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TELECOMMUTING – It’s a Work/Life Balance Thing

TELECOMMUTING – It’s a Work/Life Balance Thing

For well over a decade now we’ve talked about the advances in technology and how it promotes the advantages and capabilities of working remotely, whether that be from your car, onsite, or even from a home office.  Even the condominium and homeowner ( HOA ) management industry has evolved during this technological transition. There are some benefits of working remotely, but also some hazards to be wary of while transitioning to this work/life balance.

(Some of the) Advantages:

1. The style and location of your office is yours to decide. While I recommend placing your office in a part of your home that you do not use for your leisure activities, your office can be anywhere. The use of a spare bedroom may be ideal, but even utilizing a small dinette table in an apartment can also be useful to getting your remote office started. Think about where to place your home office as you would be considering your bedroom location; a quiet place without distractions.

The style of your office is also yours to choose. Whatever motivates you, makes you happy, or provides a sense of peace is all yours to exercise at your own discretion. There are no rules to what you can put in your home office. Sports memorabilia, motivational quotes, cat and/or political posters are all fair game.

In the end, a location and style that is absent of distractions is ideal.

2. Think about the savings. Many of the expenditures exhausted in working in an office are immediately reduced, such as fuel, vehicle, and any transportation expenses associated with commuting. You can also discuss with your car insurance agent about the discounts you may receive with your the severely reduced annual mileage, this is also easily translated to the monthly payments you make for your vehicle if it is leased.

Additionally, there are the reduced costs of lunches, dry cleaning, and maintaining a full and separate wardrobe just for the daily work routine. But don’t let the latter get out of hand as fashions change and you will need to maintain a respectful work attire when necessary.

3. Snow day, show day. I used to enjoy watching my neighbors trudging through 6” of snow, all bundled up in their winter gear clearing their cars and heading out on the slick and icy roads to commute to their offices while I was already starting my day all warm and cozy. Regardless of the weather, accidents, rush hour and traffic jams, etc. you can avoid these without interruption to your production.

4. Flex schedule. Keep in mind that there are two sides to this shiny new coin. Depending on the industry you are in, you may be in a position to create your own schedule, or at the very least, modify your schedule to better suit your own habits to become more efficient. Whether you are a night owl or early riser, you are less bound by the hours kept with your place of employment. Also, you are now in a better position to handle those weekly errands on a more appropriate schedule to avoid the rush. Have to pick up the dry cleaning or get some needed groceries? Go do it and get it done when the crowds are absent. Just be sure to make up that time as to not jeopardize your productivity.

5. Office distractions are now decreased. Time wasting office meetings, the loud chewer 3 cubicles away, the messy breakroom, office politics and gossip, etc. are now a thing of the past.

Yes, you’ll still have meetings to attend, very few that will require actual attendance, but moreover they will be held remotely. No more cramming into a conference room, idling chatting waiting for everyone to sit and prepare for the meeting and engaging in conversations that divert from the meaning of the meeting in the first place. Remotely held meetings tend to be more concise, direct and more efficient as there are limited speakers, less opportunities to divert the meeting off-topic, and certainly less idle chitchatting.

You may still have a messy breakroom and a loud chewer when working remotely, but those are now in your control to address.

(Some of the) Disadvantages:

1. Distractions, distractions, distractions. You have to be disciplined and maintain a proper work schedule and environment. The TV, refrigerator, kids, etc. are just a few things that can be a distraction from your work production.

2. Flex schedule (the other side of our shiny new coin). The tendency to consent to distractions is much higher than in the office. “Since I have more time, I can get to that later.” is very counterproductive to the telecommuter’s independence. Don’t let this get out of hand.

The likelihood that we will have total autonomy or self-governance is quite unlikely and maintaining a schedule relative to your clients, co-workers, supervisors, and office hours will continue to be of importance. I recommend maintaining a similar routine that you held prior to telecommuting. Get up at the same time, get your coffee and news fix, hit the shower, dress, then commute to the office; the commute is just a lot shorter now. Whatever your routine was, try and stick to it. Start your day, take your breaks, and end your day as you would otherwise.

