We have strict accounting protocols in place that provide the highest level of security to your association funds. Learn more about fiscal responsibility at SCS.

Model Remodeling

Model Remodeling

Owning your own home is an American dream. In urban settings, homeowner associations have become a dominant form of new construction, often representing over two thirds of new homes. While HOA homeowners have many rights and privileges, they often concede certain freedoms usually enjoyed in more traditional home ownership. One particular area of concession involves remodeling.

To control uniformity, look and feel, many HOAs have material, color and design standards which must be adhered to. In common wall and multi- story HOAs, structural integrity demands that changes made in one unit do not undermine or compromise the remaining units. For these reasons, it is important for the homeowner association to keep the owners informed and reminded of material standards and remodeling guidelines to avoid inadvertent violations.

Here are a number of requirements and guidelines which can be included in a Remodeling Policy as appropriate:

1. For smaller projects (mostly aesthetic, no structural or utility work involved), submit to the board for written approval prior to commencement of work a description of the work to be performed, who will do it and the anticipated schedule.

2. For involved projects (includes structural, utility work) owner must submit architectural plans, copies of permits and contractor agreements to the board for written approval prior to commencing work. If warranted, the board may seek the review and approval of an architect or engineer with related costs to be paid by owner.

3. If view is a consideration in project, require disclosure of proposed structure height and whether removal of trees is contemplated for better view.

4. All power tool operation must be accomplished either in the unit or off property unless authorized by the board in writing and provided there is no unreasonable objection from the neighbors.

5. Contractors are permitted to work only from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Monday through Saturdays. No work on Sundays.

6. All demolition and construction material shall be disposed of off property, not in HOA dumpsters.

7. Contractor shall clean up affected common area daily.

8. Owner will provide adequate parking for contractor. Contractor may not use guest parking or block fire lanes.

9. Common utility (electrical, water, gas, etc.) interruption must be approved and coordinated by the board.

10. If landscaping renovation is proposed and the HOA has landscape standards, a comprehensive plan should be submitted showing proposed changes.

11. Establish specific standards (brand, model, color) for paint color, roofing material, storm doors, screen doors, awnings and other common add-ons.

Since the desire to remodel can happen anytime as the spirit moves the remodeler, the board needs to be proactive in keeping owners informed of expectations. Publish the Remodeling Policy on the HOA website and reference it in all newsletters and periodic email updates. Since remodeling will happen, make sure you do all possible to direct a model outcome.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of www.Regenesis.net. From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter. 

HOA Managers: A Rare Breed

HOA Managers: A Rare Breed

 

In residential, commercial and industrial rental management, there is a revocable agreement that allows the property owner a fair amount of control over the tenant. If the tenant doesn’t live up to the agreement, the owner can terminate the agreement (and vice versa). This is not the case in HOAs which are controlled by the board, governing documents, HOA statutes and property rights.

HOA managers are called on to do everything that a rental property manager is supposed to do plus be an expert at diplomacy, mediation and human psychology. They are often called on to work a full day and then attend night meetings. It is demanding work and those that are good at it are a rare breed indeed.

HOA management companies typically work by contract for a monthly fee. But how is that amount computed? It generally is based on the estimated time it takes to accomplish the tasks outlined in the Management Agreement. There is often an extra hourly charge for tasks not deemed to be routine.

So what goes into the management fee? There are fixed costs like rent, phones, copier, insurance, computers and internet. Labor charges are based on the estimated time it will take to accomplish the prescribed work. Total fixed and labor costs plus profit margin equal the monthly management fee. It is common to divide this number by the total number of units/lots to derive the charge “per door”. Size matters. Smaller HOAs pay more and larger ones pay less per door.

Typically, an HOA management company will assign a manager, a bookkeeper, a maintenance supervisor and possibly an administrative assistant to the account. All will handle multiple HOAs. The average manager may handle 10-15 accounts.

The salary levels of the staff can have a major impact on the management fees. If an HOA wants experienced professionals, there is a price to pay. This is one of the most challenging forms of management there is and a jack-of-all-trades just won’t do. A qualified HOA manager attends seminars, has professional designations and credentials and focuses exclusively on HOA management. The HOA will benefit from this training and experience so expect to pay accordingly.

Managers spend a great deal of their time preparing for and following up on board meetings. For a typical board meeting, the manager gathers information and prepares a management report, reviews the financial statement, attaches relevant correspondence, puts board packets together and emails or mails them to individual directors.

