It is that time of year again when many state legislatures have just wrapped up their sessions, or are about to. It is the time when the various trade groups are either licking their wounds or celebrating. The same is true for those involved in community associations. Compared to many industries, we are still adolescents, still working to administratively shape our industry. While we endure our growing pains, state legislatures often hear from the industry detractors and react to their concerns. Such is life in governance in a fledgling industry.
As an industry we must simply keep our guard up to ensure two things: that the legislators fully understand not just the legal impact, but also the operational impact of any proposed legislation and that there are no deleterious results of any added legislation. Usually, in our industry, before a state law is enacted, a potential law hits the legislative process in another state or is tossed around within a state over a few sessions before it is passed. So it is good to browse around a bit about this time of year as the dust is settling, to do a little post season tire kicking in planning for the next legislative sessions. It is worthwhile to look in the junk pile at the failed bills because they often come back at us again. Of course we must also assess the laws that did pass in order to adjust operational plans for compliance.
Boards and communities have a partner in The Management Trust that understands the importance of proactive “Leadership Management.” As a company, we work hard to stay abreast of pertinent legislation. We can also influence such legislation. The Management Trust is a powerful force when working with our various state trade organizations. These organizations work with legislators and engage lobbyists to look after our industry’s collective best interest. We partner with our communities and board members to represent their needs and to assist them in staying informed and being involved.
If you have any questions regarding the legislative outcomes in your state, let us be of assistance. And if you need us to kick a tire or two, well there is plenty of lead time before next year’s legislative sessions begin.
Written by Tea Fant, The Management Trust - Northwest
Spring is here and summer is right around the corner. When deciding what should comprise your home’s to-do list, landscaping should definitely be included. Northwest Trusted Partner and landscape expert Ed Doubrava, owner of Showplace Landscape Services, sat down with us and happily answered some important questions regarding spring/summer maintenance for homeowners’ associations. Here is the valuable information he shared:
Q: What are the most common landscaping issues associations face during the spring season?
A: Cranefly: Watch for cranefly damage in lawns. These tan, half‐inch larvae hatch throughout the winter and spring and then feed ravenously. If sufficient in number they can destroy lawns, leaving them barren and muddy. Usually one treatment will control an infestation. Aeration and over‐seeding will benefit damaged lawns.
Moss: Lawns subject to moss infestation may need a treatment.
Mulch/Bark Dust: Spring is the best time to apply mulch to plant beds. A fresh application will greatly enhance the appearance of bed areas and aid in weed control and moisture retention during the growing season.
Weedy Grasses: Although present year‐round, weedy grasses in lawns are more evident in spring. Weedy grasses are actually many species of native grasses which thrive in our climate and easily establish themselves among fine turf varieties. They can be controlled, but it is difficult and expensive.
Trees & Shrubs: Some species are prone to insect and/or disease problems. In such cases, a dormant oil treatment, root or trunk application should be considered.
Q: What typical spring maintenance should homeowners expect to see from their landscaping company?
A: Residents should see weekly mowing and regular edging, along with spot‐spraying or hand removal of weeds in plant beds. They should also see spot‐treatment of broad leaf weeds (dandelions and clover) in lawn areas. A slow‐release fertilizer should be applied to plants and lawns. Irrigation technicians should activate, inspect and repair sprinkler systems to get them ready for the dry season. In late spring, winter pansies should be removed and replaced with colorful, heat resistant summer varieties.
Q: How can community managers and board members ensure healthy and attractive landscapes throughout the spring and into summer?
A: Typical annual maintenance agreements include only services needed each year. To keep a property in top shape you really need to budget for some extras such as a periodic bark dust application and for unforeseen problems, such as pests and sprinkler repairs. Should urgent issues arise, be ready to provide timely approvals to mitigate damage.
It is such a treat to drive through the neighborhoods and be able to see firsthand the care and effort that go into maintaining the beauty within our associations. This wouldn’t be possible without the experienced and knowledgeable landscape professionals we refer to on a constant basis.
