Time Saving Tips

by Andrea Drennen, CMCA | Find me on: LinkedIn

If you look at the needs of the typical community association manager, one thing stands out. CAM Managers need more time. Here are a couple of time saving tips and efficiency tricks that add up to real time you can use every day.

Email

  • Copy common responses you write to signature blocks in your mail program. Then you can simply drop in a beautifully written reply without having to waste time rewriting it each time, or digging through old emails to copy and paste.
  • Don’t be afraid of Auto Reply in your email program. Use it when you need to go off-site, during busy season, when you’ll be in court, etc. People are very understanding of delays if they understand there is a reason for it.

Phone

  • Look into a Voice Mail to Email service for your office. This can be very helpful for the manager on the go.
  • Develop a hierarchy for who handles what issues. Instead of having homeowners call the manager directly, they should be directed to reception, who can route the call to accounting, or look up a quick piece of information.

Technology

  • Invest in web-based management tools that allow you to access your full community data from your smart phone, laptop, or tablet, no matter where you are. Having everything possible in electronic form puts all of the info you need at your fingertips at a moment’s notice.

Winterize Your Community

snowPosted by athomenet

The winter can be a lot of fun, but it can also cause a lot of damage to your home and community. It’s important that before the winter weather hits, you get your neighborhood ready for bad weather. Check out these four tips to winterize your community.

Tip #1: Get Ready for Snow

If your area gets snow during the winter, you’ll need to prepare the neighborhood. The association should partner with snow clearing companies before the snow hits, so there won’t be an issue if roads need to be cleared. It’s also a good idea to get some ice melt and encourage homeowners to do the same. That way, if there is a little ice, it can be treated without having to contact the snow clearing company, and everyone stays safe on the road.

Tip #2: Prepare for Rain

In other parts of the country, rain is common during winter, so if you expect a lot of rain, get ready for it. If you are part of a multi-family building, such as a condo, the association should hire someone to clean gutters, which will allow them to drain properly and prevent leaks. If the neighborhood is single-family detached units, urge homeowners to clean their gutters. The HOA can even contract with a professional who can clean everyone’s gutters at a reduced rate.

Tip #3: Ensure Everyone Will Stay Warm

The HOA should also ensure that common buildings or multi-family buildings will stay warm during the cold months. This means checking the furnaces and boilers to make sure they won’t break. Check the exterior for cracks or holes, including the roof, doors, windows and walls. Don’t forget to add insulation where needed, such as around windows and doors. If the homeowners live in detached dwellings, the responsibility falls on them to ensure their own homes stay warm, but you can help by educating them about what needs to be done. The HOA should also remind homeowners with wood-burning fireplaces to have theirs cleaned and checked before use.

Tip #4: Trim Branches

The colder weather can also bring about winter storms, which can be devastating for your community, especially if there are high winds. If there are damaged trees or weak branches within the community, have them removed before winter. Request that homeowners do the same. The board may even want to consider adding it as a requirement in the governing documents.

It’s up to the association to ensure winterization is completed on shared areas of the community, but it’s also important that homeowners are urged to follow these same steps to prevent damage or injury.

Advice for Tough Feedback Sessions

by Amy Jen Su

  • Remember the “why.”

Focus on all the good reasons you’re giving the feedback. Remind yourself and your employee by saying things like, “I need to share this with you because I want you to be successful here” or “I want to see you keep growing.”

  • Find your center and prepare.

Start by increasing your own self-awareness: How do you react when another person has an emotional reaction? Do you sugarcoat the feedback — trying to avoid a conflict — or get frustrated and fight back?

Don’t wing it. You’ll feel better prepared if you do your homework in advance and ground your assessments in observations, data, and concrete examples. Invest the time to be as thoughtful as possible

  • Handle reactions in the moment.

Sound preparation won’t stop the other person from reacting negatively, but it can help you to respond calmly and effectively when the emotions arise.

  • Move the conversation to a productive place.

The goal is to diffuse the emotional reaction so that you can productively give the feedback and, together, come up with ideas and actions to ensure the person’s success. This may mean having a second meeting, requesting that you regroup after the person has had time to calm down and collect themselves.

 

Reading The CC&Rs

(https://gogladly.com/blog/should-owners-really-read-the-ccrs/)

By Burke Nielsen

One of the most frustrating aspects of association management is the lack of interest by homeowners when it comes to knowing community rules and architectural standards. If you’re a manager or have ever been a board member you’ve probably heard someone in the industry say “Why don’t they read the CC&Rs?” — Heck, you’ve probably said it yourself. This phrase is usually said with a hint of arrogance in a condescending tone — After all, what kind of idiot wouldn’t read the documents pertaining to their most valuable asset?

Are We Asking Too Much?

Maybe we are expecting too much. After all, when was the last time you read the owner’s manual for your car, or the privacy policy for your Twitter or Facebook account. I’m betting there’s some important stuff in there and yet you’ll probably never read it.

