The Annual Meeting-Don’t Be That Guy

November 30, 2013

Annual Meetings for homeowners associations and condominium associations can sometimes be contentious affairs.  If you read our previous article about the guidelines associated with annual meetings you know that unless enough owners are present in person or by proxy, no meeting may be held. At that point the meeting turns into a gathering of neighbors.  But usually there is one person that wants to kick and scream over things that are being dealt with in the appropriate manner-don’t be that guy!

If you are attending the annual meeting there’s a pretty good chance you received the meeting notice packet.  In that meeting notice packet was an agenda outlining what would be discussed. For starters, if there is no quorum (the number of homes needed for a duly called meeting) then the annual meeting turns into a board meeting.  Secondly, follow the agenda.  If the meeting does not have a quorum, some Board members will continue through the agenda, presenting the association’s financial information, the budget for the coming year and any other pertinent information.

But most importantly, be courteous and respectful. The members of the Board of Directors have volunteered to serve in this capacity.  Imagine volunteering for a position where you have to enforce rules against your neighbor and constantly be the bad guy.  It’s a thankless job.  If you have a complaint or concern you would like to address at an annual meeting, ask a Board member or the person designated as the meeting moderator when you may be able to address the board.  There is usually time when the official business is concluded to take questions from residents.  But don’t continue to belabor a point.  The Board of Directors most likely already knows about the 5, 10, 15 homes that have unkempt lawns, needs painting or any other problems. If you are wondering nothing has been done yet, check out our other article  on violations.  Above all, be polite.  You’ll get further by being nice.

 


The HOA Annual Meeting

October 29, 2013

We talked in the last post about preparing the annual budget and things to consider. Today we’ll talk about the HOA meeting and what to expect at the meeting.

For starters, if your community is still controlled by the developer, don’t anticipate an annual meeting. Because the developer still retains control of the Board of Directors of the association, most see no need to have a meeting. Annual meetings are held to elect a Board of Directors and to review the budget for the coming year. Since developers have control of both aspects, meetings are typically not held.

For homeowner associations that are not controlled by the developer, annual meetings are held annually to elect Board members and review or approve the budget for the coming year. However, these meetings routinely do not meet the required quorum and therefore, most Board members are appointed by the existing members of the Board.

What is a Quorum?

Quorum, defined by Websters, is the smallest number of people who must be present at a meeting in order for decisions to be made.  What does this mean for your association?  It means for elections to take place, a certain number of homes must be represented at the meeting, in person or by proxy.

What is a Proxy?

A proxy is a person who is given the power or authority to do something (such as to vote) for someone else.  Properly completed and returned proxies are counted towards the quorum number in order for business to take place at an annual meeting.

So How Does all this Work?

For business to be transacted at an annual meeting and elections to take place and quorum must be present at a duly called meeting. This means the notice for annual meeting was sent out at the appropriate time (consult your documents for specifics), usually no longer than 60 days and no shorter than 14 days. In the meeting notice packet there will be the meeting notice, date, time and place, and a proxy. If you do not plan to attend the meeting or are unable to, complete the proxy and return it to the management company or the point of contact that sent the notice. This proxy will count towards the quorum. Quorum is dictated by the governing documents and can range from 25% up to 75%. If the required number of people are not at the meeting in person or by proxy, the meeting then turns in to an informational meeting.  Volunteers for the Board of Directors will be solicited from those in attendance and if approved by the remaining Board members, appointed to the Board.

The Budget

We talked in the previous post about how to prepare the budget. What we’ll discuss here is budgets that have an increase in the annual fees. Governing documents will usually have a cap on how much a budget can increase each year, anywhere from 5% to 20%. Ideally, association fees should increase each year to keep pace with inflation and to keep sticker shock down.  Provided the Board of Directors does not exceed the allotted percentage increase, a budget can be adopted with little fanfare.  However, there are times when increases need to exceed the percentage allowed by the documents.  At this time, the membership will have to approve the increase at a meeting having a quorum of owners in attendance.  But there are instances where these increases are allowable provided certain conditions are met-these conditions were put in place by State Legislatures to keep HOAs financially solvent.

