Why Do We Need Reserves?

Why Do We Need Reserves?

Equipment and major components (like the roofs) must be replaced from time to time, regardless of whether we plan for the expense. Living in the Carolinas you could experience weather damages, which can be pretty expensive, if you haven’t set the money aside ahead of time. We prefer to plan and set the funds aside now. Reserve funds aren’t an extra expense—they just spread out expenses more evenly. There are other important reasons we put association monies into reserves every month:

  1. Reserve funds meet legal, fiduciary and professional requirements. A replacement fund may be required by:
  •  Any secondary mortgage market in which the association participates (e.g., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA).
  •  State statutes, regulations, or court decisions.
  •  The community’s governs documents.
  1. Reserve funds provide for major repairs and replacements that we know will be necessary at some point in time. Although a roof may be replaced when it is 25 years old, every owner who lives under or around it should share its replacement costs.
  1. Reserve funds minimize the need for special assessments or borrowing. For most association members, this is the most important reason.
  1. Reserve funds enhance resale values. Lenders and real estate agents are aware of the ramifications for new buyers if the reserves are inadequate. Many states require associations to disclose the amounts in their reserve funds to prospective purchasers.
  1. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) requires the community association to disclose its reserve funds in its financial statements.

 

Cold Weather Advice

Cold Weather Advice

Snow can make children squeal with delight, but it can also make adults snort with dread and frustration. Although we don’t get much wintery weather in the Southeast, the homeowners association does try to remove any snow and ice quickly and safely from roads and walkways, while still allowing the kids to have some fun. In the meantime, please keep these cold-weather tips in mind:

  • The homeowners association has shovels and salt available for good-Samaritan residents who wish to help out with the sidewalks. Shoveling can be good exercise, but pace yourself and drink plenty of water.
  • Please ask your kids to use the designated sledding areas. They’re safer for your children and easier on our landscaping. Make sure sledders have a buddy and only sled during daylight hours. We want to make sure everyone stays safe and has fun!
  • If possible, for everyone’s safety, clear the snow away from fire hydrants near your home.
  • When you warm up your car, wait a few minutes before turning on the heat to give the windshield time to adjust. Drastic changes in temperature can cause your windshield to crack. That includes pouring warm water on cold glass outside or immediately blasting your defroster inside the car. If you just can’t wait, consider using de-icer sprays instead, which are quick and effective. Rain-X defroster wiper fluid, or similar products, prevent ice from bonding to your windshield making your scraping job much easier.
  • Keep a supply of drinking water and food on hand. And remember to keep blankets, flashlights and warm clothes handy. If you lose power, it’s up to you to call the utility company before you call us.
  • Don’t expect to see the snow plows until at least multiple inches of snow have accumulated—that’s what we’re contracted for. Please keep this in mind before calling us with your reminders and questions. In cold weather, don’t go out if you don’t have to. Be smart and stay warm.
Rules For The Holidays

Rules for the Holidays

The holidays are just around the corner, and for many people in the Carolinas, that means lots of festivities with friends and loved ones. With all of the merriment that’s sure to ensue, it’s important that residents who are hosting celebrations are not only considerate of their neighbors, but also take note of the HOA rules. A complete listing of your homeowners association rules and regulations can be found in your Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), but here are a few key items to look up that are particularly pertinent during the holiday season:

Outdoor Decorations: Decking the halls with seasonal ornaments is a great way to bring the holiday spirit home. Many homeowners love to spread the joy by decorating the outside of their homes and front yards as well, but before you scurry up that ladder to hang the decorative lights along the side of your roof, take a quick peek at the CC&Rs to find out the guidelines for outdoor decorations, as well as the guidelines for flags and signs. This will help make sure your outdoor winter wonderland isn’t an association violation.

Parties: If you plan on hosting a large get-together or party, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. First, keep the revelry and noise to a minimum, and wind the party down at a reasonable time—you don’t want your celebrating to interfere with your neighbors’ attempts to get visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Check your CC&Rs to find out what the association deems acceptable noise levels and what the quiet hours are, as well as guidelines for hosting parties.

Parking: The holidays bring many people together, and that means extra cars will need to be parked. To make sure your guests are covered, look at the CC&Rs to find out the rules on visitor parking in the association, including where they can park and what kind of parking passes they may need.

Overnight Guests: It wouldn’t be the holidays without relatives and guests spending the night after an eventful evening. Of course, depending on how long your overnight guests are staying, you may need to let the HOA association know. The CC&Rs will give you a breakdown on the rules for both short-term and long-term guests, so take a look at them before you break out the extra cot.

Following the association’s rules and regulations helps ensure that all residents can enjoy this special time of year, so please help the community by doing your part. Stay safe and have a wonderful holiday season.

