Should HOA Online Voting Be An Option?

In the digital age, many HOAs have turned to online voting for convenience. If you’re skeptical, weigh the pros and cons of HOA online voting before making your decision.

Why Even Consider HOA Online Voting?

How many people are showing up regularly to your board meetings? If you are like most homeowners associations, you probably struggle with regular member involvement. With everyone juggling busy lifestyles and careers outside of the HOA, it’s difficult to get everyone together when governing your association.

Keeping members involved with what happens in your community is so crucial to its success. Increasing homeowner interaction prevents apathy in the association and ensures an attentive board. A solution for some HOAs has been turning to electronic voting as a way of increasing accessibility to participation in community governance. But, should your association really consider HOA online voting? Let’s find out.

Benefits of HOA Electronic Voting

benefits | hoa votingHere are the benefits of adopting HOA online voting in your community:

1. No Physical Attendance Needed

Struggling to get enough votes during yearly board meetings can be detrimental to change in your community. The quantity of votes impacts essential decisions. This includes membership updates, budget approvals, and amendment of governing documents.

HOA online voting gives homeowners a chance to participate in such matters without requiring physical attendance.

2. Vote From Anywhere

For HOAs without online voting, homeowners usually have to go to a physical location to vote. With HOA electronic voting, that becomes moot. Residents can send in their votes for important matters from anywhere, just by using their mobile device or computer. As long as they have an internet connection, homeowners can vote with the tap of a button.

3. Cheaper in the Long-Term

Some HOA boards might think that setting up an online voting system will cost the association more money. But, in truth, HOA online voting is actually cheaper in the long run. Sure, you may need to invest in a program or software, but you’ll use it for the long haul. With physical voting, you need to design ballots, print them out, and then mail them to homeowners.

4. Accurate

Digitizing votes is a good way to ensure accuracy within your association. When you count physical ballots, a lot of things can go wrong. You might lose some of the ballots, homeowners might forget to mail them back, and erasures can be confusing. With online voting, those problems disappear. You can count on a computer to tally the votes without wasting any time.

Online voting is also a good way to combat fraud and tampering with ballots. With physical ballots, it’s all too easy to change someone’s vote or forge someone’s signature. It’s harder to do that with an online system.

5. Provides You With Statistics

If nothing else, online voting provides you with valuable voter data. A lot of online voting systems come with reporting functions, so you can easily evaluate figures. From there, you can see where your problem areas are. If not a lot of homeowners participate in voting, perhaps that’s a sign that you need to work on engagement. With such reports, you can improve your future efforts.

Challenges of HOA Online Voting

security | hoa votingAlthough electronic voting has some big advantages, there are a few challenges involved. Outdated laws have traditionally been a barrier for some online voting. However, over 20 states have changed HOA laws to allow electronic voting, so it’s less of an issue now.

Another concern has been security with electronic voting, but even that has improved in the last several years. Some residents may be uncomfortable with the process if they are worried about privacy or security, so HOAs should plan to provide plenty of information on what’s involved. Your HOA management company can help you plan for this.

While most homeowners may have no trouble voting online, others may find it more difficult. This includes the elderly and those who aren’t very tech-savvy. Although this is definitely a disadvantage, it’s also easily remedied. By organizing an orientation of sorts, you can teach homeowners how to vote online and even demonstrate the process for them.

How to Set Up HOA Voting Online

Setting up an HOA online voting system can seem like a daunting task to take on. But, with the right guidance and tools, the process is quite simple. The first thing you must do is to check your state laws and governing documents. You can’t transition to online voting if your state or documents prohibit it in any way. Proceeding with online voting in that scenario would open you up to liability.

If state laws and your governing documents allow it, though, you can proceed to the next step. With the help of your HOA attorney, create a resolution that includes all necessary information. Outline the procedures for online voting, how homeowners can participate, and any other details needed to comply with the law.

After that, it’s time to send out a notice to all homeowners. Again, depending on state laws and your governing documents, you may need a majority vote to proceed with an online voting system. Most of the time, though, the HOA board can make the decision to do so.

Assuming a majority of members are in favor, you can now research various online voting systems. There are plenty of companies that can provide you with such a service. There are even free ones you can get online, though those may not be as reliable or secure.

Send out requests for proposals and then evaluate the bids of each company. You can do this with the help of your HOA manager. Select one that suits your needs and price range.

You may need an adjusting period to get used to the online voting system. But, with time and dedication, your association will reap its many benefits.

The Decision Is Yours

Although maintaining involvement and votes in a homeowners association can always be a struggle, HOA online voting is an option worth considering, especially in communities with larger numbers. Ultimately, though, the decision lies with your HOA board. Check with your HOA attorney to see if online voting is right for you.

 

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6 Tips To Welcome New HOA Board Members

Bringing in new board members can be exciting, but it can also be stressful. The process can go a lot smoother, though, by adopting some tips to welcome new HOA board members.

How to Welcome New HOA Board Members

It’s no secret that every new undertaking can seem daunting, and that’s exactly how new board members feel. There’s a lot to know as an HOA board member, so you’re likely worried that they won’t be brought up to speed quickly enough. But, there are a few areas you can focus on teaching them. The sooner they know the basics, the sooner they will be able to contribute as an active member. Here are the best tips to welcome new HOA board members:

1. Get Everyone Acquainted

meeting | welcoming new hoa boardAlthough HOA board members are typically neighbors in a community, there’s still a likely chance that they’re not well-acquainted.

This particularly applies to larger neighborhoods. Board members may not know each other well or only know each other by face.

Allocate time on your first meeting to get everyone acquainted. Allow new board members to introduce themselves to each other. Board members tend to work better together when they have a good relationship. This allows them to form a rhythm of sorts and really get into the flow. If nothing else, it’s a good way to break the ice and let everyone’s guard down.

2. Share an HOA Board Welcome Packet

There are a few pieces of information that should be used from past meetings to show new board members right away. It’s a good idea to pull these from the last four meetings so that the new person can get a good sense of how things work in your association. Put together an HOA board welcome packet consisting of the following items:

  • Minutes. By reading past minutes, the new member can see recent issues and projects that the association has been dealing with in the past few months. Plus, it will save you time working to catch them up if they can read the information themselves.
  • HOA Management Reports. If your HOA works with a management company, showing the new members the reports from the company is also helpful. And, don’t forget to show them processes for deed restriction enforcement and logs from architectural compliance reviews. This combined information should give the new member a good view of your recent activity.
  • Governing Documents. Although all homeowners should have a basic understanding of the governing documents, it’s still a good idea to include a copy of them in your welcome packet. Not only will it come in handy, but it will also give them a chance to review any stipulations they find confusing.

3. Have a Q&A Session

After allowing the new board members to familiarize themselves with the contents of the welcome packet, make sure to allocate time for an open forum. This is when new members can ask questions and clarify rules. Existing or past board members can then answer these queries.

If possible, have the new members sit down with a seasoned HOA board member (or members) who knows the ropes well. This will allow them to ask any questions about the written information you’ve just given them. You can schedule it an hour before the meeting or as one of the last agendas. You’ll just want to make sure you’re following any state mandates about notifying homeowners of additional meetings.

4. Involve Them Right Away

participate | welcoming new hoa boardIt’s best not to give new board members an adjusting period of sorts. Sure, they might not work like a well-oiled machine yet but not letting them work right away can dampen their momentum. They just won a position on the board, so they must be excited to get started.

Assign them work and involve them in projects or committees at the first meeting. Make them feel welcome and important. Encourage them to give their two cents on matters concerning the community.

