Which HOA Documents Take Precedence Over the Others?

What do you do if one of your HOA’s governing documents conflicts with another document or with your state or national rights? Do your board members and HOA manager know how to handle this situation if a homeowner or member notices a conflict in the writing?

As an HOA board member, while it’s important to review and understand all governing documents of your association, you’ll need to know how to filter through all of the information and know which document to follow if someone finds something that’s not consistent.

In case this does happen, use this hierarchy guide to help decide which rules come out on top.

1. Federal and State Laws and Statutes

Keep in mind these laws and statutes take precedence over your HOA’s governing documents. Examples would be the Americans with Disability Act and the Fair Housing Act.

2. Recorded Map, Plan, or Plat

A map or plat that was recorded with your association’s county before any lots were sold are next. They are there to establish maintenance responsibility and property location.

3. CC&Rs (Deed Restrictions)

Your deed restrictions are part of the owner’s document which details expectations and limitations for usage of land. These are the top priority in HOA documents, and are therefore the hardest to make amendments to.

4. Articles of Incorporation

When the HOA is legally created as a corporation, this document is filed with your association’s state.

5. HOA Bylaws

The purpose of your association’s bylaws are to establish guidelines on the association’s internal affairs. You’ll find member and board requirements and record keeping guidelines in this document.

6. Board Rules/Resolutions

HOA resolutions are policies that are formally enacted and adopted regarding areas like collections, common area regulations, and covenant enforcement. Rules can only be adopted by the board if they don’t conflict with the governing documents and after they’ve been reviewed by the association’s attorney.

Eight Golden Rules for Boards of Directors

This article originally appeared on Associaonline.com’s Living Better Blog.

By Mike Packard at Associa

Board members must interface with their membership, management team, association vendors and other members of the public pragmatically at all times. Following are my personal “Eight Golden Rules” to assist you with achieving that goal:

  1. Always be a straight shooter.People admire this trait in other human beings more than almost every other characteristic. Those who quibble or, at worst, lie about something are destined for failure. Effective and respected board members always practice this principle.
  2. Praise in public; criticize in private. Never publicly ridicule nor scold someone. “Someone” is any of the many, many people that you interface with as a board member. People who rebuke in public are neither respected nor admired. When I was an officer in the military, I never, ever witnessed someone being admonished publicly (except in “boot camp”!).
  3. Read, read, read.The world, and certainly the responsibilities of serving on a board of directors, require staying abreast of legal issues, state statutes, finance, insurance, risk management, etc. Unless you keep current on public events and issues, you will suffer in terms of lacking a better understanding of how to perform your job as a board member.
  4. Emulate the quality traits you see in others.To do so is “OK plagiarism”!
  5. What goes around really does come around. Treat others as you would like to be treated. An axiom for this is “never throw anyone under a bus as there will certainly be a bigger bus coming for you”. This rule complements rule # 1 but deserves its own place in the hierarchy of “golden practices”.
  6. Never get in a hissing contest with a snake.Those few people in your community who may want to pick a fight are not worthy of your energy and time. When confronted, turn the other cheek as you cannot nor will not win battles with those kinds of folks!
  7. Don’t put something where you don’t normally put it. If you violate this edict, men, it’s in the back seat of your car, and ladies, it’s in your purse. Life is too short to be looking for stuff when you should know where it is in the first place.
  8. Don’t borrow something of value from a friend or a team member. How many times have you violated this important universal rule and damaged or lost that item of value? Be honest! Too many times?

 

These tips will help you become a better person and, most importantly, a person of influence. Influential people are the most respected in any profession, and this is especially true for the profession of leading community associations as a board member.

 

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5 HOA Terms Every Board Member Needs to Know

Whether you just got elected to the community association board or you’ve served for years, you want to make a good impression. Knowing these common HOA terms will help you sound like you know what you’re doing while you get up to speed or serve as the refresher you need to keep growing as a community leader.

  1. Fiduciary Duty

The highest ethical and moral obligations and duty of good faith a person is charged with for fulfilling their responsibilities. The board of directors of a community association has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of the association.

This is a fancy sounding term that applies to the board of directors of a community association. It boils down to trust. The straightforward definition of “fiduciary” alone is stated as: involving trust, especially with regard to the relationship between a trustee and a beneficiary.

That definition is not very practical. In a nutshell, when you are a board member for a community, you need to act for the good of the community as a whole and not for yourself. You have a duty to make decisions for the benefit of all instead of just your home or your friend’s homes nearby.