Saving For The Holidays

Saving for the Holidays

In these tough economic times, many homeowners are trying to stretch their dollars and keep their debt as low as possible. The following tips from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), offer easy ways to save:

  • ŸCut $5 a day out of your incidental spending. Mindless spending and impulse shopping take a bigger chunk out of your spending than you might care to admit.
  • Ÿ Empty the change in your pocket into a jar each night. Pocket change can add up to between $30 and $50 a month.
  • Ÿ Resolve to carve $10 a month from each of five discretionary spending categories. For example:
    • Shopping: stay out of malls, and shop only when an item is needed.
    • Medical: sign up for one of the discount plans on prescriptions currently being offered by many national drug chains.
    • Utilities: lower the thermostat at home.
    • Food: plan meals in advance and never grocery shop on the run.
    • Eating out: order water to drink when dining at a restaurant.
  • Eliminate bank fees. Bank with an institution that has ATMs near where you live and work, eliminating any fees assessed by using a machine outside of your network. Don’t pay for your checking account when many banks offer free checking with few strings attached. Never overdraw your account.
  • ŸKick your bad habits. Buying a pack of cigarettes and a lottery ticket each day can add up quickly.
  • ŸStop charging and pay with cash. Studies show that people who pay for their purchases with cash typically save about 20 percent. Therefore, if you put $1,000 onto a charge card each month, you stand to save big bucks.
  • ŸDon’t have too much of a good thing. Examine your cell phone package. Are the minutes right for your calling patterns? Look at your cable plan. Are you paying for channels you never watch? Switching to a plan that is right for you yields big savings.
  • ŸGet insurance check-ups. You don’t want to be over-insured or underinsured, but if you can handle raising your deductible, it will save you money each month.

For professional help finding hidden money in your budget, call a National Foundation for Credit Counseling member agency. To locate the counselor closest to you, dial (800) 388-2227, or go online to www.DebtAdvice.org. To find a Spanish-speaking counselor, call (800) 682-9832

Keep Warm, But Safe

Keep Warm, but Safe

December, January and February are the deadliest months for home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). And, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires and home fire deaths. That’s why it’s important for you and your loved ones in your HOA community to take extra precautions during the winter.

Thinking of buying a space heater? The NFPA recommends, and your homeowner association insists, you make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions or have it professionally installed. If you have an electric-powered space heater, plug it into an outlet with sufficient capacity. Never use an extension cord. Your association may not allow liquid-fueled space heaters.

Turn off space heaters whenever the room is unoccupied or when manufacturer’s instructions say they should be turned off. Portable space heaters are easy to knock over in the dark. To avoid any type of accidents, it’s best to turn them off when you go to bed, or at least make sure they’re placed in lit and low traffic areas.

If you use a fireplace or wood stove, use only dry, seasoned wood to avoid the build-up of creosote, an oily deposit that easily catches fire and accounts for most chimney fires and the largest share of home-heating fires. Use only paper or kindling wood, not a flammable liquid, to start the fire. Do not use artificial logs in wood stoves.

Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room. After the ashes have cooled downl, dispose of them in a metal container, which should be kept at a safe distance from your home.

Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside, that the venting is kept clear and unobstructed, and that the exit point is properly sealed around the vent. This is to make sure deadly carbon monoxide does not build up in the home.

Other reminders from the National Fire Protection Association include:

  • Don’t use your oven to heat your home.
  • Inspect all heating equipment annually, and clean as necessary.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly, and install a carbon monoxide alarm outside each sleeping area.

For more information, visit www.nfpa.org.

Are HOA Residents Happy?

Are HOA Residents Happy?

Do you know you are among the more than 60 million Americans who live in homeowners associations and condominium communities? We think most residents are happy living in our SCS managed community—and we certainly hope you are among them—but how do these 60 million residents feel about their own homeowners associations? Are they happy with their elected community management boards? How do they feel about the rules?

The Foundation for Community Association Research, an affiliate of Community Associations Institute (CAI), sponsored a recent national public opinion survey to answer these and other questions.  Here are some of the key findings:

  • 71 percent of residents say they are satisfied with their community association experience. Only 12 percent express dissatisfaction and 17 percent are neutral on the question.
  • 89 percent believe their homeowner association board members strive to serve the best interests of the community, while 11 percent say the opposite or they aren’t sure.
  • 76 percent say their professional managers, like Southern Community Services, provide value to their communities, while 24 percent say the opposite or they aren’t sure.
  • 70 percent believe their community association rules “protect and enhance” property values. Only 2 percent say rules harm property values, while about 29 percent see no difference or didn’t know.