5. Get a Facilitator

More often than not, the board president takes over the role of facilitator. That’s only fitting since the president runs the meetings anyway. However, you can also go with an outside hire — a professional with actual experience in facilitating training and welcoming sessions. You can also ask your HOA manager to do it, especially if you don’t have the budget for someone else.

6. Send Copies of the Minutes

After the training and welcoming session, make sure to send everyone a copy of the minutes. It’s not unlike any other board meeting. Minutes remind everyone of what transpired during the meeting and what commitments they made. Check your governing documents on how soon you should send out minutes. As a general rule, though, you should send minutes within a week of the session.

The Importance of Welcoming New HOA Board Members

It’s essential to welcome new HOA board members for a number of reasons. For instance, newbies tend to feel awkward or uncomfortable when they’re first starting out. They usually don’t know what to do and what specific responsibilities they must fulfill. They might also feel intimidated, especially by other board members who have been serving longer. Having a welcoming session can address these issues.

It’s also a good way to form a connection. New and existing board members should get along well, especially since they’ll be working together for a long time. It’s hard to work with someone you don’t know. This kind of welcoming session can also help align everyone’s expectations and goals. The association has a specific function, and all board members must work towards achieving that.

Welcome New HOA Board Members the Right Way

New board members can feel lost or uncomfortable when they’re not welcomed properly. They don’t know what their roles are and how they fit in the grand scheme of things. Make the best out of bringing in a new board member to help with your HOA by giving them the best information to fulfill their position. Welcome new HOA board members by getting them involved at once. And, if you have an HOA management company, they will likely be able to assist with the process, too.

 

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HOA Social Committee Ideas For Your Community

HOA social committee ideas may lie somewhere between mid to low priority in the things your HOA board needs to do. That does not mean that you can just neglect your HOA social committee responsibilities either – if you have one in the first place.

In this guide, we’ll look at useful tips on how to start an HOA social committee, and the social committee roles it occupies. Social committee guidelines also call for a social chairperson, too, so we’ll also go into the social chair responsibilities, especially when it comes to the hot topic of HOA social committees!

 

Neighborhood Social Committee Ideas to Boost Socialization In Your Community

You can likely relate to most HOA board members who struggle with finding an ideal work-life balance. It makes sense, then, that building community between those in your homeowners association may not be the top priority. However, there are ways in which homeowners associations can make it easier to build community and promote socialization outside of just the Board meetings and on-the-fly interactions.

One of the most important ways to promote socialization in your community is to have people assigned just for that. In most HOAs, these people usually make up the social committee.

 

The Importance of Community Socialization

Community Socialization | hoa social committeeSocial media sites like Twitter and Facebook make socializing without having to be face-to-face much easier. People are further encouraged to stick with the Internet for community interaction.

There are definitely some great benefits to technological socialization. However,  it’s hard to manage a community on a personal level when in-person connections are lacking.

It might not seem like a huge deal but think about the benefits of having neighbors getting to know one another and those on the Board. Developing meaningful relationships will increase happiness and decrease the chances of individuals getting frustrated with their neighbors or those running the community—which is you.

It will also give you a chance to know the different personalities and preferences of those in your community, which will help when making Board decisions or handling any problems that may arise. Therefore, board members will want to continue promoting personal camaraderie within their community.

 

Giving Your Neighborhood Socialization Some Structure

Promoting the creation of a social committee is an excellent way to get your HOA members to get along better. It also opens up the way to holding exciting events for your HOA, too. Before you go all out in planning your next social committee activity, it’s best to assign some responsibilities to your HOA committee members for these events.

 

What Are the Responsibilities of an HOA Social Committee?

Board members and homeowners who join the HOA social committee will take on certain responsibilities such as planning special events for the community, developing budgets for these events, creating revenue reports following the events, and publishing an events calendar for the residents.

A Board member, or an assigned volunteer homeowner, will act as the chairperson of the social committee. He or she will preside over committee meetings and ensure that the meeting agenda is followed. If the committee does not have Board members, any decisions made – especially financial decisions – must be submitted to the Board for approval.

For financial matters, the social committee might also collaborate with the finance committee if your HOA has one. The finance committee can provide technical knowledge about budgets and expenditures that the social committee members may not have.

 

Getting the HOA Board Onboard Your Social Committee Ideas

It’s very important to get your HOA board’s support for your social committee ideas. First, you’ll need to form a social committee and have a chair for it. If your HOA does not already have a social committee, it’s a good topic to raise during your annual meeting. This way, you can ask if someone is interested in chairing the social committee as you pitch the idea.

 

How Do I Start a Social Committee for My HOA?

When starting an HOA social committee, make sure to check if association bylaws allow you to have one in the first place. If there is a provision for a social committee, it will be much easier to utilize funding from the association’s funds.

Next, during a scheduled HOA meeting, a Board member or homeowner will propose the formation of the social committee. The Board may allot a certain time period for studying this proposal. They need to determine whether creating a social committee has merits and whether the annual budget can accommodate social committee events. The Board may also create guidelines and procedures for the social committee including quarterly reports, meeting minutes, and qualifications for committee members.

Once everything has been finalized, the HOA board can notify the community regarding the creation of the social committee. Interested homeowners can then volunteer to join the committee. Following HOA covenants and bylaws, you can now start turning social committee ideas into actual community events.

 

Different Kinds of HOA Social Committees

The social committee, as a subset of the HOA board, need not exist separate from the rest of the board itself. Depending on your HOA board composition, as well as the bylaws and culture of your association in general, you may have one of three different kinds of HOA social committees.

  • Ad-hoc Social Committees – These are formed, often on the spot, just to oversee an event. Once the event is done, the ad-hoc social committee is broken up until the next social event. The committee then comes together again the next time the event comes around.
  • Fixed / Standing Social Committees  – Fixed social committees are the opposite of ad-hoc ones. They are made up of regular members, and the committee is established and functional, whether there is an ongoing event or not. Standing HOA social committees are ideal for overseeing seasonal or yearly events that your community religiously observes. Fixed social committees are also mentioned in the HOA bylaws, and are usually established as an extension of the HOA board.
  • Mandatory Social Committees – Mandatory committees are explicitly specified in the bylaws of an HOA or its other governing documents. So if your bylaw clearly states that an HOA social committee should be established for a certain event, then that social committee is also a mandatory committee or subcommittee. Your HOA needs to establish one for that specific purpose, as the bylaws or CC&Rs state. The Board cannot abolish these committees as well.

 

Engaging Residents in Your Community

The most efficient way to bring together neighbors is by scheduling social events periodically that residents will enjoy. Speaking of social media before, residents can also spread the word online to decrease the need for physical marketing of the events. It’s a good way to take advantage of technology. People may be more likely to see it on social media anyway.

Your HOA social committee can be responsible for setting up the events for the community. This way, they can also go and find out what residents would respond to best. For example, a good event idea could be a wine get-together. A different neighbor can even host it each time, too.

Or maybe your community would like an informal get-together every first Friday. Involve the kids with a craft night or dog parade! Events that are fun and fairly simple to plan are good ideas.

 

Event Ideas for HOA Social Events

hoa social club events | neighborhood social committee ideas

Need ideas for neighborhood social events? Apart from the usual holiday festivities, you can organize your HOA social committee to brainstorm on different types of events.

For instance, you can come up with specific HOA events for adults, children, or the entire community. Here are some HOA social committee ideas to get you started.