We covered a lot here about annual HOA meetings.  We’ll continue to discuss the annual meeting process and what you should expect, both as a Board member and as a homeowner.


OPEN HOUSE

October 28, 2013

Please join us for an Open House on Wednesday, October 30, 2013, from 4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M., as we celebrate 30 years of providing community association management services to Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.


‘Tis the Season

October 28, 2013

For preparing proposed budgets that is.  Annual budget preparation doesn’t have to be a chore. If you haven’t started the process for the annual billing for your association, now is the time.

First, review your contracts for services such as landscape maintenance, pool maintenance (if you have a pool) and retention pond maintenance. If the Board of Directors would like to check the existing prices against competitors, now is the time.  If you’ve been unhappy with your service in the previous year, take the time to place your services out for bid. There’s a possibility that the Board could save the association money or improve the level of service provided.  Once the Board has settled on contract services for the year, begin putting together your budget.

001It’s not much different than a household budget.  List your expenses, don’t forget the costs associated with being a business such as filing of state required forms each year (In Florida, its called the Corporate Annual Report), federal tax return (its best to have accountant handle this for you), costs associated with copying and mailing bills, newsletters, etc.

A significant factor to take into account is the number of delinquencies you plan to have for the year. In a perfect world, every association would be able to collect 100% of association fees. But, as you know, we don’t live in a perfect world. Plan to have at least 10% of your owners not pay their fees.  For some communities, mostly starter homes, that number could be as high as 20%. Don’t leave the association short by not anticipating these delinquencies.

Most communities plan for an annual meeting at this time of year to present the proposed budget to the membership. Refer to your governing documents to see if there is a specific date required and if there is a specific time allotted for notification of the owners. Some associations require a 30 day written notification, others are mute on the topic. If your documents do not state a specific time, refer to your State’s requirement for non-profit entities or consult an attorney.  For the State of Florida, the default notification is 14 days.  Your state could be different. For condominiums, the rules are entirely different so please refer to your Declaration of Condominium for specifics.

In our next installment, we’ll talk about the HOA annual meeting and some things to expect.


Invasive Plant Species in your Retention Ponds

August 29, 2013

One of the reasons that associations have to engage the services of lake maintenance companies for stormwater retention areas is to help control the noxious weeds that are a threat to all of Florida Waterways.  The Top 10 noxious weed invaders according to the St. John’s River Water Management District are:

  1. Hydrilla
  2. Water hyacinth
  3. Water lettuce
  4. Chinese tallow
  5. Japanese and Old World climbing ferns
  6. Cogon grass
  7. Brazilian pepper
  8. Tropical soda apple
  9. Torpedo grass
  10. Air potato

Just like the non native pythons that are a problem in the Everglades, noxious weeds can cause an environmental change in your stormwater system. There are very few companies that offer manual extraction of these invasive species so it’s best to manage them in the beginning. If you notice a clump of weeds gathering at the waters edge, notify the manager or the lake maintenance company.

Also, is you live along the lake and your property has a “stormwater retention easement” indicated on your property survey, make sure you do not fence or block access to the retention area. There are a limited number of these easements around a retention area.  If it becomes necessary to obtain access to the retention area, you could be forced to remove the fence to allow access.

If you have brought your boat home from a creek, river or lake that has these noxious plants, they could have hitched a ride.  When you wash your boat and flush the engine, these weeds flow out onto your driveway or yard.  You, in turn, hose the driveway off into the street where it ends up in the stormwater system the next time it rains. Its a never ending cycle but you can do your part by not flushing your wash material into the street.

Photos courtesy of University of Florida IFS Extension Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

hydrilla soda apple torpedo grass water lettuce

hyacith


Eliminate a fire risk-Clean your dryer vent!