Break out the BBQ grill because the sun has arrived! Here's another delicious recipe from our resident Chef blogger William Carter that will definitely get you in the mood for summer:
For the lamb:
• 1 1/2 pounds lamb leg, cut into 1-inch pieces (or 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb)• 1 red onion or 3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste• 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1. Preheat the grill or broiler.
2. Grind the lamb in a meat grinder or the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. (Skip this step if using pre-ground lamb.)
3. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together using clean, lightly-oiled hands, compacting the mixture as little as possible. Form the mixture into 9 patties, each about 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Thread a skewer through each patty, compacting the meat around the skewer now if necessary to keep them from falling apart on the grill.
4. Grill each skewer of meat for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until the outside is browned and the inside is just cooked through. If broiling, cook 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove from grill or broiler, season lightly with salt and pepper, remove skewers and serve with the salad and toasted pita if desired.
Yield: 6 servings as an entrée, 9 to 12 servings as an appetizer
For the salad:
• 2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeds removed with a spoon, cut into 1/2-inch dice• 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice• 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste• 3 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled• 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Combine the cucumbers, zucchini and 1 tablespoon salt in a large bowl and toss well to coat. Transfer the vegetables to a fine-mesh sieve and let sit for 30 minutes. The salt will draw out excess moisture from the vegetables and concentrate their flavors.
2. Shake off any excess liquid from the vegetables and return them to the large bowl. Add the cheese, lemon juice, oil and herbs and toss well to combine.
Season with pepper and additional salt if desired.
Yield: 6 servings
Written by The Management Trust - Northwest
Every association has board meetings, and every resident of that association is allowed and welcome to attend these meetings, if there has been public notice (usually with a postcard or noted on the HOA's website). All residents are not only encouraged to read the prior meeting’s approved minutes once available, they also should observe and actively participate. All meetings of the association board are open and residents who wish to address the board are welcome to do so during the homeowner forum conducted at the beginning of each business meeting. Here are few tips for participating in your association's meetings:
1. Put it in writing
You will get the best response if you put your questions or opinions in writing prior to the meeting. This isn’t mandatory, but it helps you and the board. Some issues may require a little research by the manager. Also, the board can serve you better if members havetime to consider your concern.
2. Call ahead
As a courtesy, the association asks that you phone and let the manager know that you wish to address the board. This also allows them to notify you if a meeting is cancelled for any reason.
3. Plan your remarks to last no longer than five minutes
Board members enjoy visiting with residents; however, the meeting agenda is always very full, and the five-minute limit ensures that all business gets conducted. This doesn’t mean big issues can’t be presented. If your concern requires more time, please summarize it in five minutes, and the board will add it to the agenda for the next meeting.
4. Don’t expect an immediate response
Board members don’t act independently. All issues require discussion and sometimes a vote. Sometimes an immediate answer is possible, but it’s just as likely that you won’t get a response until after the meeting.
5. If you need information, call the manager
The purpose of the Homeowner Forum is for residents to share opinions and concerns with the board. Residents seeking general information (like a status report on a project or the board’s position on an issue) can get a more immediate answer from the manager.
Reserve studies are crucial for homeowners associations because they will help maintain financial stability while also planning for potential future expenditures. It takes a qualified professional to ensure the accuracy and precision of such a task…a Reserve Specialist!
An association is responsible for the long-term replacement or major repair of common area assets over their expected useful life. By anticipating the end of an asset’s life and planning for its replacement well in advance, an association can properly maintain its community’s appearance and value.
A Reserve Specialist collects the data needed for input into the reserve study formulas. They are responsible for preparing an inventory of an association’s physical properties and gathering all of the relevant information which will determine the annual reserve contributions.
The accuracy of the data entered will directly relate to the usefulness and reliability of the reserve study in being a tool for the management of an association’s finances and physical properties. The factors which can greatly influence the quality of the reserve study must be based on realistic facts. Using false or unrealistic estimates of an asset’s age, condition, or replacement cost will leave an association financially unprepared for the inevitable replacement or major repair work that must be done at a future date. Such accuracy includes:
- quantitative measurement of the assets (e.g. square footage, number of items, etc.)