  • Neighborhood Garage Sales
  • Ice Cream and BBQ Cookout Socials
  • Card Tournament Game Nights
  • Outdoor Movie Nights
  • Community Pool Parties
  • Fall Festivals
  • Book and Trivia Clubs With Contests
  • Beer & Wine Swap Meets and Sampling Events
  • Walking Clubs
  • Welcome Party for New Residents
  • Aerobics, Yoga, and Fitness Classes
  • Sports Tournaments
  • Zoom or Livestream Parties
  • Virtual Trivia Nights
  • Online Seminars for Home Improvement Projects
  • Video and Board Game Tournaments
  • Community Gardens
  • Neighborhood Karaoke Contests
  • Bingo Nights
  • Car Wash Fundraisers

 

HOA Social Committee Ideas Keep a Community Together

Giving homeowners association members a chance to get to know one another on a deeper level is a perfect way to make a positive impact on Board governance and satisfaction from residents. Start planning today to get homeowners away from their computers and face-to-face with their neighbors.

Need help creating a social committee agenda for your community? Feel free to use HOA Management’s online directory to find the best HOA management companies and vendor services.

 

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7 Problems With HOA Management Companies To Be Wary Of

Problems with HOA management companies can range from minor inconveniences to impending signs of management failure. When you start seeing a pattern with HOA management complaints, it’s time to take a closer look. Here’s how to tell if HOA management problems are fixable, or if it’s time to seek better service elsewhere.

 

Top Problems with HOA Management Companies That You Should Avoid

Does an HOA need a management company? In many cases, the answer is yes. However, when looking for an HOA management company, it’s important to consider the capabilities of your potential candidates. Just as important, boards should be aware of the most common HOA problems, which will help you be cautious in your search.

 

 1. Frequent HOA Manager Changes

A high turnover rate for HOA managers can significantly impact your operations. It takes a lot of time for a new HOA manager to learn the ins and outs of your association.

It’s also hard to achieve continuity because you’re starting from scratch each time there’s a new manager. Instead of focusing on community goals and objectives, the board must spend time introducing the new manager to HOA operations.

If your management company is sending a new HOA manager every couple of months or so, this could be a major red flag. It could indicate that there is instability within the management company — significant enough that long-time employees are resigning en masse. An HOA management company that is too busy handling internal conflicts may not have the manpower and resources to devote to your community.

 

2. Lack of Communication

Lack of Communication | hoa management complaints Lack of communication is one of the major problems with HOA management companies. In order to get things done, the board must have clear and open communication lines with their HOA manager.

If your calls, texts, or emails are frequently met with silence, it means that your management company is not prioritizing you — or worse, they do not care. If that’s the case, it may be time to consider switching HOA management companies.

HOAs should choose a management company that can respond to queries or concerns in a timely manner. Ideally, your HOA manager should touch base with you within 24 hours. Even if they can’t immediately take action, they should at least acknowledge that they have received your message. HOA management isn’t cheap so your company shouldn’t make you feel ignored.

 

3. Low-Quality Vendor Services

When faced with low-quality service, the first instinct of your HOA is to blame the vendors. However, you keep receiving low-quality vendor services, there could be a deeper problem. One of the responsibilities of a management company is choosing vendors for your community.

If there are issues with their vendor selection process — such as having a poor screening process or not spending enough time vetting a service provider — it’s your association that will suffer. You might even wonder if there is something nefarious going on behind the scenes, such as a management company choosing these subpar vendors in exchange for gifts or kickbacks.

Vendor services are crucial in maintaining the appearance and operations of your association. If you keep working with low-quality vendors, the residents will lose confidence in their board. They’ll also develop a low opinion of vendors in their local area, which is unfair to the vendors who do their job well.

 

4. Lack of Bookkeeping

One of the major advantages of having an HOA management company is that they can take over the financial management of your association. Not all board members are familiar with accounting and bookkeeping. And so, the expertise of an HOA manager can be crucial in maintaining the financial stability of your association.

As such, HOA management companies should always have skilled bookkeepers in their roster of employees. Unfortunately, some management companies will be tempted to try and handle bookkeeping themselves to save money. This can have disastrous consequences for your HOA. Be wary if your management company is not willing to invest in a proper bookkeeper as this could lead to inaccuracies in your finances.

 

5. Lack of Professionalism

An HOA management company primarily interacts with board members, but they work for the entire community. As such, it’s important for HOA managers to maintain a level of professionalism when dealing with homeowners.

Many times, managers will have to deal with irate homeowners with unreasonable demands. This can be frustrating, but that doesn’t give them an excuse to be disrespectful or inconsiderate when dealing with these homeowners.

It’s your HOA manager’s job to properly handle homeowner complaints and concerns. As such, it’s important that they always remain firm but respectful. If your manager responds inappropriately, it will be harder to resolve issues.

It could even escalate the issue further — to the point that one party starts making threats or shows aggressive behaviors. If you have an HOA or condo manager that is rude to residents, consider switching to one that has a professional and friendly attitude.

 

6. Inability to Resolve Maintenance and Homeowner Issues

The longer that HOA complaints sit and wait, the worse it gets for the association. Residents will certainly not appreciate having to follow up on their complaints. These issues can generate friction between homeowners and the HOA board. Any unreasonable delay is like adding gasoline to the fire.

Try to get to the root of the problem. Is there a reasonable excuse for the delays? Or is your HOA manager simply not doing their job? It could also be that your management company is overbooked. They may have taken on too many clients that they can feasibly be responsible for.

If you are hiring a new management company, look into the ratio of communities that they are managing. Make sure that the number of employees is proportional to their workload. Having an understaffed management company means that your issues won’t get the attention it deserves.

 

7. Lack of Proper Guidance

Lack of Proper Guidance | problems with hoa management companiesMany self-managed HOAs look to hiring a management company due to their extensive expertise in community association management, as well as knowledge of federal, state, and local laws that govern HOAs.

Non-compliance with these regulations will lead to very costly fines or even potential litigation. As such, board members come to rely on their HOA managers.

If your HOA management company is not providing the guidance you need, it can feel like the association is just floating aimlessly or without a purpose.

Board members won’t know which steps to take. Or worse, they make decisions that lead to major consequences for the HOA. Make sure that your HOA management can provide the vital support that associations need. This will enable your board to make sound and informed decisions that will lead to success and growth.

 

The Value of Knowing Common Problems with HOA Management Companies

An HOA with a bad management company is just as bad as an HOA without a management company. But with the latter, at least you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Hiring an HOA management is a major investment for the association so it’s important to get your money’s worth.

Steer clear of the common problems with HOA management companies. Make sure that you find one that is capable and reliable. This will not only ensure seamless HOA operations, but you also get the assurance that HOA funds are being used properly and efficiently.

If you’re experiencing these major problems with HOA management companies, it’s time to make the switch. To aid in your search, feel free to use the HOA Management online directory to find the best HOA management companies and vendor services in your area.

 

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Hiring the Best HOA Landscaping Companies

Proper landscaping can be integral to the success of your homeowners association. It helps boost property values and keep homeowners satisfied, but it also brings in more potential homeowners. Maintaining landscaping, though, is often tough without the help of the right HOA landscaping companies.

 

Looking for the Best HOA Landscaping Companies? Here’s How

As a board member, you have a responsibility to maintain the community. But, try as you may, you can’t do it alone. You need help in the form of third-party HOA vendors to carry out various essential services. This includes landscaping, maintenance and upkeep, plumbing, electrical work, and the like.

As with all other services, you naturally want to hire the best HOA landscaping company to maintain your neighborhood’s green spaces. The search and hiring process, though, is often easier said than done. To help you out, here are some of the most crucial steps you shouldn’t miss:

 

1. Assess Your Community’s Needs

Before looking for a landscaper, you must first evaluate the needs of your community. Are you satisfied with how your current landscaping looks? You can also outline the specific landscaping services you require in the coming year. Are you looking for basic maintenance or something more along the lines of a major project?

Once you have a good understanding of your landscaping needs, you can approach your search process in a more strategic manner. It’s also worth preparing a preliminary scope of work so that landscaping candidates know what to expect from your association.