I know of one board member in a condo association who was great friends with one of her neighbors, but that neighbor fell behind in their assessment payments. Even though it might’ve been tempting to look the other way, the board member joined the rest of the board in applying their community association’s written collections policy in this situation. This put the community first over the board member’s personal interest and ensured equal treatment of all homeowners.

 

  1. Governing Documents

The declaration, bylaws, operating rules, articles of incorporation or other documents which govern the operation of the association.

The governing documents, sometimes referred to as the CC&R’s (Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions) is where the HOA and the board get their authority. They will spell out exactly what you can and can’t do when governing the community.

Governing documents are arranged in a hierarchy of descending authority:

  • Plat map
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Declaration
  • Bylaws
  • Rules
  • Manuals/Policies

In general, the documents above the line cannot be changed by the board alone; it will be spelled out in the documents themselves how to do so. They will require a vote of the membership, usually an approval of 66 percent or more of the residents, to actually pass changes to these documents.

The documents below the line are more fluid and can clarify the property restrictions in the documents above them, but cannot contradict documents higher in the hierarchy. For instance, if the Declaration says rentals are allowed, the board cannot pass a Rule saying no rentals are allowed. You may, however, be able to set parameters around rentals or procedures to follow if the Declaration is vague. Always check with an attorney for your state’s specific laws when implementing Rules.

As a board member, you should actually read these documents and understand the hierarchy of them.

 

  1. Business Judgment Rule

Actions taken by directors of a community association in good faith, that are within the powers of the association, and that reflect a reasonable and honest exercise of judgment, are valid actions.

The business judgment rule is a presumption that in making a business decision, the directors of a corporation acted on an informed basis, in good faith and in the honest belief that the action taken was in the best interests of the corporation, in this case, a not-for-profit corporation or homeowners association.

Given that the directors cannot ensure success, the business judgment rule specifies that the court will not review the business decisions of directors who performed their duties (1) in good faith; (2) with the care that an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise under similar circumstances; and (3) in a manner the directors reasonably believe to be in the best interests of the corporation.

The business judgment rule along with directors and officers insurance will cover you as a board member for any decisions you make, even if they turn out to cause more problems than they solve for the community. However, the big caveat is that you must follow the spirit of the rule.

Did you act in good faith? In other words, did you deal with homeowners, vendors, and management in an honest and fair manner. Did you utilize care? In other words, did you read the board packet and understand the information in it prior to the meeting when making your decisions. Finally, did you act in the best interests of the community? This goes back to the fiduciary duty: acting in the best interest of the entire community and not in the interest of your friends, your neighbors or yourself.

 

  1. Insurance

A practice or arrangement by which a company or government agency provides a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness, or death in return for payment of a premium.

In light of the natural disasters in 2017, including multiple hurricanes on the east coast and wind and hail damage in the midwest, you’ll want to make sure you understand your community’s insurance policy.

You’ll want to know terms like “per building” versus “per occurrence” deductibles, and the answers the key questions: Is there a per building cap? Is there a percentage wind or hail deductible? Do you have or need flood insurance? Do you have a basic, broad, or special form property policy (sometimes referred to as “all risk” coverage or “named peril” coverage), and what does that even mean?

Just for the record, “special form policy” covers everything except what is specifically excluded within the policy. “Basic and broad form policies” only cover the perils that are specifically named in the policy and excludes everything else!

Invite your insurance agent to a board meeting or schedule a conference call to ensure you know and understand what kind of coverage your community has so you can effectively communicate that to your members and/or homeowners. Condominium and townhome owners will need to have a personal lines policy (HO-4, HO-5, HO-6, etc.) to cover their personal belongings, their personal liability, to cover a possible deductible assessment, and for any physical property not protected by the community’s property policy. It’s also wise to ensure your community’s insurance agent specializes in community association coverage and can readily explain the insurance needs of your community according to its governing documents (including any insurance-related amendments or resolutions).

As mentioned above, you’ll want to ensure you have a directors and officers policy that covers the association and its board of directors for both monetary and non-monetary claims. Some policies in the marketplace exclude coverage for non-monetary claims, so it’s especially vital for the board to review this policy closely since non-monetary claims make up roughly 60 percent of most association-related D&O claims.