- realistic age estimates
- the expected replacement or major repair costs
- the repair/replacement history of each item considered in the study
A Reserve Specialist must put the information in two primary categories: the Physical Property Analysis and the Financial Analysis.
Physical Property Analysis
A Physical Property Analysis aims to compile specific information about each of the association owned assets including:
- a component inventory
- an evaluation of the current condition of each item in the inventory
- the realistic “adjusted age” of each asset, based on the initial useful life and the expected remaining life of each asset
- the estimated replacement cost of each asset.
The inventory will remain relatively consistent from year to year unless an asset is eliminated or a new asset is purchased. On the other hand, the evaluation of an asset’s condition, the adjusted age, and the cost to replace or provide for major repair will change each year.
It is very important that a clear distinction be made between the private property of individual owners and the common area assets which are the association’s responsibility. The association documents will hopefully provide a clear definition of all real property ownership interests, but if they do not, it is the responsibility of the Specialist to clarify that information with the association’s Board of Directors prior to commencing work on the reserve study.
In preparing the Financial Analysis, the Reserve Specialist works from the information compiled in the Physical Property section described above in order to determine what the possible level of funds will be needed at various future points of time. Each asset has a different life expectancy, replacement cost, and age factor (such as rate of wear, quality of interim maintenance and servicing, and quality of the initial product installed); therefore, the financial analysis will be different for each asset component.
The Reserve Specialist compiles the individual financial schedules for each asset, usually through the use of sophisticated software, which takes into account the timing of the association’s reserve cash requirements. Such timing is based on all of the factors outlined under the Physical Property Analysis section above. By including these projected cash flow needs, along with the balance of reserve funds that the community has already accumulated, and any interest income from these savings, the reserve study is prepared. The ultimate cash flow need determines the level of annual reserve contributions to be made by each owner as part of their periodic association assessment payment.
Written by Tea Fant, The Management Trust - Northwest
Irrigation backflow is when water that typically flows in one direction is reversed and enters the clean water supply. When backflow prevention devices are installed it ensures the cleanliness of water you use on a daily basis.
What are they?
Irrigation backflow prevention devices are brass valves. These are installed on sprinkler systems that are connected to potable (drinking) water supplies. Sometimes, if there is a duel sprinkler system for irrigation water and potable water then a reduced pressure device is instead installed. By using this method, this ensures safety.
Why are they important?
These devices prevent potable water from being contaminated and polluted by hazards such as pesticides, feces, fertilizers, and more. By having a backflow protection valve properly installed, this helps to guarantee that any contaminated water by such toxic materials will not be siphoned back into your drinking water. Irrigation water typically flows away from your faucet, thus allowing potable water to flow freely into your drinking glass, but when backflow occurs it reverses the direction of the irrigation water and then contaminates your drinking water.
Why do thieves want to steal them?
When irrigation backflow preventers are stolen it is primarily because the thieves are looking to sell the devices as scrap metal since they are typically made of brass. This scrapped brass can be sold for anywhere from $2 to $50 per piece! This is fairly low in value when you consider the actual replacement or repair of these will cost the Association upwards of $2,000 per system.
What can be done to prevent it from being stolen…possibly again?
Since irrigation backflow preventers are required by most states and standards set to protect tap water were established by the EPA and called the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), these combined help keep the public water systems free from contamination. In order to protect irrigation backflow preventers from possible theft, it is recommended to purchase sturdy and secure backflow enclosures. Enclosures safeguard these valves by keeping them secured, protected, and under lock and key.
In the end, remember to always check the security of your irrigation backflow preventers and to install an enclosed safeguard if you feel it has become a large enough concern.
Written by Tea Fant, The Management Trust - Northwest
Reserve studies are intended to help financially prepare an association for the inevitable necessity of major repairs or replacement of facilities, equipment and other assets in a community association’s common areas. Since the association is required to maintain these items, it is critical that the needed funds be available when the time comes to provide the necessary services. Such reserve studies usually cover life expectancies for these items from 1 to 30 years.
