused positive impact on their members’ lives. The members get responsive help from their governing boards as a return on their investment. Amongst the multiple benefits of opting to live in HOA community, here are the basic reasons that why you should consider living in a homeowner association community and remove loads of stress from your life.

Collective Management Benefits

HOA benefits the community at large by providing the best and address your needs with appropriate management. The community association sets limitations in the homeowner agreement so that every member can work with responsibility to maintain the overall beauty and cleanliness of the community. The HOA board elected by your community makes sure the rules are followed, which not only enhances the residents’ lifestyle, but also raises the value of their property.

Private Public Utilities

Before there were unmoved trash bins that stayed for days outside houses waiting to be picked up by the local government, however, now with the HOA community you do not have to worry about such hassles. The resident members get all utilities, including road maintenance, snow removal, storm water management, and many other similar services. These are managed by the HOA board with complete assurance of delivering services in a timely manner. The members pay fees for such duties, so they do not have to rely on local municipality. The self sustenance of HOA community relieves the town’s tax burden, which open ways for more neighborhoods to be built locally.

Community sustenance in minimal cost

Being a member of an HOA community means everyone pays their fair share on the concerns that are addressed by the association board. With such assurance, the property value is maintained by formal government supervision. All members are equally treated; they are in it together, which creates a sense of responsibility towards membership and management. On the whole, it develops a strong communal sense in the residents. The neighborhood activities are organized by community management, such as social clubs, holiday parties, and sports events bring people closer and form a strong bond within the community.

Better Amenities with options

Being a member of HOA brings multiple benefits and perks, many of which private home owners can’t rejoice. HOA communities can feature substantial amenities, such as, golf courses, swimming pools, and marinas, daycares provided with the membership. Also, there are some community associations that can heed and provide lawn care, gutter work and several other services for property maintenance. Those who want age restricted community can opt for associations that offer services to age-restricted resident home owners only. There are plenty of choices for diverse living options from which you can choose according to your need.

Paul Mengert is founder of Association Management Group. He can be contacted at:

Association Management Group
614 W Friendly Ave, Greensboro, North Carolina 27401
(888) 908-4264