Let’s face it, most homeowners aren’t going to read their CC&Rs and if they do… then what? Much of what they read is subject to interpretations and defining policies. Even community leaders find it challenging to agree on interpretations. You know what I’m talking about — The 2-hour board meeting discussing the nuance of a phrase in the governing document to decide if bed sheets are an acceptable window treatment.

If They Won’t Read Them… Then What?

The fact is, most homeowners rely on community leaders to keep them informed when it comes to the rules. Here are some steps you can take to help keep them in the loop and avoid misunderstandings.

  1. Communicate Well Communication is more than just sending out a monthly newsletter. Good communications means distributing information in a variety of ways and then providing resources where owners can contact someone who is friendly and helpful to answer their questions. When homeowners see the manager or board as a helpful resource you have done a good job communicating.
  2. Summarize Provide a summary of the rules that is clear and to the point. A summary is a great reference guide for homeowner to review common rules. If you can’t summarize a rule into a couple of sentences you may want to re-evaluate the rule or policy.
  3. Be Reasonable Being reasonable isn’t hard it just requires that you put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a minute. By being helpful and reasonable you will work to educate homeowners rather than frustrate them.
  4. Be Consistent When rules are not enforced consistently it becomes unclear to members what the rules really are. Consistent and fair enforcement will reduce rule violations over the long run and protect the association from targeting allegations.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that homeowners shouldn’t read the CC&Rs. In fact, homeowners who take the time to educate themselves on the rules are valuable, and they’re the ones that usually end up leading their community on boards and committees. But next time you find yourself frustrated that they don’t know or understand the rules — Maybe the question you should be asking is: “How can I inform homeowners better?”

Association Assessments and Credit Scores

From our colleague, Matthew Green at CAI:

As someone who hit the age of 18 prior to 2009 and the enactment of the Credit CARD Act, I can remember when I signed up for a half-dozen credit cards to supplement my student loans and to receive that ‘free’ logo t-shirt, knit cap, or whatever else that was being marketed as an incentive. I had no idea at the time of the implications of my actions and the importance of my credit score. Fortunately for me time and money healed those wounds, and now that I learned the hard way the lesson is now all too clear: your credit history and score are important.

But what should be reported to the credit bureaus? While I wish my college spending habits were not, I do admit it my score then reflected my borrowing ability for larger purchases. What about the history of our ability to pay our association’s common area fees and assessments?

Sperlonga Data & Analytics, a data aggregation business for non-standard credit data sources, has begun offering a service to report payment of assessments to Equifax Inc. According to its press release, Matt Martin, Sperlonga’s chairman and founder, said “The vast majority of property owners who live in an association have been paying their assessment payments on time for many years and now our service will begin to help reward them with positive monthly reporting to their credit profile with Equifax.”

Associations will need to sign up to for the service. Sperlonga will then use automated technology to pull assessment payment data from property management companies’ accounting software, creating a record and reporting it monthly to Equifax.

Sperlonga’s website calls it a win-win for the associations, management companies, and property owners. Sperlonga suggests its service could improve association cash flow, help lower delinquency rates and reduce or eliminate increases in assessments due to high delinquencies. It may provide the positive reporting incentive to owners who timely pay their assessments and may discourage owners from paying late by reporting delinquencies.

For those who may be obsessed with increasing their credit score or who are looking to just increase their score to secure a loan for another large purchase without having a hard inquiry and issued a new credit card, having our assessment payment history listed as an obligation on our credit reports is beneficial. However, is in the best interest of our associations?

Patrick Brady and Mark Einhorn, partners in Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, P.C., the largest New England law firm specializing in condominium law, say it may not be, and associations who sign up for the service may be taking significant, unwanted and unnecessary liability risks.

In response to the press release, Brady and Einhorn write associations would be vulnerable to lawsuits under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) if they submit erroneous information about owners, and they would have to comply with applicable provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Further, associations may have to worry about discrimination complaints if they are not consistent in the way they report delinquent payments.

So while this service is new and its risks and rewards yet to be seen, will you be advocating for your association board to sign up for the credit reporting service? Should you be rewarded for paying your assessments on time knowing that your delinquent neighbors are being penalized?

LinkedIn for CMCAs

Are you part of our LinkedIn group?  Why not?!

To join the CMCA group on LinkedIn, you must first log in to your LinkedIn account. Then visit the group’s page at https://www.linkedin.com/groups/97333 and click the “Ask to Join” button. Your request will be reviewed within 24 hours and you will then receive a notification regarding the status of your request. 

Join the conversation!linked-in

 

Keep Properties Safe from Electrical Fires

By Bill Grande, Senior Director of Safety, Leviton Manufacturing Co., Inc.

