Do’s & Don’ts

Don’t Remove Graffiti Before Taking Photographs of It

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.

Consider Four Options for Addressing Budgetary Shortfalls

If your association is facing a budget shortfall, you can suggest options for the board to consider. Although each association's specific circumstances are unique, using one or more of the following four options may close the gap:

  • Utilize the prior year's accumulated surplus. If such a surplus exists, then depending on the nature, magnitude, and timing of the expense, it may be appropriate to spend some or the entire surplus to resolve an outstanding obligation.

Spread Association Deposits Over $250K Across Several FDIC-Insured Institutions

On July 21, 2010, basic FDIC insurance coverage was permanently increased to $250,000 as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures the safety of checking and savings deposits in member banks. The standard maximum insurance amount of $100,000 had been temporarily raised through Dec. 31, 2013. That increase is now permanent.

Don’t Retaliate Against Employees Who Help Alleged Discrimination Victims

The Fair Housing Act's ban on retaliation applies not only to prospective members who claim to be victims of housing discrimination, but also to anyone who helps or encourages alleged discrimination victims to pursue their rights under fair housing law. Those provisions protect employees from adverse employment actions—such as being fired, demoted, or harassed—for opposing discriminatory practices or advising aggrieved residents to contact fair housing agencies.

Pass Leasing Restrictions Bylaw for Legitimate, Nondiscriminatory Reasons

If your association is considering amending or passing a lease restriction bylaw, be sure that there's no possible discriminatory reason for the passage of the bylaw. A valid reason can include concerns about property values, since members tend to take better care of their units and common areas than renters do, or because lenders are sometimes reluctant to offer mortgages to new buyers buying into a community with a high rental rate.

Require Contractors, Maintenance Staff to Follow New Lead Paint Rule

New Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules are set to take effect in April 2010. If you manage a condo building that was built before 1978 and has not been certified as lead-free, you should be aware of the new rules.

Survey Members, Investigate Options Before Acting on Secondhand Smoke Complaints

Many condo associations face an increased number of complaints from nonsmokers about their smoking neighbors and are being asked to take action. Oftentimes, associations are put in the awkward position of resolving the conflict between smoking and nonsmoking members. The emotions involved are heightened due to the fact that smokers believe that they have a right to smoke in their own homes, while nonsmokers believe that they have a right not to be exposed to harmful secondhand smoke.

Review Terms of Insurance Policies after Purchasing Them

Be sure to review the terms of your association's insurance policies after purchasing them. Somewhere in the purchasing process, an agent may have entered a wrong number, and your association may be getting less coverage than it expected.

This happened in a recent case in which a member suffered substantial water and mold damage to her condominium as a result of Hurricane Katrina. After the hurricane, the member notified the association and made claims under the applicable policies for damages sustained to her unit. These claims were either denied or only partially paid.

Share Space Heater Safety Tips with Members

The cold weather has arrived in many parts of the country, bringing with it the increased threat of fires due to the improper use of electric space heaters. According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters account for one-third (32 percent) of home-heating fires and three-fourths (73 percent) of home-heating fire deaths.

Don’t Debit Different Amount from Member’s Account Without Advance Notice

If a member pays his regular association assessments using automated electronic payments, don't transfer additional fees from his bank account without giving the member advance notice. Overstepping your bounds on automatic payments violates the Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act (FCRA).