 

2. Browse Your Options

applying turf | landscaping company

There will likely be several HOA landscaping companies you can choose from, especially if you live in a larger area. Make sure to take the time to do some research on your options. Checking out online reviews and viewing their websites is a great way to get a feel of the company.

If you have an HOA management company, you may also want to ask them for any landscapers they have already vetted. Reaching out to other homeowners associations is also a good way to get referrals. From your research, you should be able to come up with a shortlist consisting of at least five candidates.

 

3. Request for Proposals and Work Samples

Send out a request for proposal to each of the five HOA landscaping companies on your shortlist. You should also ask them to include samples of their work in their HOA landscape proposal. That way, you can have a general idea of what to expect.

Additionally, ask the candidates for references. Make sure to contact the references they provide so that you can talk to actual clients with whom they have worked in the past. Ask them how the services were and if they were satisfied with the results.

When comparing HOA landscaping bids, it is also important to check out costs. You probably have a budget for landscaping, and it is best to stick to that as much as you can. Of course, that does not mean you should immediately go with the one that offers the cheapest price. Weigh out the cost against the services they offer. This way, you can get the most out of your money.

 

4. Don’t Forget Your Due Diligence

Board members have a duty to perform due diligence when selecting a landscaping company for HOA communities. As such, make sure to check if your candidates possess the required certifications, licenses, and insurance. You should also make sure they have enough experience in the industry. It is best to ask for proof of these credentials.

Additionally, you should attempt to get to know the company’s personnel and staff members. Find out if they have the right qualifications. This is particularly important if your HOA has a major landscaping project coming up. In that case, go with a company that employs landscaping specialists and horticulturists.

 

5. Go Through the Contract

Once you receive the contract from your chosen company, don’t just sign it without thought. Make sure to read the contract thoroughly. If you identify any vague stipulations, make sure to clarify them with the company and put them in writing.

Some of the things you need to watch out for are the services you can expect, the fees you need to pay, the cost of any add-ons, the contract duration, and a termination clause. You should also check for an automatic renewal clause. It is best to review the contract with your HOA attorney.

 

How to Save Money on Landscaping

Hiring a company to take care of HOA landscaping maintenance isn’t exactly cheap. But, since most associations are ill-equipped to do the landscaping work themselves, a professional landscaper or company is necessary. If you’re looking for other ways to reduce landscaping costs without doing away with professional services, it’s worth checking out these tips:

  • Divide the Work. If you can’t redo the landscaping for all your green spaces in one go, try dividing the work into sections. Prioritize one section before moving onto the next so that you can make smart use of your budget.
  • Try Hardscaping. With hardscaping, you can strategically place gravel, rocks, and bricks to prevent kids and animals from destroying the greenery.
  • Choose Quality Plants. Just because some plants are cheap doesn’t mean they’re the best choice for your HOA. Go for native, high-quality plants that last long and don’t require a lot of work to maintain.
  • Symmetry Isn’t Better. Although a path with symmetrical landscaping on either side is definitely pleasing to the eyes, it can create problems in the future. If one area gets damaged, you will need to redo both areas to maintain symmetry.
  • Location, Location, Location. Place shrubs and other plants some distance from walkways and pathways. This will give them space to grow and buy you some time before you need to have them trimmed again.
  • Conserve Water. Consider installing irrigation controller technology to help your association conserve water and, by extension, money. It’s also a good idea to evaluate your watering systems (sprinklers and the like) to see if you’re wasting water via overspray or run-off.
  • Recycle. Did you just prune a bunch of trees and now have a ton of scrap material? Try running them through a wood chipper. You can then use the mulch for a garden bed.

 

All About Eco-Friendly Landscaping

Homeowners associations can benefit from adopting green landscaping practices. Sure, it will need some money to invest in eco-friendly systems, but the results are certainly worth it. With the amount of energy and water you will save, the investment will surely pay off in the long run.

But, what can HOAs do to become more eco-friendly with their landscaping practices?

First of all, it’s important to analyze your current landscaping. Larger green spaces tend to demand more water. If you have smaller green spaces, though, your watering system may be calibrated in such a way that most of the water either hits the pavement (overspray) or eventually makes its way to it (run-off).

You should adjust your watering system to make sure no overspray or run-off takes place. As mentioned in the section above, you can also conserve water by updating your watering system using smart irrigation. This includes evapotranspiration irrigation controller technology and low-volume drip irrigation.

But, even creating a simple watering schedule can do wonders. The best schedule is to water your plants between 4 and 6 in the morning. Remember that plants situated in shady areas tend to require less water than those out in the sun.

 

The Role of Your HOA Landscape Committee

Assembling a landscape committee is a great way to take away some of the burdens from the HOA board and get residents involved at the same time. But, what responsibilities does this committee actually have?

 

Budgeting

The landscape committee budgets for all the landscaping-related services the association requires. This can include replacing old trees with new ones, adding proper lighting to landscaped areas, and even irrigation repairs. The committee is also responsible for staying with the landscaping budget and reporting all financial transactions.

 

Educating

Your HOA will likely have rules about landscaping, and the landscape committee is responsible for making sure homeowners remain aware of these rules. Committee members should also know the answers to landscaping questions in case any homeowners want to clarify something.

 

Recommending

This committee is also responsible for coming up with ideas that can improve the landscaping in the community. Perhaps one of the common areas could use a little greenery to liven it up. Maybe some of the trees in the playground are growing too old and becoming hazards.

 

Requesting

Should you have a landscape committee, they will be in charge of the search process for HOA landscaping companies. The final decision will still, of course, come from the board. But, the committee does most of the search and screening, and it can also give the board a recommendation based on the results.

 

Communicating

Once an HOA landscape provider is chosen, it’s the committee’s job to remain in contact with the provider. In essence, the committee or a representative of the committee acts as the middleman of sorts between the vendor and the HOA.

 

Inspecting

The work does not stop after hiring a landscaper. The committee must also make sure the landscaping company is doing its job right and well. Therefore, it should conduct regular inspections of the landscaping in the community as performed by the provider.

 

Reporting

If there any landscaping maintenance issues plaguing the community, the committee should report them to the HOA board. The committee will usually make these reports on a monthly basis.

 

A Critical Decision

Landscaping is one of the first things potential buyers see when they enter your community. If your green spaces give off a good impression, people are more likely to want to buy a home and join your HOA. Well-maintained landscaping can also keep residents happy and property values high. As such, it’s essential to select the best candidate out of a pool of HOA landscaping companies.

If you’re having a hard time with the search and hiring process, you can always turn to an HOA management company for help. Find the best one near you using our comprehensive online directory today.

 

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Should Having Service Animals In An HOA Allowed?

Many homeowners associations have strict “no pets” policies. But emotional animals and service animals are not pets. They are animals that provide crucial assistance to homeowners with disabilities — and as such, are protected by federal laws. To ensure legal compliance, here’s what you need to know about the HOA and emotional support animals or service animals.

 

Your HOA and Emotional Support Animals vs Service Animals

Emotional support animals and service animals both provide valuable service to individuals with disabilities. Under federal law, though, these two terms are not the same — and thus, should not be interchanged. For a better understanding, here are the legal definitions of service animals and emotional support animals.

 

What Is a Service Animal?

service dog | can hoa deny emotional support animalsAs per the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a service animal is any dog that has been trained to carry out tasks or work benefitting a person with a disability. This disability can be sensory, intellectual, psychiatric, physical, or mental.

A service animal’s training should be directly related to an individual’s disability. For instance, a psychiatric assistance dog can assist an individual by reminding to take his/her medications. Meanwhile, a mobility assistance dog can help a physically-disabled person by pulling his/her wheelchair. There are also other types of service animals including a guide dog, hearing dog, sensory dogs, seizure response dog, allergy detection dog, autism service dog, and diabetic alert dog.