Most board meetings are held on weekday evenings at the HOA so the manager is required to work after hours and travel, both of which costs the HOA money since it’s built into the contract. After the meeting, the manager usually has a laundry list to follow up on that occupies most the following week. A manager can easily spend many hours on board meeting related business.

What can you do to reduce management costs? Keep board meetings to two hours maximum and consider daytime meetings. Move the

board meeting to the management office and hold them during normal business hours. Reduce monthly to quarterly meetings. With an approved budget, proper policies in place and a management planning calendar, the manager should be able to handle most issues with only occasional input from the president. Letting the manager manage without micro-management from the board may be the single biggest cost saver.

Another cost saving involves manager administration of insurance claims and damage reconstruction. Insurance matters can take many hours of a manager’s time. If the management agreement specifically states that insurance claim work is an extra cost to the HOA, the management company can bill the insurance claim for the time it takes to administrate a claim and renovation work. A similar principle involves time spent on collections or legal action against an owner. This management time should be billed to the delinquent owner.

How about the manager providing sale disclosure statements to owners who are selling their homes and buyers’ lenders? The management company should bill owners and buyers separately and not have the homeowner association bear the cost.

These are but a few ways that management costs can be trimmed. Be sensitive to your manager’s time and don’t pile on unnecessary tasks that ultimately will raise the cost. While it’s important to get what you pay for it’s equally important to pay extra for extra services. The best approach is to forge a partnership with the management company and adjust as time and work loaddemands.

HOA managers are a breed apart and waiting to serve. Put them to work for your homeowner association and get back to living that carefree lifestyle advertised in the brochure.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of www.Regenesis.net. From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter. 

Snipers & Terrorists

Snipers & Terrorists

Out of the blue, an irate homeowner launches a smear campaign aimed directly at the board. It’s relentless and focused. The motivation may be some personal grievance, hatred of a board policy, disagreement on how the board does business in general or loathing for the whole HOA concept. Rather than seeking redress in an orderly and open way, however, often it takes the form of poison pen letters, back alley rumor mills or a terrorist-like assault at a board meeting.

Board meeting terrorism is designed to hold the board hostage to relentless rants and demands. This form of HOA terrorism is designed to directly challenge board authority and to disrupt the orderly process. As with any terrorist attack, the board’s initial reaction is usually disbelief. But, the cold reality of the assault soon becomes clear and the need to act urgent.

How should the board deal with this kind of attack? When presented a list of demands, should the items be discussed point by point? Should they be recorded in the minutes? What should be done?

Rule #1: Never negotiate with terrorists. The board is not obligated to discuss anything off the agenda. And it’s unreasonable to expect informed answers to firing line questions. The response should be, “Thanks for making your points. We’ll review them and give you a response in writing or consider them at the next board meeting.”

Rule #2: Don’t record a list of demands.

Minutes are intended to discuss in broad terms the business accomplished by the board. Specific motions should have enough detail to describe them and the outcome of the vote. It is not a forum for soap boxing, editorializing or where items are entered into “evidence”. It’s enough

for the minutes to state, “Mr. Sniper asked that the board consider issues relating to (general description).”

Rule #3: Control the Owner Forum. To encourage owner input, an Owner Forum before the meeting should give each speaker owner up to, say, 5 minutes to speak, so the board can get on with its business. Letting someone hold the board hostage should never be allowed and it’s up to the president to control such actions. An abusive person should not be allowed to continue for any length of time.

Rule #4: When attacked, respond quickly and firmly. When the attack becomes apparent, it’s the president’s job to interrupt and, if necessary, ask the attacker to leave the meeting. If the attacker refuses to comply, the president should adjourn the meeting and advise that such conduct will not be allowed at future meetings.

HOA terrorist attacks are designed to fan the flames of emotion and to promote rash response. The board needs to walk the high road and refuse to “dance”. While this isn’t easy when the attack is intense, the directors outnumber the attacker and with a unified response, should be able to defeat the challenge and even help point the terrorist toward a better way.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of www.Regenesis.net. From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter.

Misconceptions Of Community Associations

Misconceptions of Community Associations

“Community association” is a generic term that encompasses many names used around the world to describe common-interest housing. A few examples include:

  • Common-interest community (CIC) is used by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
  • Common-interest realty association (CIRA) is the term preferred by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
  • Common-interest development (CID) is used by the California Department of Real Estate.
  • Condominium association refers to units like apartments, townhouses or other private units that are part of a single structure or group of structures.
  • Homeowners association (HOA) is often synonymous with “common-interest community” and usually describes a community of single-family homes.
  • Property owners association (POA) can refer to a residential community or a group of offices or other non-residential property.
  • “Strata title” is a term used in Australia, New Zealand, and British Columbia that describes individually owning part of a property, such as an apartment, and sharing ownership in the property’s common or public areas.
  • In France and some parts of Quebec, condominiums are called “copropriété divisée” (divided co-property).
  • The traditional term in Spanish-speaking countries for a common-interest community is “propiedad horizontal.”
  • Condominio” is the term used in Italy.

