Q: The maintenance staff for the community I manage handles nearly every aspect of taking care of the property including landscaping, ensuring there’s tight security, and even cleaning the pool. Recently, one of the elevators has been working improperly. Should I allow staff members to work on such a technical piece of equipment?
From time to time, a homeowner in the community you manage will want to install—or will install without permission—some item that isn’t allowable under the association’s declaration of restrictions. While this seems cut and dried because governing documents set out what can and can’t be done, it’s possible that things can get more complicated if other homeowners have been allowed leeway in the past.
Although it sometimes seems like an on-site association manager is part of the community because she’s on the property continually, this is a job and, at some point, the manager or the management company will inevitably leave. The question that concerns owners and the board of directors at that point is whether the transition to a new manager and company will be smooth and productive.
A homeowners association in Las Vegas is facing not just a staggering jury verdict in favor of the family of a teenager who was injured by playground equipment in the community, but also questions from confused members, some of whom feel misled.
In 2015, a swing set crossbar in the community’s common area fell on the 15-year-old boy’s head, causing permanent brain damage that will worsen over time. Court records show the association did not have a maintenance and inspection plan on their playground equipment.
Q: A homeowner in the community I manage is suing the association. We’re concerned not only about the cost of litigation, but also that we might be on the hook for the homeowner’s attorney’s fees, not just our own. If the homeowner loses the case, what is the likelihood that we’ll have to pay for his costs, too?
If your association is looking for new and creative ways to generate more revenue, can it lease underappreciated common area space to a commercial tenant as a way to add convenience to your members and income for your association? With the rise of mixed-use spaces, the convenience—and financial benefit—of having a popular bakery or a national bank locked in for a 10-year, income-generating lease may seem like an attractive option for a common area that’s going largely unused in your community.
While it saves a lot of hassle—and potentially litigation—when association guidelines are detailed, occasionally you’ll come across a member with a request to install an item that hasn’t been addressed. But does that mean that it’s permissible for an owner to do anything that isn’t mentioned?
As a community association manager, a large part of your time can be taken up with questions from directors and members that require a response. While you might want to provide as much helpful information as you can, be aware that this area can be fraught with risk for you and your management company.
Avoiding the Practice of Law
Occasionally, a homeowner will ask to review association records. This can be a tricky issue if you don’t know exactly how to handle this request and what you can and can’t show to a member. A recent court case highlighted the specific issue of associations withholding records based on “protected” status.
A California homeowners association is requiring members to keep their garage doors open most of the day on weekdays. The new rule is in response to the association learning that so-called squatters—people living in a home illegally—were inhabiting the garage of at least one home in the area.
While squatting can present its own problems for an association, members are complaining that the move is putting them at risk in a different way: Security is compromised.