3. Always at home, always at work. This is a tough one. We all know that feeling of leaving the office with unread emails, unfinished projects, etc. In many cases when we leave the office, that’s it, we’re done for the day and it will have to wait until tomorrow. In a home office environment it can seem to never go away and can keep you from truly enjoying your personal and leisure time. The stress can feel like it is always there, and you can fix it by just getting back to work even though it’s late in the evening. But that’s not solving anything for you in the long run.

It’s easier said than done of course, but you will need to separate yourself from work when you are done for the day. Properly locating your home office and establishing a disciplined work schedule will help greatly.

4. Lack of exercise. Sitting is the new smoking right? It may seem silly and you may not have considered this previously, but since you are no longer commuting to and walking in the office, just the act of walking can be greatly reduced by telecommuting. Use your breaks to take a walk, join a health club, use anything that will get you up and walking. Using a pedometer (there are plenty of free apps for your phone) is a great way to self-check yourself to make sure you are getting enough paces in each day.

5.Lack of human interaction. The loud chewer, the office gossiper, and pen-clicker are now gone and most of your human interaction is reduced to emails, texts, phone calls, along with the occasional video conference. This may seem like a wonderful thing, but the PTSD Journal lists many negative effects of social isolation.

Telecommuting can be and is a wonderful transition from the traditional office environment and hours.  Reaping the benefits, but realizing the hazards is the true stability in sustaining a proper work/life balance in telecommuting.

 

GOING GREEN – It’s Easier Than You Might Think

GOING GREEN – It’s Easier Than You Might Think

Going green means to pursue knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles, which can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.

Putting this into condominium or homeowner (HOA) association terminology, we can equate this to our proper approach of reserve contributions in a pay-as-you-go structure that sustains the financial fortitude of the community for decades or generations to come. Going green creates a similar sustainability, just in a different model.

Helping create a sustainable earth is important to each and every one of us, whether we admit it or not. There are many reasons why going green is important, from lowering utility bills to stopping the effects of global warming, but what is the most important reason? 

To answer this essential question Sustainable Earth conducted an online poll in 2012, giving each participant 4 options to choose from, which included: 

  • Lower monthly utility bills
  • To reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases
  • To stop global warming and its effects
  • Make the planet livable for future generations

Ironically, they found that stopping global warming was the least important option, but with 53% of the votes, making the planet livable for future generations was most important to the participants for going green.  What option would you have chosen?

Going green in your condominium or homeowner (HOA) association or in your workplace can be obtained in many ways, some quite easily, while others require a bit more effort, forethought, and/or teamwork.  Some things we can do to create a green environment include:

  • Recycling.  It’s no longer the exception but is now the norm.  Most of us are already doing this at home in some form or fashion, but what about your workplace?
  • Alternative Energy.  Also known as renewable energy, utilizes a diversified mix of wind, geothermal, hydro, and solar resources. Most utility companies provide this as an option for residential and commercial consumers.  Check with your local utility provider if this option is available in your market.
  • Paperless or Paperleast.  I use the term Paperleast as the probability of companies or households to go completely paperless is quite rare.  Nevertheless, reducing our use of paper is a vital component in going green.  We may also want to consider using recycled paper products for the limited paper we do make us of.
  • Go to Sleep.  Not ourselves of course, but our computer systems.  This is especially significant in the workplace.  Setting our computers to go into sleep mode shortly after we stop using them will save a considerable amount of energy use.
  • Lighting.  Consider changing your home or workplace lighting to LED or CFL light options.  They are more expensive up front but will last much longer and use less energy making them a more financially viable choice.  You can determine how much you will save by using the Energy Star calculator.
  • Energy Audit.  Energy.gov recommends an energy audit as the first step in assessing how much energy you consume and to evaluate measures you can take to be more energy efficient. Many local utility companies will provide a free energy audit or at least may provide you with recommendations for such audit service providers.
  • Green Transportation.  While this may not be a viable option for many of us, commuting by means of a train, light rail, bus, bicycle, scooter or even walking contributes to our green efforts.  Even carpooling with co-workers or neighbors that work near your workplace can make a considerable impact as well.

