Governing Those Who Don’t Care

In May of 1966, comedian Jack Parr said on his television show, “I don’t vote for politicians. It only encourages them.” By 1976, the sentiment was so popular it was regularly seen on bumper stickers all across America. While undoubtedly humorous, that same sentiment can have dire consequences in your community association. Lack of involvement and indifference towards association leadership are not signs of a healthy community. In fact, I would suggest to you that the fewer association members that vote, either in person or by proxy, the more concerned you should be as a community leader.

When condominium owners decide not to vote, an association can find itself paralyzed. In situations that require a supermajority or very high per centage of unit owners to vote, apathy and lack of voters can completely stymie an association’s efforts to pass new rules that may be required for purchasing new property, adding or removing common elements, or securing financing for capital improvement projects.

How do you make people exercise their right to vote?

Technically, you can’t make unit owners exercise their right to vote. Not voting is, in itself, an exercise of the right to vote. What you can do is make the voting process as simple and painless as possible.

Look at how many votes are eligible to be cast by your association members. Generally speaking, one vote per unit is normal. So if you have 100 units in your association, there are 100 votes to be cast. Look at your most recent votes. Were any of them for the full amount of votes that could have been cast? Look at how many votes were not cast and think about how best to involve the non-voters.

Why aren’t people voting?

The answer may not be as simple as you think. It is easy to dismiss the electorate as uncaring or apathetic but the truth may lie a bit deeper.

Comfort with the status quo is often a reason people say they don’t vote. If the community is performing well – bills paid on time, common fees steady, no special assessments on the horizon – unit owners may simply be content and not feel the need to change. The lack of real issues may keep the electorate at bay.

Frustration can also be a factor. If a unit owner is in a minority, the unit owner may feel as if their vote carries little or no weight. If they feel their vote doesn’t matter, they may simply choose not to cast it.

Ignorance of their right to vote can also play a factor. Even communities experiencing a low turnover rate of 10% per year have new unit owners every year, some of whom may not even know about their voting rights. They may not vote because they don’t know that they should.

Scheduling conflicts can also create missed voting opportunities. More and more people are working second and third jobs making it difficult to attend a meeting where they can cast their vote.

Fixing the Vote (in a good way, that is!)

Take a look at the rules for voting and voting by proxy in your community. Also, look at your state’s rules on voting by proxy as well to make sure you aren’t creating a situation where one person is casting too many votes. Use your community newsletter or HOA newsletter to tell the story of how important voting is within your community association. Tell the story of how easy it is to vote by proxy for those unit owners who cannot attend meetings where votes are cast. Be sure to make it simple and easy to understand. Include a sample proxy ballot in your condominium newsletter or HOA newsletter and be sure to give simple instructions for how to cast a vote by proxy.

If the only time unit owners show up in mass to vote is when there is a problem facing the association, you can be assured that the meeting and vote will not go well. Angry voters create volatile communities and a toxic environment for harmonious living.

Encourage your unit owners to vote. Always strive for 100% of the electorate to be represented. If you make it simple and easy to understand, you will be rewarded with greater voter turnout and higher support for the decisions that are made that will affect all unit owners.

Written by Bob Gourley Originally posted at MyEzCondo

JEA in the Community

Juda, Eskew and Associates in the COMMUNITY will be a feature blog to show how JEA is helping out the local communities of South Florida.


 

Broward College Computer Science and Engineering Advisory Board Meeting last week, Tuesday, May 12th. The conference room was full with over 30 attendees from industry, faculty, the student body, and administration.    

The meeting was a success, especially after receiving important industry input relating to virtualization and cloud computing for our technology degrees. In addition, several Industry Partners expressed an interest in helping with additional student-led technology and fundraising projects. Finally, members participated in an engaging discussion about (and even expressed a personal interest in) our four technology camps being offered this summer for students, grades 8 though 12. Please click here for more details about how to sign up your kids.

 

JEA blog Broward College May event

Our very own, Kim Juda pictured here at the meeting as an Industry Partner.

 

Due to overwhelming enthusiasm of board meeting particiants, we are currently in the planning process of a technology networking event that will occur later this summer.

We appreciate your commitment to Broward College, our students, and the local community.