Regardless of the name, most community associations in the U.S. are incorporated and subject to state statutes that govern nonprofit corporations. Remember, membership in an association is not voluntary; you become a member when you purchased a home in the Carolina community.

Expected Upkeep Enforced By The Community Association Management Firm

Expected Upkeep Enforced by the Community Association Management Firm

The staff or volunteers you see occasionally walking around your community with clipboards or tablets, are the association’s covenants enforcement officers. They’re inspecting the property to ensure that everything is working properly, that conditions are safe and that nothing is reducing property values or your quality of life in your Carolina community.

In short, they’re making sure policies and rules are being followed—from pet behavior, parking and unkempt lawns to improper exterior modifications and more. They field complaints from fellow homeowners and, if necessary, remind you (or your neighbor) when a rule has been overlooked.

The officers report their findings to the Carolina Home Association board with photos and detailed notes. Most violations are easily resolved without board action. If not, the next step is a hearing before the board—we want to hear your side of the story. Those who continue to ignore rules may be fined, or worse. The most serious cases may end up in court, though we try very hard never to get to that point.

The association’s covenants enforcement officers perform a vital function; please treat them with courtesy and respect. If you have any questions about the rules, the officers should be able to explain them. The association manager and board members also are happy to listen and respond to your concerns.

When you purchased your home in our common-interest community in the Carolinas, you became contractually bound to abide by the covenants that protect the association. Please review them and ensure you are in compliance. You can find them on our website.

Precautions You Can Take Against Lighting As A Homeowner

Precautions You Can Take Against Lighting As A Homeowner

Warm weather usually means fun in Carolina sun, but summer heat also can bring severe weather. Threatening thunderstorms often loom large on summer afternoons so it’s important to be prepared for downpours and accompanying lightning, which can strike outdoors or indoors. Consider the following suggestions when planning both outdoor and indoor events this summer to reduce the risk of a lightning strike.

  • Watch the weather. Pay attention to your local weather forecast before participating in outdoor activities. If there’s a chance of thunderstorms, consider rescheduling or moving events indoors. If that’s not possible, have an emergency plan in place in case a severe storm rolls in and designate a sufficient nearby structure as an emergency shelter.
  • Stay inside. If severe thunderstorms are imminent, go indoors and wait until they pass. Safe, enclosed shelters include homes, schools, offices, shopping malls and vehicles with hard tops and closed windows. Open structures and spaces do not provide adequate protection.
  • Duck and crouch. If you’re caught outside during a severe storm, it’s important to crouch low on the ground, tuck your head and cover your ears to help protect yourself from harm. Do not lie down; lightning strikes can produce extremely strong electrical currents that run along the top of the ground, and laying horizontally increases electrocution risk.
  • Turn off faucets. During a thunderstorm, lightning can sometimes be conducted through the plumbing. Avoid any type of contact with running water, including bathing, showering, and washing your hands, dishes, or clothes.
  • Turn off electronics. All electrical appliances—televisions, computers, laptops, gaming systems, stoves, and more—that are plugged into an electrical outlet could carry a current from a lightning strike. Surge protectors will reduce the risk of damaging electronics.

Stay away from windows. Not only is lightning a threat, but high winds and hail create flying debris that could be harmful during a thunderstorm. Close all windows and doors and keep away from them.

Our Association Management Group Practices Fair Debt Collection  

Our Association Management Group Practices Fair Debt Collection  

Our association makes every effort to work with homeowners in the Carolinas who are having problems paying their assessments. But sometimes people get behind on their payments. We want our homeowners to know that the association adheres to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), and we do not harass homeowners for unpaid assessments.

Carolina Community associations are required to collect assessments, which many state and federal courts consider to be debts. The FDCPA requires those who collect debts from individuals—like homeowners in a community association—to refrain from tactics that might be considered invasive. The FDCPA prohibits the association from:

  • Harassing you
  • Threatening you with violence or harm
  • Publishing names of owners who are delinquent or refuse to pay
  • Annoying you with repeated phone calls
  • Making false statements about you
  • Misrepresenting the amount you owe
  • Depositing your post-dated check early
  • Threatening to take legal action against you when we don’t really mean it
  • Providing your personal information to anyone else without your permission

The FDCPA also requires the association to notify you in writing about your delinquent assessments. This correspondence must state that it is an attempt to collect a debt, include the amount of the debt and the association’s name, and it must state that you have 30 days to dispute the debt in writing. If an association violates any of these stipulations, it could be liable to the homeowner for damages, attorneys’ fees and court costs.