 Choosing to adopt some, a few, of even all of the above will make a difference you can feel good about and contribute to the sustainability of our planet for future generations to come. 

 

DISASTER PLANNING – Are You Prepared?

DISASTER PLANNING – Are You Prepared?

Question: What is a community disaster?

Answer: The International Federation of the Red Cross [ www.IFRC.org ] says a disaster is a sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and causes human, material, and economic or environmental losses that exceed the community’s or society’s ability to cope using its own resources.

Every homeowner association has some exposure to a disaster. However, disaster planning has the potential and probability of saving lives, reducing suffering, and minimizing damage.  The three key elements of a disaster plan include planning, preparation and recovery.

While it is true that some communities will be more affected by natural disasters than others, no association is exempt from the threat of some type of disaster.  Some things your Condominium or Homeowner [HOA] Association may provide prior, during and after a disaster include emergency supplies, an evacuation plan that summarizes procedures for community evacuation with maps and location of public shelters, and a communication plan that describes the various forms that may be used to contact the membership.

But how do we, as individual members of our condominium or homeowner [ HOA ] association, plan for such an event?  The best plans call for each member in the community to prepare themselves for a disaster and simultaneously not becoming a burden to those that have properly prepared.  Ready.com conducted a survey and found that people who believe themselves “prepared” for disasters often aren’t as prepared as they think. Forty percent of survey respondents did not have household plans, 80 percent had not conducted home evacuation drills, and nearly 60 percent did not know their community’s evacuation routes or public shelters.

Becoming more prepared in case of an emergency is easier than you might think. Whether it’s your home, your neighborhood, or your place of business, you can take a few simple steps to prepare yourself and your community.

Disaster Planning:

Get in touch with your local fire department, police department, paramedics, or emergency management agency to discuss ways to prepare your community and improve its capacity to respond to and recover from disaster. Our emergency managers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMT/paramedics, and other emergency responders do an incredible job of keeping us safe, but they can’t do it alone. We must all embrace our individual responsibility to be prepared.

Have adequate insurance in place for your property and personal belongings.  If a disaster strikes, having insurance for your home or business property is the best way to ensure you will have the necessary financial resources to help you repair, rebuild, or replace whatever is damaged.  Document and inventory your property to better understand your options for coverage.  Your inventory will help you prove the value of what you owned, which may speed your claim processing. An up-to-date inventory can also help you to determine the correct amount of insurance to purchase. You can take photos or videos to help you record your belongings, but be sure to also write down descriptions, including year, make, and model numbers, where appropriate.  Contact your professional insurance agent for any questions and to ensure that you have the appropriate coverage for you.

Staying in communication will be vital.  So be sure to document important phone numbers.  A longtime friend could recall almost any phone number he needed to access; it was quite impressive.  Yet nowadays that talent has lost its necessity due to our availability to store contacts in our phones.  During a disaster, accessing them may not be an option. So be sure to write them down, laminated if possible, as your phone may not be operable and you will need use someone else’s phone or a landline.

Important contacts to keep with you:

  1. Water Company
  2. Power Company
  3. Poison Control
  4. Local Hospital(s)
  5. Family or Personal Physician
  6. Animal Control
  7. Neighbors and Nearby Friends
  8. Out-of-Town Relatives
  9. Towing Company
  10. Insurance Agent
  11. Veterinarian
  12. Locksmith
  13. Local Hotel(s)
  14. American Red Cross

These contacts have varying degrees of importance and timeliness.  Many are for keeping you updated with certain municipal services, others are in the event that you need assistance and/or need to relocate, and others are important to have once the disaster and emergency situation has passed.

Should all lines of communication fail, it may become important to know your local amateur or ham radio operator.  The American Radio Relay League [ www.arrl.org ] is an association of radio amateurs organized for the promotion of amateur radio communications and can be of valuable assistance in providing critical and essential communications during emergencies and disasters when normal lines of communication are disrupted. They may also be a useful resource in finding local members or becoming one yourself.

Disaster Preparation:

In the event of a disaster, it will be essential to have some emergency supplies or an Emergency Supplies Kit prepared and ready for use.  After an emergency, you may need to persevere on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your own food, water and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency.  Consider specific needs in your household. As you prepare your supplies be sure to incorporate your specific daily living needs, such as your dietary needs, medical and prescription needs, as well as the needs of other family members and school-aged children and pets.

