Every year the state of Florida experiences an ebb and flow of full-time and part-time residents; as the seasons change, so does the population. Part-time residents from the northern United States and Canada live and work in Florida for an extended time every winter, while a percentage of permanent residents of Florida migrate north during the warmest months, and even larger number of residents call Florida home 365 days of the year.
Although it may sometimes feel as if our pets have the run of the roost. In order to maintain the status quo – especially in a communal living environment such as a condominium, cooperative or HOA – it is necessary to establish a set of ground rules regarding pet care.
The coolest new amenity must have in luxury condominiums are car elevators and in-unit parking. It’s exactly what it sounds like: you drive your vehicle onto an elevator platform, hit a button, and you and your auto are delivered to your apartment.
All you have to do is turn on the TV these days to know how popular kitchen and bathroom renovations have become. Backsplashes, stainless steel appliances, subway tiles, granite countertops, glass-enclosed showers, soaking tubs – the list of enticing upgrades and additions now available seems nearly endless.
There are a lot of factors to consider, though, before launching a kitchen or bath renovation, including an understanding – and acceptance – that these can be very complex renovation projects. Fortunately, with proper planning, vigilance and with a bit of luck, they also can turn out to be some of the best investments a homeowner can make – with minimal disruption and hassle for boards and managers.
As exciting and fun as it can be, planning early for a kitchen or bath renovation does not, unfortunately, mean spending late nights on Pinterest or leafing through glossy home renovation magazines. The most practical step is to contact your property manager and get a copy of the building’s alteration agreement and to learn more about what is expected and required for a successful renovation project.
Check Every Box
Before getting too involved in the project, it is important for the building’s architect or engineer to review it and come back to the manager, property owner, or unit owner with a list of objections or questions.
There may be some special details that the board will need to consider, in particular when residents want to expand the size of the kitchen or bath. “Some buildings won’t allow it,” Weinstein says. “Others will want waterproofing or sound alterations to reduce the potential for water damage or the risk of increased noise.”
Working with a contractor
Nothing makes a unit owner break into a cold sweat faster than the thought that their renovation project may not be done properly. What could be worse than an inspector coming through after everything has been sealed and cleaned up, and demanding costly repairs? To avoid that, it is imperative to ensure that contractors are working in line with all codes and requirements.
Whether you serve on the board of a co-op, condo or HOA, chances are you and your fellow community administrators are volunteers. Perhaps you’re fortunate enough that you or one of your colleagues has professional legal expertise to bring to the table – but even if that’s the case, sooner or later you’ll need to consult with outside legal counsel on some issue, whether it be the sale of an apartment in the building, or an acrimonious situation between neighbors, or between a resident and the board itself.
Whether you make your home in the heart of a city or in a big suburb, there are certain dangers that have nothing to do with crime rates, economics, or the latest disease (read: Zika). Sometimes the most dangerous threats to our well-being are not obvious. Such is the case with things like lead paint, mold, asbestos, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde can be harmless under normal circumstances, but become dangerous when they are exposed, or when they accumulate in a residential setting.
Homeowner’s associations or common interest developments house a good portion of homeowners in Florida. Associations that are managed well can bring additional value to a home. How a community is managed is one of the main aspects homeowners should consider when buying into a community association. How can a buyer determine if they should purchase a home that is part of a community association and whether the HOA is being run effectively? Some factors to consider include:
1. Maintenance: One thing you will notice right away when visiting a community is whether or not maintenance is being implemented effectively. Some bad signs to look out for include dead landscaping, peeling paint, and cracked stucco. One of the main responsibilities of an HOA is to ensure that the community is being properly cared for. Well-kept grounds means that HOA dollars are being used wisely.
2. Management: Some boards try to reduce costs by managing the HOA themselves. Unfortunately, this can end up increasing costs in the long run. Community association management companies have experience making sure communities are running smoothly in terms of maintenance, financials, communication, insurance, and more. HOAs should look for management companies that offer top quality services and credentials.
3. Insurance: Review the HOA’s summary of insurance and which risks are covered. Check for hurricane insurance, which could make the difference between HOA insolvency and rebuilding.
4. Board Meetings: HOA boards are required to meet at least quarterly, although the majority meet at least once a month. Board that meet very little may be operating informally, which is not a good sign.
5. Communication: Does the HOA keep members informed? This can be done through bulletin boards, websites, or newsletters. Make sure communication is clear, honest, and frequent.
6. Association Financial Stability: HOAs should provide detailed reserve funding disclosures, so make sure to actually read them. Reserve fund savings can actually be a good sign since it is a form of growing indebtedness. Healthy HOAs plan ahead and follow the guidelines of a reserve study.
While no HOA or home is perfect, these are some elements you can review to judge the quality of the HOA you will live under. It is important to know that the management you will live under is going to operate effectively and improve the quality of your community.
Talking about money is usually right up there with religion and politics – it’s uncomfortable, and no one really wants to do it. However, there’s no real benefit to skirting financial realities just because it is contentious or a difficult subject.
Everyone is right to be concerned with the safety of their communities, whether they live in an area highly susceptible to crime or in a sleepy retirement community. Condos, Co-ops, and HOAs are no exception; in fact, the communal nature of these environments may make it even more likely that resident would want to band together in an effort to advocate for their mutual well-being. Sometimes, this takes on the form of a neighborhood watch, with neighbors working together to establish a chain of command that will rapidly alert the authorities if something is amiss.
When considering establishing a neighborhood watch, it’s important for an association to acknowledge where its responsibilities lie and what its specific goals are and then develop a structure from there. The primary purpose of a neighborhood watch should be to observe and report, rather than intervene and escalate.
“[Neighborhood watch] is an area that needs to be handled delicately, and must be approached very cautiously,” warns David Muller, a community association attorney with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff in Naples. “There’s a common misconception that community associations affirmatively ensure the safety of their residents and owners, but the reality is that associations are tasked with doing that which is required of them under the governing documents and the statutes.
According to Carmen Caldwell, executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami–Dade County and treasurer of the National Crime Prevention Association in Doral, neighborhood watches work best in communities where the owners live in their residences year-round. “The essence of neighborhood watch is establishing a phone chain,” she explains. “Everyone participating exchanges numbers – but if many people are leaving for the winter, that chain falls apart.”
“We’ll go into communities and give quarterly crime prevention presentations. We educate residents as to how they can be sage, what they can do, and how to establish relationships with law enforcement, which is very important. A lot of times in large complexes, people don’t want to call the police. They don’t want their neighbors to know that they were the ones who made the call. But you don’t have to give your phone number; you don’t even have to give your name. You just have to give a description of what’s going on.”
Chain of Command
It is imperative to establish a chain of command to implement a successful neighborhood watch. Communities vary in size, and there are some best practices when it comes to patrolling one’s own community.
A condo or homeowner’s association is the cornerstone of a building community. The condo or HOA maintains order and continuity by preserving architectural integrity, maintaining the common elements, protecting property values, and often providing for recreation and community engagement. Operating a condo or HOA involves many of the same responsibilities as any other business, although board members are volunteers and generally serve without compensation.