Service animals refer to trained dogs. Other animals, regardless of whether they have been trained or not, do not qualify as service animals. Recently, though, ADA regulations have been amended to include miniature horses as service animals. Nevertheless, emotional support animals are not considered service animals.

 

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals are also known as comfort animals or therapy dogs. Unlike service animals, emotional support animals do not require training to be classified as such. Their main purpose is to provide comfort and companionship. They also help relieve loneliness, depression, anxiety, and other symptoms or effects of the person’s disability. According to the ADA, emotional support animals do not have the same rights as service animals.

 

What Does the Law Say About Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals?

According to the ADA, service animals should be allowed to accompany persons with disabilities in most places including the different facilities within a homeowners association. But does that mean that HOAs can prohibit emotional support animals? Not quite. Another very important law, called the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (FHA), provides legal grounds for emotional support animals in HOAs.

The FHA states that persons with disabilities have a right to request reasonable accommodations. The goal of reasonable accommodation is to provide a person with a disability the opportunity to enjoy and use a dwelling or common area the same way that those without disabilities can. As such, emotional support animals can be reasonable accommodations for homeowners with disabilities.

Since the term “reasonable” can be open to interpretation, though, the FHA has released new guidelines that will prevent conflicts between HOAs and homeowners when it comes to emotional support animals. For homeowners with disabilities that are not readily observable, HOAs can ask for documentation to establish a need for an emotional service animal.

The FHA also provides some clarity on which animals can be considered as emotional support animals. It will be easy to establish a need for a reasonable accommodation if the request for an ESA pertains to domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles, hamsters, and birds. However, with non-domesticated animals such as reptiles, barnyard animals, and monkeys, the burden lies on the homeowner to justify a need for such an emotional support animal.

 

 

Can the HOA Deny Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals?

Because federal laws state that HOAs can’t discriminate against homeowners who need service animals, the HOA cannot deny their requests. The same rule applies even if the HOA has a strict “no pets” policy in its governing documents. After all, federal laws take precedence over HOA documents.

As for emotional support animals, since the definition varies between the ADA and the FHA, the HOA might not know how to act when faced with a request for it. Some HOAs might worry that homeowners are simply trying to pass off their pets as emotional support animals. However, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which oversees the FHA, it’s in the association’s best interest to simply allow the animal in the HOA rather than deny the request of someone who really needs it.

There are some special cases, though, when an association can deny service animals in HOA communities. This applies to service animals deemed too aggressive or those that destroy community property even after all measures are taken. The HOA may also deny a service animal if there’s irrefutable evidence against the homeowner’s need for it.

 

HOA Emotional Support Animal and Service Animal Policies

It’s a good idea to develop a standard policy when it comes to service animal and emotional support animal requests in your HOA. For instance, the association could create a service animal and emotional support animal registration form. And when a homeowner applies for such a request, the HOA can ask for supporting documentation or proof. This can be a determination of disability from a government agency, disability benefits from social service, or certification from a medical professional.

It’s important to be careful when requesting documentation, though. The HOA does not need to ask for documentation and more importantly, should not ask for specific details, when the disability is readily observable — such as with blindness, deafness, mobility impairments, and intellectual impairments. The HOA also has no right to gain access to the person’s medical records. Furthermore, the HOA shouldn’t delay the request to an unreasonable extent in an attempt to punish the requesting party.

 

Can HOA Restrict Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals?

While service animals and emotional support animals are typically in good behavior, the HOA can impose rules that ensure that they do not pose any danger to the other residents. The owner must always stay in control of their service animal or emotional support animal. Owners should also take responsibility for any harm or damage caused by their animals. HOAs can ask the homeowners to keep their animals on a leash at all times and clean up after them.

 

What Are Unreasonable Rules for Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals?

Of course, the HOA may be tempted to create or enforce rules that are too unreasonable or downright discriminatory. For instance, an HOA may want to charge a fee to those who own service animals or emotional support animals. The association might request a security deposit of some sort. These monetary rules are off-limits so avoid enacting them.

Other unreasonable rules include prohibiting the animals from entering certain areas in the community, as well as restricting the breed, size, or weight of the animals in your HOA. Keep in mind that discriminatory rules can result in unwanted legal action. The best course of action prior to creating or amending rules is to consult with your HOA attorney. This way, you can cover all your bases when it comes to service animals and emotional support animals.

 

How to Proceed with Caution

service animal | can an hoa deny an emotional support animalConflicts can happen between associations and residents when the HOA suspects a request is simply stepping around HOA pet restrictions. The best way to address this concern is by discussing if the request is a reasonable one.

For example, if your association doesn’t normally admit pets at all into the community and the requestor is asking to have several pets, you’ll want to look further into whether all those animals are actually assisting the person. However, you also do not want to reject the person should they have an actual need for a service animal or emotional support animal. A possible compromise may be to permit one animal.

In most cases, though, requests will not be too much of a hassle for your association. Homeowners with disabilities will make the request and provide the necessary documentation so you can approve their request. However, for issues such as those difficult requests, a homeowners association management company can help with handling them.

 

It’s Not About Asking, Can an HOA Deny an Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal…

Rather, the focus of your HOA should be finding a way to meet the needs of homeowners with disabilities, as well as the needs of the entire community. When it comes to HOA and emotional support animals or service animals, it’s always better to follow the rule of the law. This way, you can ensure that no legal troubles befall your association. For ultimate compliance, you can always consult with an attorney to come up with the best strategy for property approving or denying homeowners’ service animal requests.

 

For self-managed associations that need further guidance on HOA and ESA animals, consider the advantages of hiring an HOA management company. To know what options are available, feel free to browse the HOA Management online directory for the best HOA management companies and vendor services in your area!

 

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5 Things The HOA Board Should Prepare For The New HOA Management

New HOA management coming in? Transferring to new HOA management company services can bring about big changes for your community. So take these steps to prepare for new HOA management, and help them hit the ground running. Hiring new management company services doesn’t just end with the contract. You also have to help them fit right in.

 

5 Tips on How to Prepare for New HOA Management

Switching to a new homeowners association management company is not normally an easy or fun task. But there are certain times that it becomes a necessity. So, what do you do when it is?

You might be wondering if there’s a certain process you should follow to be sure you prepare the new company to avoid the same problems as the previous one. There are a few steps you can take to lessen the headaches later on.

 

1. Get Your Board on the Same Page

Your first step should be to make sure your board is all on the same page. Make sure each member understands what problems have happened with the previous HOA management company. More importantly, also emphasize the changes that need to happen.

Also, try to identify problem areas and the details around them. It also helps to know which issues are a priority and which are not. So when your new HOA management comes on board, they know which ones to tackle first.

If you have a problem with your previous HOA management, this is also the time to hash it out. Is it an issue with the quality of service they provided? How were they lacking? Also, how will the new HOA management match your expectations?

It’s possible the problem could only be with the previous HOA manager. If the issue stems from bad communication between the manager and the board, make sure to recognize that early on. Are there instances of unanswered calls or requests? Or maybe your HOA board may not have given them sufficient information.

Before the new HOA management staff shows up, make sure the board is on the same page. Especially for the more controversial issues that your association may be having. It helps to have a common ground when it comes to your expectations for the new community managers. Also, not having to argue in front of the new people is a big plus, too.

 

2. Seek Legal Advice From Your Lawyer

Judges male lawyers Consultation of businessmen legal services Consulting in regard to the various contracts to plan the case in court | good hoa managerEarly on in the process of switching management, it’s a good idea to have an attorney look at your current HOA management contract.