A good disaster supplies kit may include:

  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Light tool kit
  • Manual can opener
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

Additional items to consider:

  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities

Disaster Recovery:

Recovering from a disaster may be a long and slow-moving process. Being safe and cautious of perils after a disaster is just as important as during a disaster.  These perils just come in new and different forms.  Some of these include washed out roads, downed trees, contaminated buildings and water, gas leaks, damaged electrical wiring, as well as building and landscaping debris, including broken glass.

While recovering be wary of over-exhaustion and don’t try to do too much.  Consider the recovery process exactly that, a process, one that will take time and planning.  Be sure to set priorities of things that need to happen right away and those that are of secondary importance.

If you have had to vacate your home and are returning to it, walk carefully around the outside and check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage. If you have any doubts about safety, do not enter your home and contact the appropriate authorities.

Since you have properly prepared, you can now call upon those saved contacts for additional support.  Contact your friends and relatives to let them know you are okay or that you need assistance. Now is also the time to contact your insurance agent to let her/him know of an impending claim.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

If we all do our part in planning, preparing and recovering from a disaster we protect our property and personal well-being, we are less likely to burden our community’s safety and support systems, and we are better positioned to contribute to its recovery processes as well.

Additional information and resources can be found at the following:

www.FEMA.gov

www.READY.gov

www.ODPM.gov.tt  [Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management]

www.IFRC.org  [International Federation of the Red Cross]

www.HOA-USA.com

“Preparation through education is less costly than learning through tragedy.” Max Mayfield, Director, National Hurricane Center

Serving As a Board Member – What Did I Get Myself Into?

Serving As a Board Member – What Did I Get Myself Into?

In a previous article we talked about the duties and responsibilities of the Recording Secretary, so now let’s discuss what the Board as a whole should expect and how to address some common occurrences while serving their Homeowner and/or Condominium Association.

First and foremost, you are serving and making decisions for a business; your community.  While you are making these decisions on one of the biggest investments you and your fellow homeowners have ever made, your homes, which is very personal, you want to remain in a business mindset to ensure that the inclusion of personal or political biases are not present.

One of the factors that may disrupt that business mindset include the fact that you have friends and acquaintances in your community.  And on the opposing point, you may also know some neighbors that you simply don’t like or don’t see eye-to-eye with.  Both of these ends of the spectrum may interfere with your ability to remain unbiased in making a decision that is clearly in the best interest of the community.  Hence, treat and make decisions for Glenda-The-Good-Neighbor as you would if the same matter to be decided upon was for Vinnie-The-Violator.  Using your inner voice to role play the issue, inserting Glenda for Vinnie and/or vice versa prior to voting, is a good technique to check your alliances and biases for a clear decision.

Another disruption may be the unprofessionalism of community members or worse yet your fellow Board Members. While we have no control over the demeanor of others, we can control how we react to them and their behavior as well as how we conduct ourselves in this business setting.  When listening to Randy-The-Ranter discussing his issue with the Board, make a concerted effort to hear his message and not the manner in which he is delivering it.  Many people are not comfortable or accustomed to speaking in a front of a group and may become “unglued” in such a situation, which ultimately adversely effects their approach to the Board. On the other hand, some people are just adverse.  Conversely, we also need to remain professional in the presence of our community members.  A good technique to self-evaluate your own conduct and presence during a meeting is to consider that your current or former boss, employer, or supervisor is sitting in the back of the room; how would s/he rate your performance?

Understand that disagreements among Board Members will happen.  This is actually a good thing and positive for the community.  A couple things to keep in mind when disagreements occur:

  • Sounds simple enough, but many of us are just waiting for our turn to talk while the other person is talking. It’s a difficult habit to break, I still make a concerted and conscious effort to curb this, but to best understand someone’s point of view is to truly hear what they are saying.
  • If we all agreed, all the time, on every topic, we would learn nothing from each other and never grow past our own opinions.
  • Appreciate the opportunities to discuss opposing viewpoints. There may be something you have missed, a viewpoint that you had not previously considered, and/or things have changed since the last time you broached this topic.
  • Lastly, remain professional.

