In the News

Lakes can become liabilities if not maintained

The   prospect of a nice home situated on a lake in a suburban community is very   appealing to prospective buyers. In many communities, the lakes continue to   be an attractive feature as residents or homeowners associations diligently   maintain the shared amenity. In other neighborhoods, what once was an asset has   become an eyesore and a liability, for a variety of reasons. U.S.   Environmental Protection Agency regulations now require on-site retention of   stormwater, making the lakes more than just an amenity.  Cincinnati.com

Lawyer: Association reserves benefit community
Condo buyers should make sure the community association has reserve funds, lawyer Donna Berger writes. Although some homeowners are wary of a large sum of money in the hands of association board members, having the funds to cover unexpected costs not only can save a community in a challenging time, but it can make the community more appealing to potential buyers. Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)/Condos and HOAs blog

Seeking out and engaging new community association leaders

Perhaps you’re tired of seeing the same old faces sitting up at the front of the room at board and membership meetings. Maybe you own one of those faces and are tired of being up there, waiting for reinforcements to come in. We all recognize that an infusion of new energy, ideas and talent can stimulate any organization whether it’s a business, a sports team or even a community association. The real question is: How do you attract that new talent? Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)/Condos and HOAs blog

A Reporter Calls: Part 2

By Frank Rathbun

“No Comment”

I talk to reporters almost every day, and one thing is clear: Many of the most negative stories we see are generated by homeowners who have turned to the media for public redress of their personal grievances—valid or not. Reporters love David-and-Goliath stories that pit underdogs against an “all-powerful” community or condominium association. Like it or not, that’s our reality.

More often than not, the reporter is given what seems to be a distorted, one-sided perspective.  That’s bad enough, but here’s the disheartening part: All too often I’m told that the association won’t talk to the reporter—hiding behind the incriminating lament “No comment,” or simply not returning calls. Hiding is exactly how reporters see it, and that’s usually viewed as an admission of guilt, incompetence or worse.

Can some residents be unresponsive? Yes! Irresponsible? Absolutely!  So why give them added credence by taking the functional equivalent of the Fifth. If you’ve made sound decisions—if you’ve acted in good faith to meet your fiduciary responsibility to your residents—you should be able to support your actions with facts and perspective. HOA critics are more than happy to speak up, in some cases pushing the limits of credibility.

Faced with even the possibility of negative media coverage, you need to plan a thoughtful response. Talk to board members and solicit the advice of the professionals who support your association, such as managers, management companies, attorneys, accountants, reserve specialists, and so on. Convey the decision-making and business principles necessary to govern your community. Explain how your actions support the best interests of the community as a whole. Go into every interview with 3-5 clear and concise message points that will resonate with a lay audience, and don’t hesitate to repeat them

Yes, there are risks. You may be misquoted. Your statements may be taken out of context. And you’ll be lucky to get equal space or air time. But, more often than not, you’ll get something. Most importantly, you’ve tried. If nothing else, in the eyes of your residents and general public—not to mention public policy leaders—you were willing to stand behind your actions, your board and your community.

As Woody Allen once said, half of life is just showing up.

Frank Rathbun is Vice President of Communications and Marketing for Community Associations Institute.  He can be reached at FRathbun@caionline.org.