You cannot expect a homeowner to understand the association’s insurance policies if you as a board member don’t understand them. That’s why it’s imperative that you partner with an experienced agent to ensure your association’s policies make sense, and that they address all of the community’s exposures to loss.

 

  1. Objectivity

The quality of being objective; not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased.

As a board member you are going to be making decisions for the community, and you’ll never be able to please everyone. Some owners will want more services and be willing to pay for those services; other owners will want to keep assessments as low as possible by any means possible; some owners will have purchased in the neighborhood because of the rules in place; others will want there to be absolutely no rules whatsoever.

You may have to make unpopular decisions such as raising the assessments to cover increasing costs for insurance, landscaping, or repairs and maintenance expenses as buildings get older. You’ll be selecting contractors, and sometimes they will do a poor job. Or, in trying to keep costs low you will choose fewer services and then owners will complain that they aren’t getting the service they “used to” receive. You are in charge of enforcing the Rules and Regulations and governing documents, making decisions on possibly fining owners that do not comply or enforcing them to remove that fence that is too tall. You just have to remember that all owners agreed to abide by the governing documents when they purchased in the community and apply the standards fairly and uniformly to everyone.

Don’t take it personally when someone acts inappropriately in response to you simply performing your duties as a board member. They are usually not mad at you but mad at the situation, and they may even apologize in the future.

Be prepared for these conflicting situations and act objectively knowing deep down you’re being a true community leader.

 

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How to Protect Your Home From Flooding and Other Disasters

In 2016, natural disasters accounted for $23.8 billion in covered losses in the United States. When a flood, storm, or other disaster unexpectedly shows up on your doorstep, it is already too late to take any protective measures. Although some damage cannot be prevented, there are some steps that you can take to reduce the harm to your home and protect your family in case of these events.

Flooding

In terms of sheer destruction and cost, flooding is one of the top natural disasters in the United States. Here is how to protect your home as much as possible:

  • Know your risk: Check flood maps to see if you are living in or near a flood-prone area.
  • Buy flood insurance.
  • Keep your most valuable belongings on a higher floor as well as any electronics.
  • Raise your home if possible, especially if you live in a modular or mobile home.
  • Elevate any appliances that you can to reduce potential damage to them. This mostly applies to appliances found in the basement including the washing machine, dryer, and furnace.
  • Install a sump pump. Make sure it has a backup that is powered by a battery in case of a power outage.
  • Seal any cracks in your home’s foundation and consider putting in a floor barrier. These waterproofing steps will help reduce the amount of water coming into the basement in the case of a flood.
  • Have a flood safety plan in place and learn your evacuation routes.

Keep in mind that there are many types of storms that can lead to flooding, but there are also other causes such as burst pipes, improperly sealed basements, and poor drainage systems.

Storms: Hail, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, and Lightning

Early summer marks the beginning of hurricane season, which can bring storms that affect people thousands of miles away from the actual hurricane path. There are threats from many of the natural phenomena that can occur with a storm. Lightning, hail, heavy rains, and howling winds can do major damage to a home either directly or indirectly by causing other objects to crash into or fall on top of the home.

 

Hail

  • Use sturdy roofing materials to help protect against hail damage.
  • Keep cars in your garage or somewhere undercover nearby if you know that a storm is coming.

Tornadoes and Hurricanes

  • Consider reinforcing your roof with clips that attach the roof more securely to your home’s framing.
  • Seal roof joints with a moisture barrier to help protect against water intrusion.
  • Make sure to regularly trim trees around your home. This will ensure that there are fewer weak branches that can break off and come through a window.
  • Check door hinges and locks to make sure they are in good condition.
  • Put important belongings and papers in a safe that is fireproof and waterproof.
  • Regularly clean your gutters, as you will need all drainage systems working properly in the case of heavy rains.
  • Immediate preparation for tornadoes and hurricanes includes boarding windows, closing shutters, and bringing in anything that could be launched by heavy winds.
  • It is important to evacuate if directed to do so by local emergency services.

 

Lightning

  • Lightning during a storm as well as heat lightning can cause significant damage to a home.
  • To protect your home, there is the option to install a lightning protection system, which attracts the lightning, harnesses it, and then directs it away from your home.
  • It is also important to install surge protectors or to unplug everything when there is a threat of lightning, as a strike as far as a few miles away can cause a power surge that will destroy electronics and other systems in your home.