Opposing viewpoints provide us with an excellent platform to learn and grow and should be cherished for the opportunities they provide us to better serve our communities.

The Board of Directors should be regarded as a united decision-making body to the community membership.  Many of us recognize that some Homeowner and Condominium Associations may become quite political at times.  Yet, while serving on the Board it is best to put all politics aside.  I know, it’s not as simple as it sounds.  Talking with neighbors and other community members about how the Board voted [who yea’d and who nay’d] on a particular topic provides no benefit to the Board or the community. Such comments like, “I can’t believe Peter-The-President voted that way on the monthly dues.”, only creates division with not only the Board, but the community as well. Keeping the discussion focused on how the Board, as a whole, decided on a particular topic is always best and builds trust within the community for the Board.

The ultimate responsibility of the Board of Directors is to maintain and/or enhance the market value for each unit within the community. Think of the market value as the umbrella of the Board’s responsibilities as everything else lies below it yet supports it at the same time.  The community’s market value is maintained and/or enhanced through:

  • Properly maintaining the buildings, roads, sidewalks, etc.
  • Addressing the community’s landscaping in a manner that keeps it not only attractive but controlled throughout the years.
  • Appropriately insuring the Association’s assets from a natural or other disaster.
  • Accurately foreseeing the future replacement needs of the community’s infrastructure and funding reserves accordingly.
  • Establish the means to successfully administer the above with the appropriate management and supervisory levels.

Saving any macro-economics, properly supporting these fields will ensure that your Homeowner and/or Condominium Association’s market values will remain strong for many years to come.

Although we have touched on a few key areas of what it takes to successfully serve on your community’s Board of Directors, there is much, much more … much more! We will continue to touch on similar topics in future articles.

The Newsletter – Your Community Connection

The Newsletter – Your Community Connection

Since your newsletter is your most frequent and routine communication with your community members, it’s important to keep a few things foremost in mind as you create your next edition.

We all know that the headline of each article should briefly describe what the content of the article entails, but it should also entice the reader to continue further. It’s the first thing the reader will see and should provide them with enough, but limited, information if this is the article for them. But we want to get them and keep them interested. Think of yourself at the check out line at your local grocery store, waiting in line, what do most of us end up doing? Reading a cover page on a magazine about the goings-on with JLo or the Kardashians of course! Something we couldn’t even care about, but we’re trapped and the cover is eye-catching. While the writers and editors for these magazines are experienced professionals, there’s no reason we can’t put a little zing or fun into our newsletters as well; your readers will appreciate the humor and effort.

The Who, What, When, Where and How of your articles. Give all as much of the details as you can. Take for instance a Tree planting project. Who will be doing the work, What will be planted, When will this occur, Where will they be planted, and How [give the process and procedures for the planting project] will it be comducted. This should provide a sufficient amount of information about the planting project and should keep the community well informed and eliminate any surprises and/or incoming questions and concerns.

Make it suitable for the Article Scanner. For most, unless they are truly intrigued about a particular topic or have to know and understand the material for future questioning, they pretty much just scan the articles. If intrigued by the topic using the scanning process, most will then delve into the details of it. Otherwise, the scanning process begins again with the next article. The Article Scanner will typically read the first sentence or two of each paragraph, especially the first, to see if there’s any interest in going further. So be sure to make the onset of each article clear in the message that follows, such as, “The Board of Directors has recently approved a Planting Project that will affect several units with the community.”. Is my unit one that may be effected? I should read further!

To recap these last two points, capturing the reader’s interest is paramount, which should then be followed up with the details of Who, What, When, Where and How.

Being the sole editor of your newsletter may be detrimental to your efforts and final production. Having at least one other person review the final production is vital to ensuring that no typos or other grammatical errors exist. Such minor errors may limit the credibility the reader has to the content and message you are delivering.

