Do’s & Don’ts
With spring weather taking hold in most parts of the country, community association managers can expect the blossoming of questions and concerns from owners about landscaping. Even with associations that already have board-approved landscaping plans in place, managers might have owners demanding already-scheduled maintenance, planting in common areas without permission, or micromanaging the gardening crew.…
Unfortunately, you might encounter a situation where a member of the community association you manage complains about a maintenance or other type of worker who is left alone with the member. But what if it isn’t clear exactly what the employee may have done wrong? Sometimes, an interaction might be described in general terms as “creepy” or as having made the member feel “scared.” But if the member didn’t say anything specific that the worker did that was inappropriate and you’ve never had any complaints before, you should tread lightly.
There are some common fair housing problems that can arise from community rules. But you can avoid them if you understand where you might go wrong. In general, community rules trigger fair housing problems in one of two ways—either the rules are enforced unfairly or the rules themselves are unfair.
It’s smart for associations to have a continuing maintenance and repair contract with an elevator contractor. Elevator issues can turn deadly so experts in that field are invaluable, and can help you avoid liability for you and your staff. But don’t let your staff do any work on your community’s elevators, except for routine cleaning and light bulb replacement.
Although board member positions are voluntary, many members take them seriously—and personally. That could create controversy. That’s because, sometimes, to comply with the law, association boards must be restructured; if you find yourself in the position of having to deliver the news and help with the restructure, you could be faced with accusations by board members that you’re improperly trying to oust them for your own motives.
Internet access is now a must-have for most people, including the members in your community. But as ubiquitous as the Internet is these days, some communities still require members to arrange for and pay for Internet access in their own units. If your association has decided that it wants to provide wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi) to the entire community, you’ll have to find a way to pay for it, most likely by adding the cost to the monthly assessment.
If a member comes to the management office requesting an accessible parking space because he’s disabled, and you see no obvious signs of disability, like use of a mobility device, you might have to ask for the appropriate documentation to support the request, such as a government-issued license plate. But beware of members who ask for more than they need—for example, a member who asks you to reserve an entire section of the parking lot for his exclusive use, rather than one spot.
If your community includes mixed-use space, your association may be afraid that members will have to battle customers who are visiting retail stores or entertainment venues for parking spaces. But worse than that is the increased risk of crimes happening at the community if nonmembers have access to parking lots or garages. This can be commonplace if a member regularly rents out his space, creating a steady stream of strangers using that spot. To prevent unwanted visitors’ access to the community, many associations restrict the use of parking spaces to members only.
When enforcing your community association’s house rules, you’ve probably heard members claim they weren’t aware that they were in violation because they never received a copy of the house rules in the first place. This could lead to a sticky situation if a member’s violation has damaged common areas or other members’ units, but the member claims that he’s not liable because, without a copy of the house rules, he had no way of knowing that his behavior was prohibited.
Common area renovation projects can be a nuisance to members. And while most members are usually supportive and tolerant of those projects because they realize they help to make the community a better place to live, not everyone feels that way. Frustration can crop up if members find that they have to unexpectedly put up with noise and construction, especially if it’s near their units.