Animal Disasters

Even in the city, there is the risk of animals causing damage to your home. Rodents such as rats can get into the walls of your home and chew through wires, leading to the potential for fires. They can also spread germs and illnesses, especially to people with weakened immune systems, the very young, and the very old. Raccoons are notoriously smart and incredibly strong; they will rip off window screens and even tear holes in the roof to gain access to your home.

  • Eliminate easy access points by trimming tree limbs that hang over the roof.
  • Cover gutters with a fine mesh screen. Rodents love to use these as their personal highway and may be using it to get inside. They also tend to form nests in gutters, which blocks rainfall and can lead to flooding issues and water damage. Clean out the gutters before covering, or you will be stuck with the smell of dead rodents for some time.
  • Cover your trashcans securely. Don’t count on a lid keeping the raccoons out.
  • Eliminate bird feeders on the porch or very near the side of your home because other animals may come to feed, see themselves in the window’s reflection, and become confused and cause damage.
  • Cover outside food and bring in food dishes so that you do not end up with wild animals, including bears, on your property or even inside your home.

Natural disasters can be terrifying for anyone who experiences one. By taking steps now to help protect your home against potential damage, it can be one less thing on your mind while you focus on keeping your family safe.

Buying Vacant Land to Build a House — 6 Things to Do

Buying a finished home is a tricky process.

Building a house from the ground up isn’t any easier. Finding land for sale is the easy part — the real work happens as you move to turn your vision into reality.

The payoff is well worth the effort, though. If you’re truly committed to building a home of your own, you’ll want to do these six things in order.

1. Set Out Your Vision for the Parcel

First, set out a cohesive and comprehensive vision for the parcel. Early on, this vision will consist of broad strokes: placement of the main house and outbuildings, driveways and other rights of way, infrastructure improvements, and any special features you’d like to include.

Eventually, you’ll need to create a schematic that can pass muster with local zoning authorities. If you’re not up to the task, consider hiring a site planner.

2. Have Cash on Hand

Lenders are generally reticent to underwrite vacant land purchases. If you are able to secure a loan, it’s unlikely to cover more than 50% of the transaction. Shore up your cash position accordingly.

3. Get to Know the Property

Before you build, you need to be intimately familiar with the property: grading, timber coverage, wetland areas, existing rights of way or easements, neighboring uses. Consider conducting a proper land survey. The more you know upfront, the less likely you are to encounter serious issues during build-out.

4. Understand Local Codes

Understand your obligations under local zoning and building codes. These regulations vary widely by jurisdiction, so it’s important to check directly with local sources for up-to-date information. You’ll also need to understand for what, if anything, you’ll need to pull building permits and when, if ever, you’ll be required to file site plans or schematics with the proper authorities. Since this information could significantly affect your building plans, it’s important to ascertain it as soon as possible.

5. Feel Out Your Neighbors

Before you build, get to know your neighbors, or at least learn as much as is publicly available about the parcels adjoining your land. As long as your building plans comply with local zoning and building codes, your neighbors have limited recourse — but making the effort to reach out and explain your position nevertheless engenders good will.

6. Put Your Financial Plan in Motion

You’ll most likely need to finance the initial purchase of your vacant plot out of your own funds. Once that’s done, you’ll find it much easier to secure a loan to finance your lot’s build-out. Before you begin applying for loans, tally up your expected construction costs and research values for comparable homes in the area. You’ll need to make a convincing case.

A Home of Your Own

There’s no place like home.

That’s doubly true when “home” is a place you’ve helped create. If you’re prepared for the unexpected, building your own house is a rewarding, life-changing experience — one that will pay dividends for years to come.

 

Interior Designs to Add Life with Your Plain Painted Condo

Many people are buying furnished condo units to save them from the renovation work. They just need to add essential furniture and personal items and they’re done. However, there are some who prefer a bare home, which is like a canvas where everything starts from scratch. An unfurnished condo unit will require more work and money than a furnished one, but it gives homeowners the liberty to apply condo design ideas that suit their taste and purpose.

Designing a condo unit doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. With simple touches, you can turn a bare space into a stunning home. Here are 8 design tips you should try.

Creative photographs as design pieces

Photo courtesy of designlovefest via Pinterest

(download from here)

 

Adding life to your interior design can be the easiest thing to do. A plain wall can be the perfect backdrop for creative photographs. Images printed in large sizes are gorgeous design pieces for your living room or bedroom. Black-and-white photos are perfect for a minimalist condo design. Instead of boring holes on your condo walls, you can explore fun ways of displaying photographs such as hanging them vertically on twines.