On occasion, mix up the format of your newsletter. Readers may become complacent if the structure of your newsletters remains static and may dismiss an entire issue as it’s deemed to “say the same old thing again”. For example, perhaps moving the President’s Report to the second page and replacing it with the member profile, with picture, of Helen-the-Homeowner. “Helen volunteers her time in various organizations, has been married for 42 years to the love of her life, has 3 children, 8 grandchildren and simply loves living in the community …” Having a picture, telling a good story, and relating to other members in the community is always a winner. While mixing it up can be beneficial, be sure to keep the content and design consistent throughout by using the same font for the headlines and bodies of each article; headlines should be of a slightly larger font size. Mixing up the fonts may give a sloppy look to the end product of your newsletter.

Speak to the 98%. When trying to address an issue in the community that needs to be curbed, such as parking, picking up after our pets, etc., try to refrain from berating the entire community in your message as most community members are abiding and are in compliance with the Association’s Rules and Regulation; they know the rules and don’t need to hear it again. Instead, try to rally their support. I once wrote a newsletter article titled “The Bad Apple”, explaining how just one bad apple can ruin the entire bunch and asked for the 98% to assist me and the Board in curbing a community issue created by a few bad apples. We had numerous reports from the residents about who was causing the issue and we were able to quickly address it.

Solicit local vendors and/or businesses for advertising spots in your newsletter. Restaurants, dry cleaners, plumbers, handyman services, etc are good businesses to contact for advertising. You may even want to ask yourself “What vendors have I seen here in the community?” or “What vendors do we, as the Association, utilize?”. Vendors that are already serving your community are more apt to advertise with you. While the revenue from such advertisements is not monumental, it can aide in offsetting your production and delivery costs. It also extends the sense of community beyond the boundaries of your community association. As a caveat, be sure to include language that separates the liability of these vendors from the Association. It’s not a complicated disclosure, but I recommend seeking the advice from your legal counsel to ensure you have the proper protection in place.

Be wary of diluting the message. The frequency of newsletter issues may play an important role in whether your members will read it. Monthly newsletters are great for keeping the members informed with all the goings-on in the community. However, the content and message tends to get diluted with such a high frequency. On the other hand, a bi-annual or annual newsletter is too long of a time frame to provide relevant material to be beneficial. The best approach is a quarterly, or better yet, seasonal newsletter. A season newsletter keeps the members informed of the recent happenings in the community as well as immunizing them to what’s to come. Such items, say in the Fall [3rd quarter] edition, could speak to the finalization of the road replacement project as well as reminding them of the holiday decorations policy for the upcoming season, or that the roof replacement project will be commencing soon and that more information will follow. Putting such reminders in the 4th quarter newsletter will be too late for it to be effective.

Creating and maintaining a great newsletter can be a daunting endeavor, but the sharing of information, the sense of community it creates, and the gratitude from your members makes it all worth it.

The Recording Secretary – The Value of Proper Record Keeping

The Recording Secretary – The Value of Proper Record Keeping

The Board of Directors for most Condominium and Homeowner Associations are primarily comprised of Officers and Directors. The Officer positions include the President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. While the responsibilities of the entire Board include the protection and enhancement of the value of the property, maintaining the physical components, managing the financial operations, evaluating and addressing risk management, establishing and enforcing community policies, and the preservation and promotion of community harmony.

However, the purpose of this article is to focus on the importance and value of the Secretary and how s/he’s role is vital to the operations and continuity of the life span of the Association’s records and decisions made over time. While most think the duty of minute taking as a primary focus of the Secretary, and this is mostly true, some of the other duties entrusted to the Secretary include the maintaining and updating of the Associations governing documents, policies and resolutions, correspondence, contracts, financial statements, committee reports, tax returns, insurance policies and claims, legal files, member contact and mailing lists, equipment warranties, and so on. That’s quite an obligation even under the best of circumstances.

Then there’s also the recording and maintaining of the Board Meeting minutes. The life cycle of Board Meeting minutes begins with recording the decisions at the meeting and ends with the appropriate purging of recorded minutes from past meetings.

