Do’s & Don’ts
As more military personnel are being called to active duty, you may find that service members in your community are falling into financial hardship from decreased income, and they may be having difficulty receiving notification of pending litigation against them. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects these persons called to active duty from debt collections, foreclosure, and eviction.
Some associations have tried to perform a reserve study using their members to save money. Not only may the members lack the engineering experience to accurately evaluate the property, but their judgment may not be objective. They may be reluctant to apply accurate assessments of the costs that must be set aside to perform long-term repairs, because members “know where they live.”
Federal agencies recently released a new set of criteria to help members and inspectors determine whether recent renovations or construction definitively has defective drywall. During the housing boom, it is estimated that more than 500 million pounds of possibly defective Chinese drywall was used throughout the country.
If anyone reports a slip-and-fall injury at your community, take pictures of the hazard on which the person claims to have slipped. Do it right away—as soon as you hear about the incident—just in case the person sues you later. Photographs may help you prove in court that there was no hazard or that it was not as bad as claimed. And even if no one exaggerated or lied, you can show the pictures to your attorney, who can advise you on whether to settle the case.
Include in your employee handbook a ban against violent behavior by employees, to head off problems and put your employees on notice that this behavior won't be tolerated and that there will be serious consequences. Tell employees what's unacceptable, and draw a clear line that they may not cross without being fired. Include horseplay as part of prohibited conduct; it's employees' most common defense for unacceptable behavior.
Sometimes members in a community that has a ban on barbecue grilling on patios and balconies don't take this ban seriously, especially during the summer months. To combat this, write a rule that effectively bans grilling.
A rule stating “Grilling on balconies is against the fire ordinance” is not enough. A thorough rule should:
Cover not only “grilling,” but also the use of any type of outdoor cooking device;
Ban members from using this equipment anywhere—in the unit, on patios, balconies, and terraces; and
If your community's spring cleaning plans include painting, don't agree to a “time and materials” paint job, where the contractor charges you at the end of the job for all the time it spent on the job and the materials it bought to do the job. With time and materials jobs, you run the risk of having an inflated bill. There are too many variables involved in a painting job that can add to the cost in that type of agreement.
Community association management offices commonly use email as their main communication tool. Because of that, your employees may need to frequently send and receive emails in order to do their jobs. However, personal or inappropriate emails that come from your management company or association's email system could, at the very least, reflect poorly on your ability to manage your staff and also on the community, and at the worst, make you or the association liable if the emails cause any damage.
Before you remove or cover up graffiti at your community, take color photographs of it, suggests property owner and manager Kevin M. Fogel. Your first instinct will naturally be to remove graffiti immediately so that it doesn't send the message that your community is in decline or give the vandals the recognition they want, he says. But graffiti is a crime, he adds. And the police can use color photographs of graffiti to identify, track, and prosecute the graffiti artists responsible, he explains.
To eliminate potential hiding spots for criminals on community property and reduce the potential for crime, consider assessing and possibly changing your community's landscaping. Doing so could also help reduce your liability for any crimes that do occur, says attorney and security expert Norman Bates. That's because, if a crime occurs, the victim may sue you for negligence, claiming that you didn't take reasonable steps to prevent the crime.