A reserve study not only helps an association anticipate when and what will need attention, but it keeps an association’s finances (reserve balances, revenues and expenses) healthy and stable. This is important not only from the association’s point of view, but for the owners so they can properly plan their personal cash flow. An association that is well-funded, and properly plans for their future reserve expenditures, helps to keep the community looking and functioning smoothly, equalizes the contributions of old and new owners, reduces the need for future special assessments, and can enhance the resale value of all properties in the association.
There are two different approaches to calculating reserve studies, even though the goals outlined above are the same.
Component Funding Method: This is considered the most conservative approach to developing a reserve study. The calculations are based on the total replacement cost and life expectancy of each asset being considered. In other words, there is effectively a separate reserve established for each reserve component. The objective of this method is to get the reserve balances to 100% funded as quickly as possible over the longest practical period of time, but it is probable that it will appear your community is “over funded” with more cash available than it going to be needed for the near-term projects. This method is also referred to as a “Fully Funded” model which aims to keep reserves at or near 100% funded.
Cash Flow Method: This method calculates the amount of each owner’s contributions to reserves based on an estimate of the anticipated annual reserve expenditures over the next 30 years. In other words, this method tests different reserve funding plans against the forecasted schedule of reserve expenses until the desired funding goal is achieved. The available cash at any given time is expected to be sufficient to meet the projected annual needs because all of the reserve monies are pooled in “one pot”. There are several alternative funding goal approaches which are used under this method:
- Baseline Funding: This funding goal establishes a predicted reserve cash balance which will remain above zero. Hence, this becomes the “baseline” under which the reserve balance does not fall.
- Threshold Funding: Similar to the baseline method, where “zero” is the base, this goal establishes a specified minimum dollar or percentage of reserves under which the reserve balance is calculated not to fall.
- Current Assessment Funding: This process allows the association to match what they are “currently” collecting for reserves, when all future anticipated costs and life expectancies are considered, and to see how effective this level of collections would be over the next 30 years. It is a means of checking your current reserve contributions against what will eventually be needed throughout. This method also allows the reserve analyst to input their perspective into the study based on the association’s overall financial picture.
- Percent Funded: This method allows an association to measure the comparative amount of their reserve funds to the balance they’d have under the Fully Funded model described above.
- Statutory Funding: In some states local statutes may require that a minimum amount of reserves be maintained for some or all of the association’s asset components.
The Management Trust offers a variety of services which happen to include Reserve Studies by our in-house certified Reserve Study Analysts. Let them help provide their assistance in setting the right funding goals for your association.
Written by Tea Fant, The Management Trust - Northwest
Like it or not, our mobile lifestyles are here to stay. And for every hour of Angry Birds Star Wars that gets you through that flight delay at the airport, there is an app that can actually make the life of a homeowner easier and more organized. There are apps that can help you move into your home, remodel it once you are there, and then monitor the surrounding real estate values once you have decided to relocate:
IF TOO MANY OF YOUR MOVING BOXES ARE MARKED “MISC.”
Don’t remember if you put your glue gun in the box marked Craft Room 1 or Storage Closet 4? The Moving Van app allows you to inventory every single item you pack into a box during your move (with photos!) for quick and easy locating once you arrive. Simply type in the item you are looking for and the app will tell you which box it is in.
IF IT’S JUST A LITTLE CROOKED
Though we wouldn’t suggest getting rid of the real thing, the Bubble Level app will come in handy when you need to quickly hang those two picture frames. After, all your smartphone is usually a whole lot closer that the tool box hiding somewhere in the garage.
IF IT NEEDS TO BE JUST A SHADE GREENER (OR BLUER, OR GRAYER….)
For some turquoise is turquoise. For others, the difference between a robin’s egg and a Tiffany box is glaringly obvious. For those who are forever trying match that perfect shade of sea glass, try Color Snap. Presented by Sherman Williams Paints, the app allows you capture a real-world color, adjust the hue or tone (if needed) and save it to a personal palette for home project reference or paint matching.