They can help you determine how best to handle any legal issues that may arise with the new company. Also, the documents and contracts of the new company should be reviewed before you sign anything.

It may seem like a large expense to some board members at first. But having an HOA lawyer look things over can help you find problem areas and ultimately save you money over the long run.

Also, new HOA management coming in is a great opportunity to cover new changes, legal-wise. Make sure to talk to your association counsel about the changes in the state laws, or relevant case laws, that pertain to your HOA.

Many HOA management companies and law firms also offer training for HOA board members. It could be a good idea to have a short refresher course for the board. It can cover things like the new regulations that have come up over the last couple of years. So this way, the HOA board has the better legal know-how to oversee the HOA management services they just hired.

 

3. Ask Your New HOA Management These Questions

It pays to prevent your HOA from having the same problems all over again. Thus, your board should know what to expect from the new HOA management company. First, the board should ask themselves what else they need to know about the new HOA management company.

Most of these questions should have been covered by the hiring process. Just to keep everyone on the same page, the HOA board should at least know the HOA management company’s answers to these questions:

  • Do you have an affiliation with any other companies?
  • What does your accounting system look like?
  • Who is in charge of the book — a CPA or accountant?
  • What type of preventative maintenance program do you have in place?
  • How many other properties will our manager be assigned at one time? And will we be notified if that number increases?
  • Will our HOA manager have set office hours or on-site hours?
  • How many people do you have on staff?
  • What is the total number of buildings you manage?

 

4. Make Sure They Have Access to the Information They Need

Business Information | good hoa managerIt should be a given that your new HOA management has already read your governing documents. That said, it never hurts to recommend to them to read the documents relevant to your HOA.

You could be surprised at how many of their questions are already addressed in the governing documents of your association. So make sure that your new HOA management has access to the updated bylaws of your HOA, as well as any upcoming revisions they may have.

That goes for all the other HOA documents they need to do their job, as well. By making sure they have access to the data and documents they need, your HOA board is also saving everyone’s time.

Your state or city-based organizations often provide important information specific to your state. Ask your new HOA management team if they are participating in their events. These can help them get familiar with the issues in your area.

 

5. Make Sure to Keep Them in the Loop

Make sure your new HOA managers have access to the people they need. It’s also smart to contact the person who has been assigned to your HOA’s account after the interview and see how quickly they answer or get back to you. Paying attention to details now and asking the right questions will set you up better for the type of HOA management your board needs and deserves.

 

Preparing for New Management

A responsive manager is always a good sign for new HOA management. It’s a key difference between an HOA management company that provides high-quality service, or one that you’ll need to replace before the year is over. With good preparation and a bit of work early on, you’re also making sure that your new HOA management will be your service provider for a long long time.

 

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How Can HOA Financial Management Help Your Community’s Finances?

Dealing with HOA finances is part of the board’s duties. Sometimes, though, problems and tasks can pile up, and the board can start feeling overwhelmed. This is where professional HOA financial management comes in.

 

The Benefits of HOA Financial Management

Ideally, the board of directors in every homeowners association would have the necessary background and skillset to manage HOA finances. They would have all the time in the world to devote to HOA financial management.

Unfortunately, this setup is far from reality. In truth, most HOA boards lack the time and proficiency that HOA financial management demands. Luckily, there’s a clear solution to this problem.

By hiring a professional HOA financial management service, your board can eliminate financial problems and focus on other aspects of community management. With a clear mind and the assurance that experts are taking care of your association’s finances, you can concern yourself with the bigger picture. More specifically, here are the areas professional HOA financial management can help you with:

 

1. HOA Accounting

Let’s face it — accounting is a tough subject to grasp. It stumps even the most competent of people. After all, just being good with numbers isn’t an adequate prerequisite to mastering accounting. The topic involves logic and requires extensive knowledge of the subject matter.

First of all, you must know which basis of accounting to use for your HOA — and you can’t just switch from one to the other on a whim. Knowing which accounting method to use also requires familiarity with each concept, including which account titles fall under credit and debit.

There are also a handful of HOA financial reports you must prepare on the regular. This includes the Balance Sheet, Income Statement, and Statement of Cash Flow. Apart from that, you need to balance accounting books like General Ledger, Accounts Payable Ledger, and Accounts Receivable Ledger. Each one serves a specific function.

This may all sound foreign to you, but they’re all part of the job description for an HOA financial management company. With expert services, your board can check HOA accounting off your list.

 

2. HOA Budgeting

Budget with woman using a smartphone | hoa accountingAnother aspect of financial management that most HOA boards struggle with is budget preparation. The process involves assessing current expenses, analyzing historical data, and making projections based on a number of factors.

You also need to account for contingencies and delinquent homeowners.

Your HOA budget is a foundational tool for success. It’s used to calculate the monthly assessments homeowners must pay. Therefore, you must make sure to cover all probable expenses to prevent losses or cutting corners. On paper, the process seems simple. However, when applied, you’ll often find yourself running into problems like price hikes, inflation, wage increases, and the like.

With the help of HOA financial management, you can streamline the process and ensure an effective budget plan. Professionals prepare budgets all the time, so they have the knowledge and experience to help you with this task.

 

3. Financial Risk Management

If you’re familiar with homeowners associations, then you know that risk comes with the territory. HOAs face all kinds of risks — from property damage to cybersecurity. One of the most detrimental is financial risk. Unfortunately, not all HOA boards have a good grasp of how to assess and manage financial risk. But, on the bright side, an HOA financial management company does.

By seeking HOA financial management help, your HOA can minimize the exposure to financial risk and set guidelines on how to deal with them should they arise. This includes planning for possible loss of income and getting the right insurance coverage.

 

4. HOA Audit and Taxes

Tax season with wooden alphabet blocks, calculator, pen on 1040 tax form background | hoa accountingSome states require HOAs to perform independent audits every so often. But, even if an audit isn’t mandatory in your state, your governing documents may require it.

Audits still help improve your association. They verify and assess the accuracy of HOA financial documents, giving your board and all homeowners the assurance of financial stability.

Audits don’t have to be a long and grueling process. With HOA financial management, audits can be a breeze. Professional services also help with tax preparation, so you don’t have to worry about which forms to file and when to file them.

 

5. Reserve Fund Studies

As with audits, HOAs are obligated to conduct reserve studies in some states. For instance, in California, HOA reserve studies must be carried out at least once every three years. Regardless of whether or not your state mandates it, though, HOA financial management companies will usually recommend communities incorporate a reserve fund study into their annual schedule.

The results of the reserve study will let your association know the funds in its reserve account are handled properly. Having a good amount in the reserve fund is very important for communities to be prepared for larger expenses, both planned and unplanned, and a reserve fund study will make sure everything is on track and prepared.

 

6. Help with Payables and Receivables

Invoicing, collection, and issuing payments are some of the most time-consuming tasks in an association. Yet, they remain necessary parts of HOA management. Without dues collection, an HOA wouldn’t have any income to use for maintenance and repairs. This would lead to decreased curb appeal and lower property values.

On the other hand, late payments to vendors can also have damaging effects. It can result in the suspension of services or a bad working relationship. With a reputation for being a bad payor, little to no vendors will want to work with your association.

HOA financial management companies usually have the latest software to help handle payments and collections. As a result, you can ensure all payables are settled on time and in full. You can also look forward to more efficient invoicing and dues collection.

 

7. Deter Fraud

Fraud Prevention | hoa accountingPerhaps one of the most overlooked benefits of HOA financial management is fraud prevention.

A self-managed community is more vulnerable to theft and embezzlement. Without an unbiased third party, just about anyone with access to the HOA’s finances can fudge the numbers and steal money.

