Do’s & Don’ts
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.
If there’s an elevator in your community, it’s important that your employees know the proper steps to take if it breaks down while passengers are in it. If the employees don’t take the proper steps and passengers get injured during the breakdown, the association could get sued.
Getting rid of bedbugs can be extremely difficult; they multiply quickly and can move easily from one location to another. Bedbug problems have been spreading in recent years, particularly in major cities like Boston and New York, sparking much concern among public health and housing officials. Bedbug issues were prominently featured on national and local news for many months at the height of outbreaks. It seems like the issue isn’t talked about as much anymore, but don’t be fooled into thinking that infestations have died down.
If you’re threatened with a lawsuit by a member who claims that her consumer protection rights under the federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) have been violated by you or your staff, your association's master policy carrier may consider settling the case rather than face the enormous burdens of time and costs required to defend a lawsuit—even if it’s frivolous.
If a member violates a rule, you might be tempted to deem him a “member not in good standing,” and use that status to deny him certain privileges in the hopes that he’ll rectify the situation. But in order to do this, the association’s rules must provide for using good standing as a basis for revoking privileges.
Take advantage of interior landscaping to do more than just improve the aesthetic of your community’s common areas. Interior landscaping improves indoor air quality (IAQ) and can even lower your energy costs. Plants filter air by absorbing pollutants and they produce oxygen—which is especially helpful in sealed, energy-efficient buildings that have less exchange of fresh outdoor air for stale indoor air. Plants also maintain an appropriate humidity level, keeping it lower than the level at which it can cause mold and bacteria to grow. You can realize cost savings benefits, too.
Don’t try to influence your association’s election by stating that if a certain person is elected, you or your management company will cancel its contract. While it’s not illegal to seek to influence association elections, generally it’s inappropriate for community association managers, whether they’re on-site employees or representatives of a management company, to try to sway an election.
Before sponsoring an athletic event like a basketball game at your community, read your liability policy to see if athletic events are covered and speak to your insurance broker also. Why? Insurers often exclude injuries resulting from athletic events from an association’s liability coverage, which could leave the community open to liability for any injuries that occur during the game. If athletic events aren’t covered, ask your broker if you can buy an “endorsement,” which adds the excluded risk to your coverage.