IF YOU HAVE NO IDEA OF YOUR ROOM IS 8x10 OR 20x20
Photo Measures Lite and Magic Plan let you take a picture of your oddly shaped family room and ensure that the furniture will fit this time without blocking all the doorways. You can record the room/feature measurements right on top of the photo for easy reference at your home improvement or furniture store, or create a personalized floor plan to explore your arrangement options.
IF YOU THINK YOUR BUDGET WOULD ALLOW FOR IMPORTED MARBLE FROM CARRARA
Sum+It helps you keep track of your expenditures on design or remodel projects when estimating how much you are spending on materials, taxes, people and any mark ups. Hosting a wedding once you get that deck built? The app can also be used to project costs for the happy day as well.
IF “THE NEIGHBORS HAVE LISTED THEIR HOUSE FOR HOW MUCH?!”
Explore a birds-eye view of your neighborhood with Zillow Real Estate to compare estimated property values, sales histories and how many homes are currently on the market.
What other apps do you find come in handy around the house? Let us know and we'll add them to Part 2 of our list!
By Sarah Deason; The Management Trust- Transpacific
As recent news reports have spotlighted, instances of squatting are no longer limited to temporary, transient takeovers of unkempt structures or abandoned shacks. From Newport Beach to Boulder, Colorado to Boca Raton, a new breed of “instant residents” have begun appearing overnight in million dollar homes, without ever making a down payment or opening escrow.
At the heart of these recent stories is the law of “adverse possession”, which exists in some form in all fifty states. The law is meant to promote the productive use of land or property by providing a way to transfer title of an abandoned property to someone who will use and maintain it. Though specific requirements differ from state to state, most require continuous residency from 7-15 years without any challenge from the property owner, along with the payment of annual property taxes.
Squatting became commonplace across the nation following the unprecedented foreclosure crisis that left more than 2 million U.S. homes vacant. And in the wake of protest demonstrations such as the Occupy movement, the internet is full of sites devoted to giving assistance and instruction to potential squatters who are no longer ready to move on once discovered by law enforcement. The squatters may produce phony leases or title documents that confuse the issue. Owners are left with the option of having to take the squatter to court for a formal eviction, which can take as long as several months.
When the squatting occurs in a planned community or homeowner association, many residents are frustrated at the Board of Director’s inability to do anything to remove the intruders. However, most associations are unable to interfere in what the law often sees as a landlord/tenant dispute. Additionally, when the property is foreclosed and bank-owned, things can move even slower while the Association tries to find the correct and most current bank contacts to act as the responsible owner.
“Be patient with your Board of Directors,” recommends Karen Newsome, a Community Association Manager with The Management Trust-Transpacific. “Unfortunately the HOA’s governing documents don’t give the Association any legal right to intercede in a private homeowner issue. We have to support the owner of the property in order to get the desired result.”
If you are an owner of vacant unit or property, taking a few reasonable steps may help prevent the threat of squatters at your property and in your community:
With a trusted neighbor or two, and even with your HOA Board of Directors or management company. Let them know if and when you have legitimately rented or leased your property (and when you haven’t) and ask that they contact you if they notice anything suspicious. Having open communication helps build safer communities.
KEEP IT CLEAN
The same as you would when travelling, keep mail and newspapers from piling up. Both can be red flags for potential squatter sites. Maintain the landscaping and any water feature such as pools or ponds.
KEEP IT SECURE
Secure all access points to your property. The more difficult it is for a squatter to gain to entry to a residence, the better. Alarm systems should be set and functional. Turn off utilities and know the contacts for your Neighborhood Watch Committee.
MAKE YOUR PRESENCE KNOWN
If you are close enough, keep your unit visible. Drive by or visit the property periodically to ensure everything is as it should be. If you are out of state, have a friend, real estate agent or a hired, individual property manager visit the property at least once a week.
Written by Sarah Deason: The Management Trust- Transpacific
In most states, Reserve Studies are required by law, and for good reason. Nothing lasts forever, and without a Reserve Study your association could be caught completely unprepared if a major repair or expense is suddenly incurred, such as a water main exploding. This and other types of disasters have bankrupted unprepared associations, and ruined property values for everyone in the community. Reserve Studies help insulate a community association from this kind of risk. It achieves this by identifying the current status of the Reserve Fund, and creating a reasonable Funding Plan to help balance any potential major common area expenses.