If you want to prevent fraudulent activities within your association, HOA financial management is the way to go.

 

Hire an HOA Financial Management Company Today

More often than not, HOA boards are made up of volunteer members from the community. These volunteers, though, don’t always have the time or expertise to carry out HOA financial management seamlessly. For effective accounting, budgeting, and risk management, you need a competent company. Outsource your HOA financial management today and know your HOA finances are in good hands.

 

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Will An HOA Neighborhood Watch Benefit Your Community?

One of the most important things potential homeowners consider prior to choosing a new home is the level of safety. In a homeowners association, one way to make residents feel safer is to start an HOA neighborhood watch.

 

The Benefits of an HOA Neighborhood Watch Program

What is a neighborhood watch? Simply put, a neighborhood watch is a program wherein ordinary civilians group together to prevent crime in the community. More specifically, what does the neighborhood watch do? These civilians patrol the neighborhood and report crime when they see it.

Neighborhood watch members are by no means akin to law enforcement officers. On the contrary, when faced with actual crime, watch members should call the police for assistance instead of taking the matter into their own hands.

You might think, “Then what is the point of forming a neighborhood watch in the first place?” An HOA neighborhood watch offers many benefits.

For one thing, neighborhood watch programs allow residents to feel safer, especially at night when watch members do most of their patrolling. If you have ever worried that an intruder might enter your home at any time, knowing a few extra pairs of eyes and ears are watching over the neighborhood can help you feel less anxious.

Apart from feeling safe, though, the presence of an HOA neighborhood watch can actually contribute to the safety of the community. While studies have made different conclusions, most experts agree that a neighborhood watch can help deter crime. One study has even found that such programs can reduce crime by as much as 16 percent.

If nothing else, neighborhood watch programs help bring the community together. Because these programs encourage the participation of residents, they facilitate camaraderie and promote teamwork.

 

How to Set Up a Neighborhood Watch Program

As with many programs, a neighborhood watch is not something that forms itself. Setting up a neighborhood watch does take time and effort. But, if you really commit yourself to the process and put in the work, you will find the results to be worth it. Follow the steps below to learn how to start a neighborhood watch program:

 

1. Assembly and Approval

“How do I start a neighborhood watch in my area?” This is the first question most people ask when a neighborhood watch is nothing yet but an idea.

As with many programs, the process naturally begins with organizing. Before anything else, you must ask for the HOA board’s approval on the matter before proceeding. After that, you can begin contacting fellow residents and letting them know of your intention to start an HOA neighborhood watch.

Send out invitations to join the neighborhood watch to all residents. The best way to make sure these invites reach them is to have your initial members hand-deliver them door-to-door.

This is also a good time to construct your neighborhood watch website. From this website, both watch members and homeowners can get updates on the status of safety within the community. You can also post meeting notices here.

 

2. Assigning Roles

Your HOA neighborhood watch should have community watch leaders in place to conduct patrols within a specified amount of time and in rotation. These leaders are responsible for ensuring that watch members follow and fulfill their neighborhood watch rules and duties.

The role of watch leader is a big one, so you need to make sure the person you assign to this position is trustworthy. Consider running a background check on these leaders. This way, you can verify whether they have a clean record and a history of good character.

Apart from watch or block leaders, other roles to assign include

  • Law enforcement liaison (discussed below)
  • Neighborhood watch coordinator
  • Watch members

 

3. Partner With Law Enforcement

Every HOA neighborhood watch program requires a law enforcement liaison. This liaison can help the community set goals for the community as well as create and execute action plans. The law enforcement liaison can also be invited to speak at meetings to give members pointers on how to deal with different scenarios.

To obtain a liaison, reach out to your local police department or sheriff’s office. Let them know what you are trying to do and ask to schedule a meeting with them. You should also ask them to attend your watch meetings if they can.

 

4. Draw Up a Neighborhood Map

A neighborhood map will help watch members navigate the community. You can also use this map to assign specific blocks to watch groups.

A community plat is typically made upon the development of the homeowners association. You can request a copy of this plat through the HOA board. This plat should consist of other details as well, such as street numbers, names, and contact information.

 

5. Hold the First Meeting

The first watch meeting is when you should develop an action plan. To do this, talk about the different safety issues in your community. You can use references such as police reports and newspaper clippings. From these facts, you can create an action plan designed to address the top safety concerns. This is also when you should develop your watch rules.

Make sure to dedicate a portion of the meeting to the law enforcement liaison. This is when your liaison can orient you on various matters, such as preparing yourself for patrols, identifying suspicious activity, and determining when to call the police. Encourage watch members to ask as many relevant questions as they like.

 

6. Choose Your Communication Tools

forms of communication | community neighborhood watchWatch members should be able to stay in contact with one another while on-duty (and even off-duty). You can use walkie talkies or two-way radios while on the job. Alternatively, you can also use smartphones.

It is also a good idea to set up a website or social media page for your neighborhood watch. Through these mediums, you can discuss issues and give out updates.

Additionally, you should hold regular meetings to keep everyone up-to-date and retain interest. It is best to schedule these meetings ahead of time or following a fixed date (i.e. every other Saturday). In doing so, you can ensure more attendees.

To maintain order, your watch meetings should follow a specific format as well. It should follow an agenda and be recorded in the form of minutes. You can later distribute or post these minutes on social media or on your website.

 

7. Start Patrolling

Now, the real job begins. After following steps one through six, you can begin patrolling the community.

Some neighborhood watch programs only thrive during the first few months and eventually fizzle out. To avoid losing interest, consider organizing events such as outings and barbecues. This way, you can keep up the momentum and retain interest.

 

What Is the HOA’s Role in This?

Although HOA neighborhood watch programs generally require approval from the board, it is important to recognize that the HOA is a separate entity altogether. It is within the association’s best interest not to utilize its resources for or combine itself with the neighborhood watch.

Though, there are some benefits — mostly for the neighborhood watch — of combining the two. Financing is an obvious one. If the neighborhood watch were to be an official group under the HOA, then it can gain access to the community budget.

Another benefit is faster recruitment. Thanks to the HOA’s wide range of communication tools and broad reach, recruitment will become a breeze.

On the other hand, the HOA also faces potential liability if it chooses to unite with the neighborhood watch. The HOA and the neighborhood watch do not have the same goals. Even though safety is important, the HOA’s primary purpose is to preserve property values within the community.

There is also the case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Neighborhood watch coordinator Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in February 2012, leading to a widely publicized trial.

Because the HOA, the Retreat at Twin Lakes, expressly directed residents to report suspicious activity to Zimmerman, it found itself in legal trouble. Martin’s family sued the HOA for wrongful death and eventually reached a settlement with the association.

 

How Can the HOA Avoid Potential Liability?

To protect itself from liability, the HOA should clearly define a line between itself and the neighborhood watch. The program should not become a committee of the HOA board. It should remain independent, with the HOA removing itself from any selection or appointment process. The HOA must also not control the watch using any means.

In other words, no official relationship should exist between the two entities, even if the HOA permits the establishment of the program. The HOA must make this clear through all printed or published materials it distributes to the community. The neighborhood watch should also follow suit.

Furthermore, members of the neighborhood watch must not wear uniforms or carry badges, as these items gives the impression of HOA authorization. The neighborhood watch should always seek guidance and help from local law enforcement.

 

Other Ways to Promote Safety in the Community

While not necessarily the main purpose of a homeowners association, safety and security are integral to resident satisfaction. The risk of intruders exists, but you might also encounter an instance where a stranger becomes injured due to a mistaken identity. Apart from forming an HOA neighborhood watch, here are other ways the HOA can promote safety within the community:

  • Provide homeowners with a “safety guide” containing emergency contacts and hotlines as well as maps to the closest medical or emergency services.
  • Provide homeowners with regular safety and security tips through seminars, newsletters, and the like.
  • Come up with a seasonal safety plan and an emergency response plan consisting of all security procedures to be followed as well as evacuation routes.
  • Post safety guidelines at community amenities and common areas.
  • Install security cameras within the community.
  • Partner with local law enforcement.