Hang decorative cloths on your white walls

Photo courtesy of Camille Styles via Pinterest

(download from here)

 

How to give life to a boring condo unit? Play with colors, shapes and patterns. Hang decorative curtains or rugs on your bedroom walls. Luz, a 52-year-old businesswoman and serial traveler, scored lovely patterned cloths in a busy souk in Dubai. She draped the cloths drape across the white-painted walls in her bedroom.  The geometric patterns on the design pieces gave life to her dull life space.

Mix and match colors and forms

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(download from here)

 

Mix and match design techniques in your bare condo space. Andrea, a millennial bachelorette, recently bought her own place in the suburbs. She found her plain walls an opportunity to display her creative flair. White and other neutral colors serve as a backdrop for bold design elements. Post large photographs of beautiful landscapes, and furniture pieces in various colors and geometric forms. Splashes of greens will enhance the overall look of your condo space.

Give life to your room with treasured reads

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Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges once said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Make your condo home look livelier with a collection of good books. Install built-in shelves in your living room and stack your treasured reads. Some library owners arrange books by subject while others according to the color of book binds. A vintage sofa and patterned carpet will add warmth to your mini library.

Create a focal point in your condo home

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(download from here)

 

A focal point is essential in interior design. It takes the eyes away from the less attractive features from the room, influences the arrangement of furniture pieces, and re-energizes the space. How to create a central point in your plain condo home? It may already have a focal point such as windows overlooking a skyline or a fireplace. A stunning sofa in vibrant color or a beautiful artwork can serve as an effective focal point in your condo home.

Transform your home into an autumn-inspired space

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(download from here)

 

Patricia, a single mom and blogger, created a warm and welcoming family room with stylish carpets, rugs and throw pillows. You can play with patterns, colors and textures. Can’t think of color combinations to try in your plain condo unit? Explore Pantone’s Fall 2017 palettes. “While comforting, enveloping colors and ease are crucial to the seasonal feeling, standout shades include a pale pink Ballet Slipper, a refreshing Golden Lime, and a bright Marina blue. These hues add a striking touch when paired with the classic autumnal shades of Navy Peony, Neutral Gray, Butterum and Tawny Port,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

Add natural elements in your condo kitchen

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(download from here)

 

Studies show that incorporating natural elements into interior design has health benefits. “In my world of healthcare design the goal first and foremost is to reduce stress. So, to an audience of some 700 designers I said, ‘Imagine a stressful time in your recent past. If you could escape anywhere in the world to help reduce your anxiety, where would you go?’ After giving them a moment to reflect, I asked them to think about the elements of that environment, the features that contribute to their calm, their sense of well-being,” says Rosalyn Cama of design firm Cama, Inc.

How to give life to your boring condo kitchen? Install natural wood cabinetry or bi-fold doors perth that is both warm and contemporary. You can also add indoor plants including succulents and peace lilies. Indoor vertical gardens are trending these days. You can install one in your condo kitchen.

Create depth and character with stylish lighting fixture

Photo courtesy of FeedPuzzle via Pinterest

(download from here)

 

How to breathe life to your condo home? Try matching your condo paint with your lighting décor. Lighting can create focal points by accentuating a painting or a sculpture. It can rid a room of shadows and develop depth and space in condo homes. The fixture can add a stunning design element in a plain space. Lighting store Lowe’s gives a tip in choosing a fixture style: “Start with a favorite element in your room and look for a fixture that complements it. If you have a more modern sofa, look for lighting with clean lines to enhance your space.”

Designing a plain-painted condo is like creating an artwork on an empty canvas. It gives you the liberty to mix and match colors, textures and forms. Whether you want a modern industrial home or a countryside-inspired space, a plain condo can accommodate these for you.

Author Bio: Jeanette Anzon is the writer and editor for AdventureDweller.com. She mostly write about home improvements, home guides and designs, and real estate investments.

Asbestos: Hardly Gone, but Sometimes Forgotten

No home is perfect. Whether it’s an ugly kitchen, a drab bathroom or a living room that looks like a funeral parlor, adding your personal touch to every room of the house is an exciting and fun process. But while some projects only require a new coat of paint or a shiny new faucet, renovations and overhauls are a completely different story, and come with a unique set of challenges. One that doesn’t often get much attention but can pose a huge threat to your health and those around you is asbestos.