August 12, 2013

One of the causes that contribute to household fires is an obstructed dryer vent.  Even in high rise condominiums, this can be a possible ignition source and cause significant damage.

dryer ventOver time, lint waste from your dryer will accumulate in the duct (the long flexible aluminum tubing that carries warm air to the outside) and eventually become obstructed.  Signs that your dryer vent or duct is obstructed would be clothes taking longer than usual to dry or towels that take a long time to dry or both.  That warm moist air continues to accumulate more lint and before you know it your vent is completely obstructed.

For homeowners, this is a relatively inexpensive fix that you can do yourself.  Unplug your dryer (safety first), slide the dryer forward so that you can access the exhaust tubing.  Disconnect your tubing from the outside vent and if possible, from the backside of the dryer.  Reach through the tubing to extract all of the accumulated lint.  Watch for bugs and other pests.

For townhome and condominium owners, this might not be such an easy process.  However, you can do your part.  First, be aware of how long your clothes and towels take to dry.  If it takes longer than usual, ask the association manager who is responsible for cleaning the vents from your interior walls to the exterior vent.  This could be an association expense or you could be personally responsible.  If it’s the association’s responsibility, the maintenance person should be able to run a vent cleaner through the duct work and push the lint through the vent on the outside of the building. Or he or she can extract it back trough the tubing.  If cleaning the duct is your responsibility and you know that your arm will not reach the exterior dryer vent, consider purchasing a dryer vent cleaner such as this one (available at any home improvement store).  The cordless drill is not included but if you’re a do it yourselfer type, you may have one already. Connect the lint cleaner to the end of a cordless drill, run it through the duct work and you’re finished.

Simple precautions can go a long may in preventing fires.


Board members-Proper Care and Treatment of Vendors

July 23, 2013

The vast majority of homeowner associations and most condominium associations do not have the luxury of having and onsite maintenance person. But finding a quality maintenance person, a “go to” guy for your association needs doesn’t have to be difficult.

Most HOAs and condominiums will have contacts in place for landscape maintenance, pool maintenance and janitorial services.  But what about the other things that tend to fall in that gray area such as exterior fence repairs, playground repairs, lightbulb replacement or pressure washing?  For these items you’ll need a maintenance person or handy man.

If your community is managed by a professional community association management company, your community association manager will probably have contacts for just the right person. Because there are a number of things in HOAs and condos that fall outside of the services of landscape maintenance or pool maintenance, management companies will have three or four different people to take care of your problem.

Maintaining a good, working relationship with a quality vendor will provide your community with a well kept appearance and set you apart from other communities.  Here are some tips on how to develop and preserve a good business relationship with a quality maintenance person.

1. It’s all about the money! Quality maintenance people or companies will charge between $35 and $75 per hour.  They are independent business people with tax and insurance obligations and that’s the cost of doing business.

2. It’s all about the money 2! Nothing will sour a relationship quicker than not paying a vendor in a timely fashion.  Dragging your feet on approving an invoice will also result in a sour relationship as well.  Make sure your vendor knows your community billing protocol prior to performing the work so they can plan accordingly. For instance, if invoices must be submitted by Tuesday for payment on Friday, make sure your vendor knows.  Also, community association managers and Board members, don’t drag your feet in approving invoices. Check the work and approve the invoice.  If a change to the job or addition needs to be made, contact the vendor immediately.

3. Don’t quote every job.  If you require your maintenance person to quote every single job then don’t plan on them hanging around long.  Establish a “do not exceed” price, $300-$500 for work that needs to be done in your community.  If you request quotes for every little item, you may find that the association will end up paying more for it than would be the case if you simply said “just do it”.

4. Don’t add on to a quoted job.  For quoted jobs, don’t add additional items on and expect them to be included in the price.

5. Be as upfront and forthcoming with information as possible.  If you would like your maintenance person to quote a price for painting the condo front doors, tell them how many doors and whether the management company or the owner will be coordinating this.

These are just a few tips on how the proper care and treatment of vendors. If you are in need of professional community association management, contact Property Management Systems, Inc. today for information.