 

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From the Broward Computer and Science Advantage

More info on upcoming events with Broward College HERE

How to Motivate Residents to Pay Online

For over a decade, electronic payments have been commonplace in the auto, utility, insurance and cellular industries. Unfortunately, the property management industry is at the tail end of the curve. And management companies that do have an e-payment solution in place often don’t see a huge utilization of the service. Why? Simply because residents aren’t aware they can pay rent online. A little communication goes a long way, so here are two crucial tips for marketing your rent payment service:

  1. Get Your Property Managers on Board: Property managers are the front line to your e-payment service. But realistically, property managers won’t tell residents about it if they aren’t comfortable with it themselves. Make sure they are completely trained on the system and understand the benefits of using it. It is especially important for them to understand the time savings and the ROI of converting paper checks into electronic transactions. Once they use the service, they will have a good comprehension of the time savings, but it would also be good for them to know that the average cost to process a paper check is over $4 per item. Once a property manager realizes the savings and ease of electronic payments they can undoubtedly market the system better to their residents.
  2. The More Ways You Market, the Better Your Results: Any marketing is good marketing when trying to raise awareness amongst your residents. Universally, email marketing seems to be the clear winner in terms of cost and effectiveness. However, any and all outlets you choose; web buttons/banners, print, signage, newsletters, statements, social media, etc., will reach a different resident in a different way. So feel free to experiment with the ways you market and always be sure to give them instructions on how and where they can make their payment.

Since marketing is such a critical element in a successful e-payments program, PayLease offers a wide variety of marketing options to help you increase utilization. Clients will receive a custom marketing plan to fit your management company and your resident demographics.  Contact PayLease for further information on how they can help you market e-payments to your residents.

Written by Matt Amoia. Originally posted on PayLease

Are your communications safe?

Fences, security cameras, guards, and gates can go a long way towards bringing condominium owners peace of mind when it comes to their physical safety. But there is another type of security that should be pondered by community association leaders. Theft of data can be just as damaging to unsuspecting condo owners. Do you practice good security measures with your data? Would you know what to do if your email, website, or database of sensitive information were breached?

In this age of technology-driven communications, digital identity crimes have increased dramatically. While the numbers vary widely, the Better Business Bureau reported an estimated 11.1 million people reported their identity stolen in 2009! The numbers get larger and larger every year. To help correct this problem, concerned communities should take proactive steps to combat the threat.

Data breaches of large scope tend to make national headlines. Groups of computer hackers have been known to go after large organizations data. These groups often have strange names like “Anonymous” of “LulzSec”. They aren’t likely to target a homeowner’s association but they could definitely target a vendor of the association, especially a bank. If your data is stolen, alert all unit owners immediately.

Social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter, have continued to rise in popularity and use. If your condominium or HOA is using social media to communicate with residents, it is best to do so as private group. Use security settings that allow the group manager to closely monitor who has access to the posts that appear in the group page. Also, it is a good idea to encourage all residents to keep their own profiles private as statistics published by the Javelin Group in 2011 have shown that users with public profiles are 68% more likely to have their identity stolen. The Javelin Group keeps a close eye on identity theft.

The onslaught of Smartphones like iPhones and Droids, have also created one more avenues for identity thieves to target their victims. A lost or stolen phone is chock full of useful information to identity thieves. If you are a property manager that carries sensitive information with you on your mobile device, be sure to take all precautions to assure safety. Passwords, encryption, and the ability to remotely disable the device are all crucial in protecting that sensitive data.

Of course, plenty of old-fashioned methods for stealing information still exist. Community associations often have community dumpsters that are ripe for the picking of dumpster divers. Think of all of the pre-approved credit card offers, bank statements, and other sensitive information that gets carelessly tossed in the community trash. Encourage residents to protect themselves by purchasing a cross-cut shredder to properly destroy sensitive documents before placing them in the community trash dumpsters.

The bottom line is that it is easier than ever for thieves to target condominium owners for identity theft. As our industry moves more and more of our management and communication functions to online models, we increase the opportunity for data theft to occur. Your best defense is to keep residents informed of the threat and adopt communication policies that assure you don’t make it easy for data thieves to get your data.

Written by Bob Gourley. Originally posted at MyEzCondo

Ask Mister Condo

AskMisterCondoHave you ever wondered where unit owners and residents turn to get advice on things they can and cannot do in their condo or HOA? In a perfect world, they would open their carefully constructed package of documents and fully comprehend the rules and regulations of their common interest community. However, as anyone who lives in, works for or manages a condo, PUD, HOA, or other common interest community can attest, that rarely happens. More often than not, condo owners and other common interest community members learn about the rules of their association the hard way. They get fined. They get sued. They get frustrated. They get angry.