We’d like to think that we would do even better than the national averages. If you feel differently, please let us know what you think we can do to make our community a better place to live. If you’re especially pleased with our community, we’d love to hear about that, too!  It’s always good to know we’re on the right track.

More national survey results, which include comparative data from similar surveys in 2005 and 2007, are available under “Research Projects” at www.cairf.org.

 

 

Surviving Job Loss

Surviving Job Loss

It’s never a good time to lose your job. However, the current economic environment has resulted in business closures, downsizing and layoffs for many in our community. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling offers the following tips for surviving a layoff:

  • Resist the urge to tell your boss what you truly think of him or her. Remember, you may need him or her as a reference for a future job.
  • Allow yourself to be upset or even afraid, these are natural reactions. However, if they become intense, seek professional help. Talking things through and hearing another person’s perspective can bring relief and restore your positive outlook.
  • Take advantage of any assistance your workplace offers. Many companies provide placement assistance, job retraining and severance packages. Make sure you are aware of all benefits offered.
  • Apply for applicable government benefits. Your HR representative at work will be a good resource.
  • Don’t be tempted to live off of your credit cards. Someone with a good line of credit could actually support the family at the current standard of living by using credit, but there’s no guarantee a new position will materialize any time soon. Expect one month of job search for each $10,000 of annual income you hope to replace. In other words, if you seek a $50,000 salary, it may take you five months to land that job.
  • Resist the urge to solve your problems by spending recklessly. It may feel good for the moment, but the high of spending won’t equal the low of dealing with additional debt when there is no income.
  • Take a personal inventory. Consider all assets, income and expenses. No one wants to liquidate assets to survive, but it is good to know what you have to fall back on.
  • Drastic times call for drastic measures. Nothing is off-limits. Consider selling the second car or recreational vehicle, real estate holdings, rental properties or jewelry.
  • After you review your income versus debt obligations, if you don’t have enough money to make ends meet, calculate how much you’ll need for basic household expenses and HOA fees. Your goal is to pay everyone, but if you must make a choice, keep food on the table and your home life stable by paying your rent or mortgage, association assessments, utilities, childcare, insurance premiums and health care.
  • Contact your creditors to arrange lower payments. Most major credit card issuers have help programs. Explain your situation and what you’re doing to resolve it. The creditor may be able to temporarily lower your monthly payment and reduce interest.
  • Have a family meeting that includes the children. You don’t want family members pulling in different directions, and a joint effort yields a better result.
  • Make cutbacks wherever possible, knowing that your austere lifestyle will only be temporary. Resolve to stop all non-essential spending immediately.
  • Inform your mortgage lender of your situation. Be prepared to provide documentation of your setback, and have a resolution plan in mind. Since the average consumer doesn’t know all the loan modifications available, sit down with a certified housing counselor and map out a plan best suited to your situation.
  • Tracking your spending is always a good idea, but when money is tight, it’s essential. Write down every cent you spend. After 30 days, review where the money went and decide where to cut back. You’ll be amazed how much you can save without feeling the pinch.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a national nonprofit credit counseling organization. For more information, visit www.DebtAdvice.org or call (800) 388-2227. En Español, dial (800) 682-9832.

Jessica Shipman Of Southern Community Services Named Park West Community General Manager

Jessica Shipman of Southern Community Services Named Park West Community General Manager

November 9, 2016 (Columbia, S.C.) – Jessica Shipman of South Community Services (SCS), the Carolinas’ leading homeowner association management firm, has been named General Manager of Park West, a community managed by SCS in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. with 29 distinctive neighborhoods. Shipman is an accredited Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) as well as Association Management Specialist (AMS) through Community Associations Institute (CAI).

Shipman joined the SCS team earlier this year as Charleston portfolio manager. She is a graduate of George Mason University and has more than 12 years of large-scale community association management experience. Prior to SCS, Shipman served as executive director of Sun City Carolina Lakes, a Del Webb community.

As the general manager, Shipman looks forward to getting to know the Park West residents and developing new processes both internally and externally for the office to continue delivering efficient customer service.

Park West has provided a diverse living environment for residents for nearly 20 years.  “What I like are the sub neighborhoods and associations,” notes Shipman. “The neighborhoods vary in structure and architecture. Each neighborhood has its own character – it’s not all the same home. I appreciate the diversity, as well as the green spaces that have been left in the community.”

Reporting to Shipman in the Park West office is Victoria McDonald, Neighborhood Association Manager; Keri Howell, ARB Coordinator; and Mary Fraser, Customer Service Administrator.