When taking the minutes at the meeting it is important to have a plan or formal format. I recommend simply using the agenda to note what motions were made and by whom as well as decisions finalized by the Board as well as the vote tally, not including names. This is a quick and easy way to record the meeting and provides the opportunity to still be engaged in the meeting. Items to record in the minutes include the approval of the prior meeting’s minutes and any agenda items that are expected to be voted upon; be sure to record if an agenda item is tabled as well. Should we record the Board’s discussion on a particular agenda item as well? While I recommend against this as it holds no bearing on the Board’s final decision on the topic and may highlight a division within the Board which may garner support from those that oppose the final outcome; in the best interest of the community, the Board should be regarded as a united decision-making body. However, there is no rule or bylaw that speaks to oppose this and it is ultimately up to your Board’s preference to include the discussions in the minutes.

Let’s keep in mind that while the Secretary is responsible for the Board Meeting minutes, s/he does not have to perform this duty during the meeting. Other options include having a community volunteer step up and assist the Board or you may even consider hiring someone to do this task; most management companies can arrange for someone from their office to do this in their spare time or may even provide this service on an al-a-carte basis. I highly recommend that you do not request or require your Community Manager to perform this function. Your Community Manager has put a lot of time and energy into the meeting and needs to remain completely focused on it, not recording it.

Now that we have noted the decisions of the meeting, it’s time to create a formal draft [ yes that’s an oxymoron ] for the Board’s review to ensure that everyone agrees it is a true reflection of the meeting and that nothing was omitted. This will not constitute an approval of the minutes but will aide in expediting the approval of the minutes at the next regularly schedule Board Meeting. With this informal process in place and barring any anomalies, we anticipate that the minutes will be approved.

Once the minutes are approved, we will need to make them readily available to the Association’s Membership. There are several ways to accomplish this, such as:

• Copy and mail them to the Membership. While this will ensure that each member receives a copy, this can be a very costly venture.
• Email them to the Membership. This is extremely cost efficient but may not reach all of the members.
• Post them on your Community’s website. Again, this is very cost efficient and they can be obtained by a vast majority of the Membership as it is an easy, private access for members.
• Post them on an online group such as Google or Yahoo, if you utilize such a service, which is similar to posting on your website.
• Simply make them available upon request.

From my experience, I have found the latter to be the best option as the cost is extremely minimized, most members won’t read the minutes even if you mailed them to the entire community and still provides for those that are interested in receiving a copy of each meeting’s minutes. Of course, there are Association’s where this simply wont work and will require an alternative approach so that all members may obtain a copy. In such cases I recommend a combination of the prior options; email to those that you have quantified email addresses for, post on your website or online group, and copy and mail to the remainder. This alternative provides the minutes to all members and minimizes the mailing expenses to only those that need it.

Regarding the proper purging of your minutes, your local, state or governing document’s regulations on the life span of Board Meeting minutes may vary or not even speak to the subject. I suggest consulting your Association’s legal counsel and/or CPA to affirm the timing of such removal from the Association’s records.

As we can see, the role and duty of the Association’s Secretary is vital to the continuity and sustainability of the records and actions of the community, which is a priority interest for many organizations. So, the next opportunity you have, take the time to thank your Association’s Secretary for the hard work s/he does for your community.

Managers Are Not Always the Experts

Managers Are Not Always the Experts

Community Association Managers come with varying degrees of expertise and experience. Some Managers may have a strong background or understanding of financials and budgeting, while others may come from a facilities maintenance background, and some may just simply have great people skills.

Regardless of which strength, most Managers are Horizontally Integrated. Meaning, they know a little bit about a lot of different aspects of properly managing condominium and homeowner associations but are experts in very few. This is certainly not a negative aspect of their ability to get the job done, and get it done right. Recognizing this concept and alleged limitation, Managers know who to go to and can appropriately advise the Board when an expert is needed, or more aptly named, someone that is Vertically Integrated.

Someone that is Vertically Integrated is someone that knows a lot about one particular topic. One that is easily identified is an Attorney. Most would agree that there are certain scenarios that require the advice of legal counsel. Some of these would include the addressing of severe delinquencies or the handling and advising of a pending or served lawsuit.