You don’t hear a lot about asbestos today because its use has dwindled over the past few decades due to its link to asbestosis and mesothelioma, diseases directly connected to exposure to asbestos fibers. As a result, the government has established several federal regulations through the Toxic Substances Control Act capping the amount of asbestos allowed in newly-manufactured products, banning its use in other applications (like sprays) and the introduction of safer (and cheaper) alternatives. Although asbestos is no longer used in new home construction, older houses built before the mid-1970s are still very likely to contain the mineral and could potentially pose a threat. Knowing where asbestos was used and how to avoid exposure to it could potentially save you from not only accidentally ingesting or inhaling the fibers, but from potentially developing an entirely preventable disease later on.

Years ago, you didn’t have to look too far to find areas where asbestos-containing materials were used during the construction process. Prior to federal regulations handed down in the mid-1970s, siding, cements, mortars, sealers, and popcorn ceilings all contained asbestos, along with other household items people often came into contact with, like ironing board covers, attic insulation and hair dryers. If something in your home was going to be subjected to long periods of high heat, then there was a chance asbestos was included. Today, federal regulations explicitly state that manufactured products cannot contain more than one percent of the toxic carcinogen.

Homes suspected of containing asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) should be looked at by a trained and licensed professional who can determine what actions you’ll need to take before any renovation work is done. In most cases, if the asbestos isn’t crumbly, broken or otherwise damaged and won’t be impacted during renovations, it’s generally considered safe. However, if there’s crumbling spots and pieces falling off, an abatement specialist will have to be called in to determine if the materials can be sealed (also known as encapsulated) or taken out entirely. It’s an expensive process, but by having the materials removed it will no longer pose a danger to people living in the home.

In addition to being a serious threat to health, asbestos could also heavily impact how people perceive your home and how much it might actually be worth when attempting to sell. According to a study recently published in the journal Applied Economics Letters, homes sold within one coastal Alabama region that contained asbestos were more likely to be sold for a lower price. The study suggested that the presence of ACMs lowered the selling price of the home by more than 13 percent, costing homeowners approximately $25,000 in depreciated home value.

With that said, don’t try to remove asbestos on your own. Abatement professionals take every precaution to make sure the asbestos is contained and ensure no one is placed in harm’s way. Without proper training, knowledge and the right equipment for the job, a DIYer with no experience could potentially expose themselves and everyone around them to asbestos. This inherently puts them at risk of developing a disease like mesothelioma or asbestosis down the line.
Renovations are supposed to be an opportunity to make something old feel new again. While a lot of work goes into these types of renovations, every precaution should be taken to make sure the work is being done safely and with the future in mind. And although we can certainly learn a lot about performing DIY work by watching a few YouTube videos, asbestos is nothing to mess around with and could pose serious health concerns if handled improperly. Do the right thing and have a qualified professional come in, assess the situation and determine what the appropriate course of action is going to be. You’ll be happier with the results, safer and your wallet might even thank you!

Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

The quality of the air around us can directly impact our health, even though we don’t always recognize it. The presence of various pollutants in the air we breathe are often invisible to the naked eye, which makes it difficult to be alert to any potential threats. The best way to ensure that you’re breathing the best air possible is to recognize potential sources of pollution and alleviate them. Below are some some things to be conscious of and ways to counteract them.

 

Be aware of the hazards present in buildings

Toxic materials were frequently used in construction projects before their health risks were fully understood, and these materials may still be present in older homes and buildings today. Both lead and asbestos are examples of toxins that were widely used in the home. The mineral asbestos was widely used because of its resistance to fire and high durability. It was included in a multitude of building products such as insulation, shingles, cement, and caulk, and can still be found in modern products. Lead was most often used in paint and pipes that are still part of our infrastructure today.

 

The risks associated with both lead and asbestos come into play when they are broken down into small particles that can be easily inhaled. Asbestos fibers, for example, can become airborne if materials containing asbestos are disturbed, like during a renovation or any construction. Once the fibers are inside the body, they can cause lung cancer, asbestosis, or mesothelioma. Though mesothelioma is rare with only about 3,000 new cases each year, it’s almost 100% preventable. It’s a rather aggressive cancer that often isn’t found until it’s developed into a later stage, and patients typically receive a poor prognosis, which makes prevention vital.