About Southern Community Services

Founded in 2000, Southern Community Services (SCS) specializes in the management of homeowner associations across the Carolinas, with a longstanding reputation as the leader in its industry. Staffed with accredited professionals who work diligently to accommodate the unique needs of each community, SCS provides turnkey solutions, state-of-the-art technology and decades of association management experience to boards, with senior-level involvement in every aspect of the business. Learn more about SCS at www.trustscs.com.

Questions And Answers About Parking

Questions and Answers about Parking

Q: Why don’t we have enough parking?
A: Developers want to build as many homes possible to make the most money, so they often allot the fewest parking spaces required by law. Unfortunately, that leaves your homeowners association to deal with the shortage.

Q: Why can’t we park on the street?
A: The HOA’s roads are subject to local regulations that specify the space needed for access by emergency vehicles. When cars are parked on the street, there isn’t enough clearance for fire trucks to maneuver.

Q: Why do we have to park our SUVs and trucks out of sight?
A: Our governing documents were created by people who were unable to anticipate today’s lifestyles. Who knew 30 years ago that SUVs would replace station wagons as the standard family vehicle and trucks would become passenger oriented and even luxurious? Until our documents are amended, we’re obligated to abide by this requirement.

Q: Why do I have to register my car with the HOA?
A: The association’s registration system allows the community association manager to match vehicles with residents. In the case of an emergency, we can contact you. It also allows the HOA to identify nonresidents who are parking in community spaces. Be sure your parking pass is clearly visible at all times.

Q: It seems the parking lot loses another space to handicapped parking every day. Why so many?
A: It may look like a disproportionate number of spaces are reserved for handicapped parking, but for each space there is a resident in need. The Fair Housing Amendments Act makes it unlawful to “discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with such dwelling, because of a handicap of that person.” The ‘provision of services or facilities’ includes providing reserved parking. When a resident requests a handicapped parking space, the association makes every effort to reserve one. Not only does federal and state law require it, but it’s also the right thing to do.

Q: What gives the HOA the right to tell me where and how to park?
A: When you purchased your home, you entered into a contractual agreement with the HOA to abide by its covenants. Those covenants include bylaws that empower the board to adopt and enforce rules they believe are necessary for everyone’s good. The parking policy explains the parking rules and specifies procedures for enforcing them; not only is the board allowed to develop the policy, it’s legally obligated to do so.

Q: Why don’t we just assign reserved parking?
A:  Parking spaces are a type of property called common elements. That means all spaces are owned commonly by everyone, and everyone has the right to use them. Another type of property is called limited common elements. Like parking spaces, limited common elements are owned by everyone, but not everyone can use them. They are limited to one owner. Patios and balconies are examples of limited common elements. Assigning reserved parking would effectively change the property status from common element to limited common element, which goes against the governing documents and the property rights. Before assigning reserved parking, the governing documents would have to be amended. This process is complex, expensive, lengthy and it requires approval by all members.

Q: Why can’t I use my parking pass for an inoperable vehicle?
A:  Parking rules disallow inoperable vehicles for the simple purpose of keeping the community looking nice. Even covered vehicles give the appearance of neglect.

Q:  Why was I cited for a vehicle that complies with all the association’s parking rules?
A:  Sometimes the association tickets vehicles considered a nuisance. These are vehicles that consistently leak oil on the common areas, emit excessive exhaust or gas fumes, are excessively noisy or are otherwise inconsiderate of others. These situations result when your vehicle is in poor repair.

Q: Why is the visitor parking area always full? It’s frustrating for my guests.
A: The guest parking area serves as overflow parking for the residents. The association regrets the inconvenience for your guests, but this arrangement guarantees that you always have a parking space for yourself.

News: Community Associations Remain Popular With American Homebuyers

News: Community associations remain popular with American homebuyers

Reprinted with permission from Community Associations Institute (CAI). ©2016 Community Associations Institute. Further reproduction and distribution is prohibited without written consent. For reprints, go to www.caionline.org/reprints.

To view the full article on Community Association Institute Online, please visit www.caionline.com.

It’s official! For more than 10 years, community associations have consistently remained preferred places to call home.

The 2016 Homeowner Satisfaction Survey, national research conducted by Zogby Analytics for the Foundation for Community Association Research (FCAR), supports similar findings from past surveys in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2012, and 2014.

The 68 million Americans living in more than 338,000 community associations have spoken—and they’re overwhelmingly satisfied in their communities. Looking past the neighbor disputes, parking issues, and pet problems, the majority of residents say their community association experience is positive.

Whether it’s because associations offer clean, attractive, and safe neighborhoods—in large part due to effective rules that preserve property values—or the fact that associations seek leadership from governing boards and community managers who regularly go above and beyond to serve their communities, one thing’s for sure: Americans love their HOAs.

View the press release.

 

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