For more information about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act practices in the Carolinas visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information page at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0149-debt-collection.

Why Are Quorums Important To HOAs?

Why are Quorums Important to HOAs?

A quorum is the minimum number of North or South Carolina homeowners who must be at a meeting before business can be discussed. State law tells us what that minimum number is for our association. It’s relatively low, but we still have a tough time reaching our minimum. This is a common problem in many homeowner associations.

Meetings that don’t have a quorum must be adjourned and rescheduled at a later date. This costs the association money and creates more work for their teams. Further, achieving a quorum at a second meeting—if we couldn’t get one the first time—is even harder.

So, why bother to try again? Because the Home Owners Association board is legally obligated to conduct an annual meeting. It’s an important part of conducting association business. During the annual meeting, new board members are elected and the coming year’s budget is presented to the Carolina homeowners for approval. No quorum—no election, no budget. This means the current directors will have to continue serving until an election can be conducted. It also means that last year’s budget will remain in effect until a valid meeting (one with a quorum) can be held to approve a new budget.

Good news: You can be “at” a meeting in the Carolinas and across the country at the same time by signing a proxy! That’s how you assign your vote, in writing, to another person. Proxies count toward the quorum, so they’re very important to the association.

We ask you to complete a proxy form, even if you plan to attend the meeting. That’s just in case something comes up that prevents you from attending. And, when you do attend the meeting, your proxy will be returned to you.

Because proxies are so important to achieving a quorum, you may find us knocking on your door, calling on the phone, or even stopping you in the common areas asking you to sign a proxy form. We’ll do anything to achieve a quorum. Without it, we can’t do business, and eventually that affects you, the Carolina homeowner.

Supporting The Efforts Of All Volunteers Of Community Associations

Supporting the Efforts of all Volunteers of Community Associations

Doing good may be its own reward, but most volunteers across the Carolinas would probably agree that it’s nice to be recognized for the time, effort, and commitment they’ve put into serving others—particularly in what can sometimes seem to be thankless roles.

Members of our community devote their energy and enthusiasm to making communities in the Carolinas the very best they can be. Most of the time they do this by serving in important board positions, in committees, and on neighborhood projects. Volunteers also help keep assessments down—every hour of volunteer work is an hour of labor the Southern Community Service Home Owners Association does not have to pay a service provider.

Below are some easy ways to show your neighbors how much you personally appreciate their hard work.

  • Keep an eye open for those featured in our newsletter’s Volunteer Spotlight. When you see them, introduce yourself and say “Thanks!”
  • Join us for our annual volunteer appreciation celebration. Help us honor those who have donated their time throughout the year, and have some fun.
  • Send an e-mail to a volunteer explaining that he or she is valued for stepping up.

As volunteers, your neighbors invest their time in projects that benefit you and the Carolinas. No association can thrive without them; so let them know you appreciate their efforts.

Have an idea for recognizing volunteers? Contact a board member and share!

The Responsibility Of The HOA Board

The Responsibility of the HOA Board

Community associations are more than just a neighborhood. In many ways, it’s a lot like a business. Collectively, regular annual assessments amount to tens of thousands of dollars that need to be budgeted carefully and spent wisely. And neighbors who have volunteered and been elected to serve on the association’s board are responsible for making critical decisions—on the homeowner’s behalf—about managing the community and money.

An HOA board also develops long-range plans—like when the parking lot will need to be repaved and when the elevators will need to be replaced—about the parts of the community that are shared property. The board must set aside funds so that these kinds of projects can be accomplished on schedule or even ahead of schedule in the event there’s an unexpected breakdown.

The board also sends out requests for bids and contracts with vendors to do the work necessary to maintain our shared amenities. Board members decide who will do the best job of replacing the roof at the best price or who will be the most reliable company to hire to mow the grass and remove dead tree limbs.

The board’s decisions can have a significant impact on the community’s appearance and, consequently, on our property values. Regardless of our professional manager, the board ultimately is responsible for overseeing community association operations. Be sure to communicate with the board regularly, observe board meetings, and attend annual meetings to elect responsible board members and to participate in the conversations about significant community issues.