Of course, like most things financial, Reserve Studies can be a bit hard to understand. And there's not much out there to help you get any clarity, unless you majored in Finance. So for the rest of you out there, who just wants a layman's explanation of this very important part of your community association, we've put together this easy-to-understand glossary.
Parts of A Reserve Study:
The Reserve Study consists of two parts: the Physical Analysis and the Financial Analysis. Each part reviews the Components of the Association to determine when and how much a component will cost to repair and eventually, replace.
Before we get into breaking down the different parts of a Reserve Study, it's important that you understand COMPONENTS. A component is any part of an association that the association is required to maintain or improve, such as a parking garage, clubhouse, or public walkway. Each component should be listed as a line item in a Reserve Study and have cost associated with it that is needed to maintain its upkeep. Components all typically share the following characteristics:
1) They are the association's responsibility
2) have a limited useful life expectancy that is predictable
3) cost above a minimum threshold to replace that warrants budgeting
4) are required by local codes
One of the two parts of the Reserve Study. This is where the Component Inventory, Condition Assessment, and Life and Valuation Estimate tasks are performed.
COMPONENT INVENTORY: A way of keeping track of all the components in an association. This is conducted through on-site visual observations, review of association design (such as blueprints) and organization documents (such as permits), review of established association standards (such as CC&Rs), and discussion with any appropriate association and/or management representatives.
CONDITION ASSESSMENT: Evaluating the current condition of a component based on its stated characteristics. This assessment is used to determine each components Effective Age.
LIFE AND VALUATION ESTIMATES: Estimating Useful Life, Remaining Useful Life, and Repair or Replacement Costs for each component in an association.
USEFUL LIFE (UL): AKA "Total Useful Life" or "Depreciable Life" (DL). The estimated time, in years, that a component can be expected to do its planned job if properly applied and installed.
REMAINING USEFUL LIFE (RUL): AKA “Remaining Life” (RL). It is difference between the Useful Life and the estimated Effective Age of a component. For example, if a properly installed air conditioning unit has a Useful Life of 15 years, but it has not been properly maintained, it's Effective Age may be 5 years older than it actually is. This means that the unit's RUL is 10 (15-5).
EFFECTIVE AGE: The actual age of a component, that takes into account how properly the component is used, maintained, and cared for. For example, a car that is 3 years old but has never had an oil change and is driven 50,000 miles per year would probably have an effective age closer to 6 years, since it is being over-worked and improperly cared for.
The second of the two parts of the Reserve Study. It is where the current status of the Reserves Balance (measured as cash or Percent Funded) and the Fully Funded Balance are determined. It is also how an Association creates a Reserve Funding Plan (more on that in Part 2 of this post).
RESERVE BALANCE: (AKA Reserves, Reserve Accounts, Cash Reserves) At any specific point in time, the actual or projected funds that the association has set aside to cover future repairs or replacements of the components of the association.
FULLY FUNDED BALANCE: The total cost to maintain and/or replace all components in an association once they have exceeded their remaining useful life expectancy.
PERCENT FUNDED: The ratio of the Reserve Balance to the Fully Funded Balance, expressed as a percentage. For example, if the Fully Funded Balance is determined to be $500,000 and an association has a Reserve Balance of $250,000, then the Reserve's percent funded is 50% ($250,000/$500,000).
DEFICIT: A Reserve Balance that is less than the Fully Funded Balance. This occurs whenever the Percent Funded is less than 100%.
SURPLUS: A Reserve Balance that is greater than the Fully Funded Balance. This occurs whenever the Percent Funded is greater than 100%.
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Have more questions about Reserve Funds? Ask us in the comments section and we'll get back to you. Interested in having a Reserve Study conducted for your Association? We can help with that too! Just click here.
Written by Tea Fant, The Management Trust - Northwest