Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Community Association's Four Stages of Life

          Community associations, like people, evolve during their lifetimes. Some of it is good and some is bad, but  change is inevitable as projects, and people, age. Whether that evolution leads to a long and healthy life, or an early demise depends a great deal on the decisions made early and the ability to recognize signs of decay--both physical and political. To assist, we have outlined what we consider to be the various "stages" that an association will pass through eventually. You will note that we are not just talking about physical manifestations, but political and economic ones as well, for they each play a role in the long-term health of the project. Read about them and see which apply to your association or your client's associations. Like anything harmful, recognizing the symptoms can help with a cure.
The First Stage
A brand new project enters the first stage. The duration of that stage depends on many of the factors outlined above. Generally, during the first stage, the regular assessments will appear to cover all projected maintenance and repair costs without resort to special assessments or outside sources, and with only modest annual increases. Non-owner occupancy is at the lowest percentage it will ever be, usually 10 percent or less. Board members and professional managers are easy to find, the political climate is benign and the members are generally supportive of the board. The project looks and feels new and exciting. The membership's attitude reflects these qualities. Re-sales are brisk and values stay high with modest appreciation reflecting general market trends.
The Second Stage

Disaster!


       Hurricane Sandy attacks the East Coast of the United States. We have  seen horrific earthquake disasters in New Zealand and Japan. There has been widespread loss of life and destruction of infrastructure and buildings. California has a history of devastating earthquakes as well—the San Francisco, San Fernando, Northridge, and Loma Prieta earthquakes, among others. Heavy rains have created landslides, mudslides and shoreline erosion all over California, damaging homes and property, some of it in community associations. Wildfires in the past decade have destroyed hundreds of homes. Rising sea levels are threatening to flood low-lying developments, including many common interest developments. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Property Manager's Guide to ReConstruction Projects


      Every manager of multifamily projects will encounter a large re-construction project several times in his or her career. These may be planned projects or the result of an emergency. Planned projects include those that are routinely projected by building inspectors, architects, and other building professionals—re-painting; new roof coverings; re-paving of parking lots and streets. Emergencies usually involve previously unknown problems discovered in a forensic investigation or as the consequences of age.

       As residential housing gets older, construction projects become more complex and difficult. This complexity often results from those unplanned and unexpected discoveries. Age brings deterioration of components that years before would not have been considered at risk. A routine roof project, for example, may only require replacement of the roof covering when the project is say, 15 years old. But in an older project, where moisture has had years to accumulate in concealed wood components, not only the covering, but also the wood substrate may have to be replaced. The same is true with other components largely built of wood—balconies, staircases, entry decks, and framing under siding and stucco. These components may actually leak, but not enough to alert the occupants. Instead the moisture remains in the wood or in wall cavities and supports gradual decay over time. These issues add to the challenge of preparing an adequate scope of work because a good portion of the damage is concealed.

          As projects become more difficult, property managers find that they are responsible for a wider range of tasks--not only obtaining bids to do the work, but also for determining what experts to retain to investigate and determine the scope of that work; deciding who manages the contract; negotiation over the terms; and finding the funds to pay the contractor. This guide is intended to offer community and apartment managers assistance in managing a complex construction project including recommending and retaining appropriate professionals to determine the scope of work; construction contract and bid package essentials; administering the project; and handling disputes.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hate Rules Enforcement by your Community Association?

 Get your Neighbors to Vote it out!



Read any pundit’s blog about homeowner associations and you will see a recurring theme: boards of directors over-zealously enforce the rules. True or not, I’m calling the pundits’ bluff: If you don’t like rules enforcement by your homeowner’s association then round up your neighbors and vote it out. I don’t mean dissolve the association entirely, just limit its authority to enforce certain rules and leave that enforcement to the individual owners who care the most. This has two benefits: it leaves certain disputes between individual owners to be resolved just by those owners; and it relieves the board of directors and the association from having to act as a cop.