 

The health consequences of lead exposure are even more varied, and include stunted growth, hearing problems, premature birth, and reduced IQ. Lead is classified as a neurotoxin and is most dangerous for children, pregnant women, and seniors. Lead is often thought to mostly affect health when it’s ingested, like when lead on the water pipes in Flint, Michigan leached into the water supply. But, lead can be just as dangerous for our air quality. The most common example is when dried lead paint crumbles and turns into a dust that easily mixes into the air.

 

While it’s extremely important to remove these materials to protect your health, under no circumstances should you attempt to do so on your own. The health risks associated with exposure to these hazards are severe, which is why professionals with proper training are required to dispose of these materials safely.

 

In order to determine the potential risk of the presence of these toxins, you should consider the age of the building and any information you can find about how it was built and what materials were used. If you have reason to suspect that toxins might be present, limit access to any concerning areas of the home and schedule an inspection to determine if any action is needed to remove the risk.

 

Manage humidity and improve circulation

Excess moisture in the air and high temperatures can encourage the growth of mold. Mold commonly grows in basements and bathrooms, but can be found in any area without proper circulation. Black mold is a known health risk because it can release spores into the air that can impair the respiratory system. Once you discover mold, it’s important to remove it safely with methods such as covering your nose and mouth with a mask and wearing gloves.

 

Preventing future incidences of mold growth is essential to maintaining healthy indoor air, as well. Turning on a fan in the bathroom, especially while running the shower, can keep moisture from settling and potentially becoming moldy. Dehumidifiers can also remove moisture from the air, and can be used in specific rooms on an as needed basis.

 

Increasing ventilation can also help prevent instances of these toxins and improve air quality. This can be as simple as opening doors and windows to directly allow outside air into a building, or can be achieved through building renovations. Bringing in outdoor air can help dilute any pollutants present inside and is actually recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency. Of course, this is especially important for any short-term activities that release high levels of pollutants, namely painting, cooking, or construction related projects. However, if you’re concerned about toxins in the home, opening windows regularly could be a valuable practice. You must be aware of these instances especially if you have a family member in aged care melbourne.

 

Use plants to filter chemicals from the air

 

Introducing plants can be a great, simple way to reduce indoor air pollution! Several years ago, NASA conducted a Clean Air Study and found that plants are able to absorb and process particulates beyond just carbon dioxide. Some kinds of plants are even able to remove known carcinogens including benzene, formaldehyde, and volatile organic compounds. Some beneficial plants that grow well indoors are mums, spider plants, and boston ferns.

 

Though many of us immediately think of mechanical filtration systems to filter particulates from the air, they carry additional costs in terms of purchase price and electricity consumption. Using plants offers a more natural and affordable way to improve air quality, and even provides additional benefits of beautifying the building and elevating the moods of occupants.

 

For more information about the best types of plants for your space, click here.

 

The first step to improving our air quality is simple: pay attention to the spaces you inhabit! Noting potential sources of pollution at home and in the workplace and taking some of these steps to reduce them can potentially prevent serious health concerns down the road. Take a look at the buildings in your life and get started on improving the air you breathe today!

The Pros & Cons of an HOA Accepting a Cell Tower

Cell phone usage has skyrocketed to the point of near saturation in the US. According to Pew Research Center, 95% of adults have a cell phone & a growing share of Americans now use smartphones as their primary means of online access at home. In 2016, wireless subscribers’ connections hit 377.9 million, with over $1.4 trillion (yep, trillion with a “t”) having been invested globally in the last 18 years. This is BIG business & there are opportunities for landowners to capitalize.

Companies like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint continue to explore options to meet their wireless customer demands, and part of this search includes the construction of new cell sites across the United States. Cell sites come many sizes, from a traditional tower that is big enough to climb, to an antenna that sits hidden on a rooftop, only seen by those flying over.

The opportunity an HOA can capitalize on is negotiating a cell tower lease agreement that ensures consistent rent for years, often decades, to come. There are certain pros and cons that an HOA or Condo Association must ponder if a cell tower company or wireless carrier approaches them about putting a tower on their property.

