Featured Articles

How to Make Special Assessment Collection Easier

Although your community association's governing documents almost certainly provide for the possibility of special assessments—an extra one-time payment owners must make for a specific purpose, such as roof repairs—owners tend to forget about this and often are surprised, and upset, when their monthly payment isn't the same. Owners who haven't put aside funds to pay for their share of an improvement to the community could get into financial trouble if they have to pay more than they've budgeted for their monthly payments.

Avoid Liability When Using Self-Help Remedy for Maintenance Violation

In last month's feature, “Take Action When Member Shirks Maintenance Obligations,” we gave you two model letters to use at the first sign of a member's violation of maintenance rules. But sometimes polite and firm follow-up letters and even fines or other penalties authorized by your governing documents don't spur a member to resolve the problem.

How to Implement a Smoking Ban in Your Community

Smoking not only poses dangers such as fire and health risks to a community, it also annoys nonsmoking members and their guests, resulting in more complaints that you have to address. Cigarettes or cigars that haven't been completely extinguished can spark flames. And secondhand tobacco smoke—Environmental Tobacco Smoke or ETS—has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a “Group A” carcinogen, a known cause of cancer.

Control Members’ Access to Association Records

Community members may want to inspect the records of their association for a variety of reasons, some legitimate and some improper. It may be hard to tell whether a member wants access to records for a harmless reason, to harass the association, to gather confidential information to which the member isn't entitled, or for information that will support his case if he's planning to sue the association. This makes it difficult to know when to grant and when to deny requests when they're made.

Set Proper Internal Controls to Safeguard Income and Disbursements

With a constant flow of money coming in and going out, some community associations take shortcuts with their cash management procedures. For example, they might have the same person who prepares the checks also doing the books. But without effective internal controls, you won't know if someone is embezzling from the association.

Effective controls and standard procedures for income and disbursements—that is, payments to vendors, employees, and others—are essential to the sound management of any business, including community associations.

Clearly Define Rights and Terms in “View Protection” Bylaw

If the community you manage is located in a scenic area, like near a beach or lake, or in a city with a famous skyline like New York, Boston, or Seattle, the view that owners enjoy from their units might be very important to them. Owners often buy their particular units because of the views and are dismayed if they're obscured by structures or foliage added later. Owners who have paid for a specific view that they can no longer enjoy or that previously made their unit more valuable and unique than others, making resale easier, could sue the association.

How to Allocate Budgetary Surpluses

The financial health of a community association is one of the most important things that an association manager must constantly monitor. Without enough funds, the association's board of directors may struggle to cover costs, and may eventually have to increase assessments. Since the downturn in the economy, many associations have felt the stress of budgetary shortfalls. But as the economy improves, some are getting a pleasant surprise: They have a budgetary surplus, rather than a shortfall.

How to Prevent and Control Bedbug Infestations

In the past few years, we have seen an incredible rise in bedbug infestations in all 50 states. In a 2010 survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association, 95 percent of responding pest-control professionals reported treating bedbugs during the previous year. In 2000, the number was 25 percent.

Resolve Internal Conflicts with Alternative Dispute Resolution

From time to time, there will be conflicts within your community. When there's a dispute between or among members, or between members and the association or its directors, the board will have to determine the best strategy for a resolution.

How to Minimize Liability Risks Associated with Social Media

Social networking is growing at an exponential rate. According to a report by technology and market research firm Forrester Research, 55.6 million U.S. adults visited social networking sites in 2009, double the number of users reported in 2007. As more adults become engaged with social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, property management companies and associations are increasing their presence in an effort to be where their members are. These communities are discovering that Facebook, in particular, is especially adept at conveying information and building community.