But let’s take this a bit further as there are other scenarios that would require an expert or someone that is Vertically Integrated. Some of these include a roofing project, major asphalt/concrete replacement, and even landscaping maintenance and projects. As a Manager with over 2 decades of homeowner and condominium experience, I could be on the roof as they were replacing it and I couldn’t tell you if it’s being done correctly. This is a situation where we need a roofing engineer to ensure that the project is being done right. Consider a road replacement project where we need core samples to determine the what the aggregate is under the asphalt and how replacement should be addressed. I could look at the core samples and couldn’t tell you what they are telling us, hence an infrastructure and pavement management expert/engineer will be required. And finally, to make this point landscaping maintenance and design is a mix of art and science and if we don’t fully understand what we are doing, we will have wasted not only the association’s time but money as well. Whether it’s routine maintenance and upkeep or a large landscaping project, it’s prudent to consult with someone that is Vertically Integrated in this field to guide and advise the Board. Also consider that a project needs to start in the right direction from the onset. The onset of most projects is in the details of the of the proposal process and is extremely critical in partnering with a Vertically Integrated expert.

Some Managers will learn quickly when they don’t heed certain warning signs that they are taking on too much and jeopardizing an association’s project; I know I did! And a good Manager will know when the discussion needs to pivot to bringing in an expert. If you have the latter, you are in great hands and should trust that Manager’s judgement in this area for the betterment of your association.

It’s Tax Time!

It’s Tax Time!

In most states, HOAs are registered non-profits and are required to file Federal and State taxes. Additionally, some Associations governing documents stipulate an annual financial review or audit be completed.

Financial reviews and audits do differ; however, they achieve the same goal. That is to have an independent, licensed CPA review the Association’s financials and the accounting practices of its management company.

As part of the Sharper Management family, our staff works hard behind the scenes to provide any engaged CPA firm with the required materials. Bank statements, reports, invoices, etc. all must be provided.

Be ready for your manager to ask for the Treasurer’s signature on tax docs.  And lastly, know that it is very common for the CPA to file tax extensions, as reviews/audits are an involved process and can take time.

What Is In a Resale Package?

What Is In a Resale Package?

When buying or selling in a homeowner association, the resale package is a very important set of documents.

The HOA resale package will provide all the documentation the buyer will need in order to have full disclosure of the HOA’s rules and regulations as well as the HOA’s financial standing/budget etc.

Typical items included in the resale package:
Annual Financials
Articles of Incorporation
Budget
Bylaws
CC&Rs
Insurance Declaration Page
Regular Meeting Minutes
Resale Certificate/Demand
Reserve Report
Rules and Regulations.

If you’re in the process of selling your townhome or condo, you may find resale disclosure documents via the Sharper Management Arizona website.

How Homeowner Associations Work

How Homeowner Associations Work

Living in an HOA is different from owning a single-family home. If you live in an HOA (homeowners association), but have not served on the Board of Directors, you may have questions about how a management company like Sharper Management, your Board of Directors, and owners all work together for a smooth-running Association. The following information is a compilation of some of the most common questions we receive.

HOAs and CICs are governed by an elected Board of Directors. This Board is made of owners living in the community who have volunteered to serve. They typically hold meetings once a month, however meeting schedules may vary depending on the needs of the Association.

Your Association, through the governing Board of Directors and the powers outlined in the Governing Documents, is responsible for many things including;

  • Financial management, such as collecting dues, setting operating and reserve budgets, establishing and maintaining a reserve fund for capital projects, paying contractors, and meeting statutory requirements for financial reporting
  • Setting up of all necessary contracts required to service the community, such as grounds care and insurance
  • Overseeing maintenance of all common areas and amenities
  • Understanding, amending, and enforcing the Governing Documents

The many tasks of a Board can pile up quite fast. For this reason, many HOAs engage an external professional property management company like Sharper Management. While the ultimate responsibilities always remain with your Board of Directors, the property management company acts as an advisory group to the Board, an administrative arm to carry out the decisions made by the Board, and it performs the day-to-day financial transactions of the Association.

Some important distinctions to remember between the Board and a management company are;

  • The management company carries out the directives decided upon by the Board
  • A management company is NOT a policy or decision-making body

Sharper Management’s goal is to be Your Arizona Neighbor in HOA and common interest community management. Ultimately, our job is to work with your Board to help maintain property value and enhance your experience of living in a common interest community.

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