 

PROS

  • Additional Income: If an HOA/Condo Board can properly structure a cell site agreement, it can not only see immediate rent revenue, but can also see additional upside revenue based upon the utility/value actually being derived by the wireless carrier or cell tower company’s use of their property.
  • Improved Cell Service: A new cell site in a community will not only serve the needs of wireless customers in the area, but can also be promoted by an HOA or Condo Association as an amenity that can be used by their residents either by way of those in their community that work from a home office, or those who have made their homes “Smart Homes” with the installation of smart technology (sound, lighting and even appliances) that rely on wireless connectivity.  
  • Lump Sum Cash/Capital: If an HOA/Condo Association elects to do so, it can actually sell its cell tower or rooftop antenna lease for a one-time lump sum payment that can be used by a community for various projects. Many third-party companies presently exist that will pay a lump sum payment for the revenues generated from the cell site lease. If negotiated correctly, the community can retake control of the lease once the existing lease term expires.

 

CONS

  • Health Issues: Many people have raised concerns about the health risks of a cell tower on their property, or, even more troubling, cell site equipment on their rooftop. Even with the American Cancer Society providing several reports that they have found no direct links between cell towers and the development of cancer, many still protest cell towers in their communities. Providing information to its residents and structuring a cell tower lease that protects is a priority.
  • Aesthetic Concerns: Residents of any community always have valid concerns about the aesthetic impact on their property. Wireless carriers do often try to “stealth” their equipment by way of an installation that looks like a tree, clock tower, flagpole or other similar facility. However, many times these installations rarely blend into the community as expected. As a result, a community must determine if the financial benefits of a cell tower lease outweigh the atheistic impact.
  • Tenant Management: Management of a cell site lease is vastly different from the normal requests and issues that a HOA/Condo Association may presently handle. The community management team (either internal or external) could see request that they are unfamiliar with. For example, the site owner is often hit with a surge of access requests due to ever-growing operational/modification needs of wireless carriers and cell tower companies to stay current with technology standards in the wireless industry.

 

With the right deal in place, a cell tower could benefit your neighborhood now and for years to come. However, the pros and cons must be weighed against each other based on your particular situation. As with any long term contract, we advise getting the best information and counsel you can before making a commitment.

About the Author

Hugh Odom is the President & Founder of Vertical Consultants, a cell tower lease-consulting firm. Before founding Vertical Consultants, Mr. Odom worked for ten years as an attorney for AT&T, negotiating cell tower lease agreements. He now brings his experience and expertise to help landowners and property managers secure the best deal possible for their properties. Learn more at https://www.celltowerleaseexperts.com/

Condo Association Good Will

If a condo association is to survive and thrive, it needs a good strategy that makes the most out of available resources, takes assessments into account and keeps a proper budget. But when it comes to condo association resources, there’s one that is often neglected, yet is highly important: good will.

 

Why Good Will Is So Important

Social interactions of all kinds go much better when good will is noticeable. When it comes to condos, it is responsible for promoting trust, willingness to help neighbors and pride in live in a certain property. It’s also crucial in enabling progress. While good will isn’t something that can be easily measured in numbers, anyone with even minimal emotional intelligence can spot its presence or absence. It manifests itself when people show energy, enthusiasm and the right body language.

Those who work with your community should maintain a positive attitude and act like they live there. If there is no good will in your condo association, this creates a negative work atmosphere, where people who work in your community are likely to give little value to their job, show limited enthusiasm and do just the minimum amount of work they can get away with.

 

Good Will With Vendors, Management and Owners

Many people associate the word “business” with money. While profits are indeed an important part of what the business world is all about, relationships are what drive any kind of business venture. In your relationships with vendors, you have to remember that you’re dealing with people above all. By treating them with fairness, compassion and respect, you create good will. Don’t forget that people are a lot more likely to be helpful towards those who treat them well. In the context of a condo association, this could mean a vendor not charging for some extra work or charging a lower price on a large project.

Good will with the management is also important. A condo’s board and management need to be happy to work together if you want your community to be successful. It would be a mistake for a board to treat the management company as inferior to them just because they’re the ones paying them. Instead, create a climate of mutual respect and cooperation.

The owners are a very important group of people you’ll be dealing with. However, most condo associations only have direct interactions with less than ten percent of owners. You will need to approach them the right way. Doing so is actually a lot simpler than you may have thought at first. You will need to be responsive to their needs and communicate clearly and effectively. Be transparent and ensure that you’re always available to discuss their concerns.

Do your best to treat owners with the respect they deserve every time you interact with them. While there may be a few owners with a very unpleasant attitude that never seem to be satisfied with anything and are just a pain to deal with, the majority of condo owners are reasonable people that just want a happy condo life.