 

Get a Good Start

As you can see, creating an HOA neighborhood watch poses many advantages. These programs help deter crime, allow residents to feel safer, and promote a sense of community as well. If you want to start one, make sure to follow all the proper procedures and liaise with local law enforcement. Establishing a neighborhood watch program on the right foot will help bring about future success.

Is your association looking for an HOA management company to help with day-to-day operations? Look for the best one in your area today using our detailed online directory.

 

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12 Qualities And Skills You Need In A Great HOA Manager

A homeowners association manager must be able to wear many hats to be successful. The HOA manager often serves as a pillar for your HOA and offers critical assistance to the board. As such, it’s important to choose an HOA manager that demonstrates specific qualities and skills while managing your community.

 

What Does an HOA Manager Do?

First of all, it’s important to know the difference between an HOA manager and a property manager. Many people use these terms interchangeably, though there are clear distinctions between them.

An HOA manager or HOA management company helps homeowners associations run their community. In contrast, a property manager or property management company manages rental property that belongs to an individual or corporation. Sometimes, people will refer to an HOA manager as an HOA property manager.

 

HOA Manager Job Description

What do HOA management companies do? An HOA manager or management company bears many responsibilities such as overseeing day-to-day operations and the general management of the community.

Homeowners associations are led by a set of leaders known as the board of directors. Board members, though, don’t always have the time or skills necessary to perform management tasks. For this reason, many associations hire an HOA management company or manager for assistance.

Keep in mind that not all companies offer the same services. The exact HOA management company responsibilities will depend on the agreed-upon services stipulated in the management contract. Though, typical HOA property management company responsibilities do include but are not limited to the following:

  • Understand the HOA’s governing documents
  • Ensure the HOA complies with federal, state, and local laws
  • Help prepare the annual budget
  • Ensure the HOA stays within budget
  • Collect dues and assessments
  • Oversee invoices, receivables, payables, and delinquencies
  • Secure the right insurance policies
  • Provide monthly management and financial reports to the board
  • Schedule and attend board meetings
  • Document and keep records
  • Inspect for violations
  • Enforce rules and regulations consistently
  • Review policies and provide recommendations
  • Reply to homeowner concerns and questions
  • Keep members updated through various communication channels
  • Sending notices
  • Maintain common areas — making sure they’re safe and properly insured
  • Oversee projects
  • Resolve disputes within the community
  • Help facilitate board elections
  • Prepare taxes
  • Advise the board on various matters and decisions
  • Coordinate with professionals such as attorneys, accountants, reserve specialists, etc.

 

Hiring an HOA Manager

Are HOA managers and HOA management companies one and the same? Although they do have the same responsibilities, HOA management companies are firms that provide management services to homeowners associations. On the other hand, HOA managers are the actual people associations deal with.

When you hire an HOA management company, they will typically assign an HOA manager to your community. After all, you can’t work with a faceless corporation. It’s also unrealistic to have different point persons for different management tasks. An HOA manager will oversee the community’s operations, support the board, and act as a liaison between you and the management company.

 

Qualities and Skills of a Great HOA Manager

How do you know that you have a good HOA manager? One way is to see if they make an effort to go beyond the HOA property manager job description. This shows that they truly care for your community and aren’t just doing the bare minimum. Here are other important qualities of an HOA manager.

 

1. A Natural Leader

What makes a good HOA manager? A good HOA manager must be confident enough to voice their opinions and not let others step over them. Some board members will be very opinionated, and the manager should know how to respond to them in a helpful and constructive way. A manager should be able to act as your HOA’s leader.

 

2. Calm and Professional

There may be times when an angry resident will resort to yelling or treating your manager poorly, but a good manager will remain professional in any situation.

They won’t show hurt or frustration, as that can only escalate the situation. You want an HOA manager that can handle these tense circumstances calmly. A manager with conflict resolution skills is a plus, too, since they will be able to resolve issues without needing legal interventions.

 

3. A Good Speaker

hoa manager job descriptionCommunication is key, especially when it comes to community association management. The manager communicates daily with your board, residents, and vendors, so they will need to be able to properly respond to others and clearly articulate what they are thinking.

 

4. HOA Knowledge

This one might seem obvious, but an HOA manager should be well-versed in the workings of your HOA and its rules and regulations. This includes staying up-to-date on federal and state laws regarding HOA communities, which is so important for ensuring the HOA is running according to the law.

 

5. Quick to Respond

Problems that are brought to the manager should be fixed quickly and efficiently. This can always be a challenge since HOA managers have a lot on their plates, but an effective manager will be organized and prepared for responding to problems in a timely manner. If community members see that their manager is quick to respond, they are more likely to approach the manager for their concerns.

 

6. Contractor Knowledge

It really helps to have a manager with general contracting knowledge. Of course, they don’t need to have the same skills as a contractor, but knowing what the process involves will make communication more successful between manager and contractor.

The manager will be able to understand the expected time period and rate for projects. Your manager may even provide valuable insights that positively influence community projects and timelines.

 

7. Open Communication

HOA managers should be able to communicate well with all types of individuals, including residents, the board, and vendors or contractors, despite any differences in background, opinions, or beliefs. If a manager has conflicting thoughts, they can still explain their side — but in a way that is neutral and respectful to all parties involved.

 

8. Accounting Experience

An HOA manager doesn’t need to have professional accountant skills, but it’s helpful to have general accounting knowledge. This goes a long way when maintaining the monthly, quarterly, and yearly HOA budget, which the manager handles.

But if financial services are a forte of an HOA management company, financial expertise could be one of the skills of a manager. You’ll be able to rely on your manager when it’s time to make important financial decisions for the community.

 

9. Mediation Skills

hoa manager responsibilitiesWhen running an HOA, the manager will have to deal with a diverse group of people. So, there will be butting of heads and disagreements on correct procedures. Dispute resolution is an integral part of HOA property management duties.

A successful HOA manager will know how to negotiate between parties and help all come to a compromise. No one will get everything they desire, of course, but proper mediation can leave people happy enough with the results and feeling like their opinion has been heard and considered.

 

10. Listening Skills

It’s crucial that your HOA manager be good at listening. After all, communication is one of the biggest components of community management. Many people will come to your manager with their concerns (sometimes angry concerns), and they should have the patience to listen and try to understand each member’s situation so they can help effectively.

 

11. A Multitasker

Having many tasks can be overwhelming for anyone. However, a good manager will be able to handle multiple HOA manager responsibilities and tasks at the same time — if needed. Attending to one matter at a time is still ideal, but you want a manager that can multitask during peak or busy hours. They won’t collapse from the pressure of having to accomplish a never-ending list of tasks.

 

12. Always Willing to Learn

It’s impossible to have a perfect manager, especially if you’ve only begun working together. However, one of the best qualities to have in a manager is the willingness to learn.

Even a good HOA manager will make mistakes from time to time, but a great manager will be one that can learn from their mistakes. An ideal manager also takes the time to expand their knowledge base, so that they can impart valuable information to their communities.

 

Trust Is Imperative

The relationship between the HOA manager and the board members is crucial to the success of your community. That’s why you want to find someone who possesses these 12 qualities and skills.

Apart from that, though, it’s important to find a manager that you can trust. When there is trust, the HOA board and manager become more productive and efficient. Through this collaboration, you’ll be able to meet the needs of your community and its residents.

 

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