Do’s & Don’ts
If you have a continuing maintenance and repair contract with your elevator contractor, don’t let your staff do any work on your community’s elevators, except for routine cleaning and light bulb replacement. At most, when your staff members learn of an elevator problem, they should shut it down and call the contractor immediately. If an elevator malfunctions because of something the contractor did or didn’t do, you’ll probably be protected by your standard elevator contractor’s indemnification clause.
If a member sends an assessment check on which the number written in digits in the small box on the right side of the check is correct, but the amount written on the line is incorrect, return the check to the member. Otherwise, the bank will pay the check in the incorrect amount that’s written on the line. For example, if the monthly assessment is $222, and the member accidentally writes “Twenty-two dollars” on the line, the bank will pay you $22.
Group “re-lamping”—that is, replacing the bulbs, or “lamps,” in a certain area, such as common areas, according to a set schedule—is more efficient and less expensive than replacing them separately as they burn out. That’s because group re-lamping saves labor costs and improves lighting for members. Most managers replace bulbs as they burn out, but this approach wastes employees’ time. Every time a bulb burns out on your property, your maintenance staff must fill out a work order and replace the bulb.
If you’re tired of sending multiple notices and fines to members who have violated parking rules, you may have considered booting illegally parked cars. Be aware that booting has its drawbacks. Members or renters whose cars get booted may sue the association, claiming that it doesn’t have the legal right to take that action. To avoid this, include a clause in the association’s parking contracts with members and renters that provide the explicit authority to boot cars that are parking in violation of your community’s parking rules.
When the weather is snowy or icy, don’t send an employee up to the roof to clear gutters, inspect for leaks, or remove snow. The employee could injure himself. By winter, it’s too late to do your inspections and gutter clearing, but you’ll still need to remove any snow that accumulates. To do this, have employees stay on the ground and use a telescopic extension pole to eliminate the buildup.
When you clean up snow and ice, be sure to remove all of it and not take halfway measures—like only throwing down salt, which can leave common areas slippery. After the cleanup, designate an employee to check the sidewalks, steps, driveway, and parking lots to make sure they’re clear. Pay particular attention to steps because this is the place where members are most likely to injure themselves. If a member falls on leftover ice, you could end up being sued.
If your community allows only certain kinds of pets, write a bylaw that states which types of animals are welcome, and say that “all other types” of animals are forbidden. If you try to specify the animals that aren’t allowed, you’re bound to leave something out. Worse, if you allow pets and think that means you don’t have to write a pet bylaw at all, you could be in a for a big surprise. Let’s say you have no pet policy and state law doesn’t prohibit people from owning exotic cats, like cougars.
Don’t overlook the requirements of your declaration and bylaws when you set your annual budget. If you do, you might not be able to enforce the assessments you charge your members. Example: Your association sues a member to collect unpaid assessments. The member says that the declaration requires the board to adopt the association’s budget and to give each member 14 days’ advance notice of the meeting at which the budget is going to be discussed.
It can be difficult for the person who actually receives members’ checks to know which are from delinquent members and must, therefore, be inspected more closely. This is even more problematic for associations whose members send their payments directly to a lockbox. One way to resolve this is to flag the account. This means that the association makes a notation on delinquent members’ accounts that only checks for the full amount due should be cashed and that all other checks should be turned over to you.
If a hearing-impaired member in your community asks for a sign language interpreter to be present at a special meeting or at an annual meeting as a reasonable accommodation, be sure to provide one. Without a sign language interpreter, the disabled member may not be able to participate in any meaningful way at the meeting. As a result, your refusal to provide an interpreter could lead a hearing-impaired member to claim that you discriminated against him based on his disability.