It’s officially Fire Prevention Week (October 9 – 15, 2016), a regularly recognized campaign organized by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to stress the importance of fire safety and preventative measures for home owners. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is actually the longest running public health and sanationalfirepreventionweek_logofety observance on record. With this in mind, the NFPA and various organizations across the country continue to leverage this week as a way to raise awareness around fire prevention, especially heading into the winter months when the US tends to see an increase in residential fires.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) September 2015 Structure Fires Report, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 357,000 home fires per year between 2009-2013, causing 2,470 deaths and $6.9 billion in damage. The U.S. Fire Administration website reports that home electrical fires account for 51,000 fires each year, resulting in nearly 500 deaths, over 1,400 injuries and 1.3 billion in property damage.

Heating and cooking equipment are the primary causes of accidental home fires, while electrical systems are the third leading cause. Too often we take our commonly used applications for granted, and don’t realize some of the hidden dangers and technicalities associated with electrical outlets and distribution systems throughout our homes. Here are a few of the hidden dangers and quick tips to make sure you and your family stay safe going into the winter months and all year long:

Regularly check your outlets, cords and fuses. Although there are several ways to recognize potential risks of an electrical fire, most homeowners are not aware of the signs or what to look for. For example, it is important to keep an eye out for discolored or warm outlets, which are signs of an electrical failure or malfunction that could lead to a potential electrical fire.

Other signs of potential electrical issues include flickering lights, regularly blown fuses and/or a constant smell of a burning or rubbery odor from appliances. It’s also important to remember to use extension cords for temporary needs only, never run cords under rugs or pinched beneath furniture and do not overload electrical outlets with multiple devices.

That said, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) an estimated 50% of electrical fires that occur every year can be prevented with the installation of Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs). AFCIs, like Leviton’s SmartlockPro® AFCI Outlet, detect a wide range of arc faults. An arc fault creates a discharge of electricity between conductors that can translate into heat, potentially triggering an electrical fire. An AFCI outlet can detect an arc fault and will shut off power to help prevent ignition of a fire. Still, it’s important to think ahead and be prepared with the right preventative measures, as well. In the case that a fire should occur, equipment such as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are important to have on-hand to help prevent further damage or injury.

With electrical systems powering every aspect of our lives – to the point that we often overlook their hazards – it is critical to be mindful of the preventative measures and hidden dangers that are so pervasive around us. This week, take the time to let members of your community association know the preventative measures they can take to protect their facilities and homes from fires while also reminding friends and families of the importance of fire safety.

For more information about fire safety and prevention, please visit www.Leviton.com/HomeSafety.

Hidden Dangers and Quick Tips to Keep Properties Safe from Electrical Fires

By Bill Grande, Senior Director of Safety, Leviton Manufacturing Co., Inc.

It’s officially Fire Prevention Week (October 9 – 15, 2016), a regularly recognized campaign organized by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to stress the importance of fire safety and preventative measures for home owners. According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is actually the longest running public health and safety observance on record. With this in mind, the NFPA and various organizations across the country continue to leverage this week as a way to raise awareness around fire prevention, especially heading into the winter months when the US tends to see an increase in residential fires.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) September 2015 Structure Fires Report, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 357,000 home fires per year between 2009-2013, causing 2,470 deaths and $6.9 billion in damage. The U.S. Fire Administration website reports that home electrical fires account for 51,000 fires each year, resulting in nearly 500 deaths, over 1,400 injuries and 1.3 billion in property damage.

Heating and cooking equipment are the primary causes of accidental home fires, while electrical systems are the third leading cause. Too often we take our commonly used applications for granted, and don’t realize some of the hidden dangers and technicalities associated with electrical outlets and distribution systems throughout our homes. Here are a few of the hidden dangers and quick tips to make sure you and your family stay safe going into the winter months and all year long:

Regularly check your outlets, cords and fuses. Although there are several ways to recognize potential risks of an electrical fire, most homeowners are not aware of the signs or what to look for. For example, it is important to keep an eye out for discolored or warm outlets, which are signs of an electrical failure or malfunction that could lead to a potential electrical fire.

Other signs of potential electrical issues include flickering lights, regularly blown fuses and/or a constant smell of a burning or rubbery odor from appliances. It’s also important to remember to use extension cords for temporary needs only, never run cords under rugs or pinched beneath furniture and do not overload electrical outlets with multiple devices.

That said, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) an estimated 50% of electrical fires that occur every year can be prevented with the installation of Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs). AFCIs, like Leviton’s SmartlockPro® AFCI Outlet, detect a wide range of arc faults. An arc fault creates a discharge of electricity between conductors that can translate into heat, potentially triggering an electrical fire. An AFCI outlet can detect an arc fault and will shut off power to help prevent ignition of a fire. Still, it’s important to think ahead and be prepared with the right preventative measures, as well. In the case that a fire should occur, equipment such as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are important to have on-hand to help prevent further damage or injury.

With electrical systems powering every aspect of our lives – to the point that we often overlook their hazards – it is critical to be mindful of the preventative measures and hidden dangers that are so pervasive around us. This week, take the time to let members of your community association know the preventative measures they can take to protect their facilities and homes from fires while also reminding friends and families of the importance of fire safety.

For more information about fire safety and prevention, please visit www.Leviton.com/HomeSafety.