In Connecticut, the state where I live, our local chapter of CAI (Community Associations Institute) had an idea to help these unit owners and also help themselves. This idea has taken the form of “Ask Mister Condo.” a friendly forum where unit owners can ask any question they would like and get a friendly answer. “Mister Condo” is not an actual person. He is a manifestation of the public relations arm of the CAI chapter that represents the knowledge base of the local chapter. Questions are received from visitors to the website and the answers are farmed out to various CAI members who offer their expertise in the form of friendly answers. You can visit the website by going to www.askmistercondo.com.

Of course, “Ask Mister Condo” does not dole out legal advice. There is a disclaimer on every page of the website indicating that “Mister Condo” is not a lawyer and that no legal advice is given. What “Mister Condo” does offer is a friendly environment for people to ask questions about their condo experience. Recent questions have included inquiries into the importance of FHA approval, insurance requirements, use of common elements, board etiquette, noisy neighbors, and much more. As “Mister Condo” provides answers and advice to these queries, the knowledge base grows larger and remains online for future website visitors to see.

While it is currently being sponsored by the Connecticut chapter of CAI, there are plans to roll out “Ask Mister Condo” to other interested CAI chapters. By providing this valuable resource free of charge to common interest community members, CAI is helping to fulfill its mission of seeking “to foster vibrant, competent, and harmonious community associations”. Well-educated community association members make the best residents.

“Ask Mister Condo” is one more tool to aid in that goal.

Written by Bob Gourley Originally posted at MyEzCondo

Easy Ways to Connect with Residents: Technology Edition

Apartment community amenities have changed radically over the years. Back in the 70’s all you needed was a pool and a tennis court. Resident tastes are more complicated these days. Some apartment communities now place their focus on ‘comfort’ amenities, such as spa rooms and yoga classes.

Others put the focus on our four legged friends with such things as ‘doggie detail rooms’, ‘catbitats’, canine agility courses and even adding catnip to the community herb garden.

But all communities, regardless of size, know that to be successful today, you have to provide the latest technology amenities for your residents. Here are some technology amenities that residents will appreciate, and even better, make your job easier.

Wi-Fi

One technology residents absolutely will not do without these days is Wi-Fi. While there are apartment buildings that offer free Wi-Fi to all of their residents, those properties are in the minority. Most have realized that offering free Wi-Fi in the common areas of their properties (pool, clubrooms, etc.) is sufficient and can be offered in lieu of the business center. Residents can simply bring their own devices to the Wi-Fi enabled areas and just log on for access. And what pairs nicely with free Wi-Fi? Free coffee! Residents LOVE their coffee and Wi-Fi!

Online Payments

No one wants to drop a check off at the management office or go through the hassle of mailing it. Online payments are easy for the resident, who can pay anytime, anywhere. They’re even easier for property managers, who don’t have to worry about manually processing payments. Residents can even schedule recurring payments so they never have to think about a payment and you can rely on timely funds each month.

Text Alerts

When it comes to communicating with your residents, texting is the way to go. Residents are more likely to read a text message versus an email, which makes it a great way to communicate important announcements like the water will be shut off, the parking lots will be getting striped, etc. There are some of the great texting programs available these days at a reasonable fee.

E-Sign

E-Sign applications are a big time saver for both residents and property managers. Residents can renew their lease without the hassle of coming into the management office! They simply ‘sign’ their renewal electronically – so simple and so convenient.

Package Acceptance

Do you accept resident packages? New services are available to help you streamline this task. It will electronically notify your residents that a package is available for pickup.  Residents can electronically add “agents” to their account, allowing their roommate, loved one, assistant, co-worker, parent, etc. to securely pick up items on their behalf.

Written by Lisa Trosien. Originally posted at PayLease

Announcement: Kim Juda to serve on Advisory Board at Broward College

We are please to announce that Kim Juda has been selected to serve on the Broward College Business Department’s (Accounting, Marketing and Office Administration) Advisory Board as a Business Partner. The purpose of an advisory committee is to provide assurance, through technical assistance and resources, that an occupational training program curriculum meets the needs of
business, industry, labor, the professions, technical trades, or the community it is designed to serve. The advisory committee also ensures that the occupational training program graduates are capable of performing entry-level skills in the occupation in which they are trained. An advisory committee is a group of employers and employees, from outside the field of education, providing guidance and direction to educators on the design, development, implementation, evaluation, maintenance, and revision of career and technical education programs. Successful advisory committees focus on innovative, quality programs. Because representatives on the committee have first-hand information concerning current business trends, technological demands, and realistic job requirements, their participation on the committee helps strengthen communication between education and the world of work.
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Announcement: Carol Eskew Elected to Board of Directors for Broward Coalition

We are please to announce that Carol Eskew has been appointed as a Board of Director, Assistant to the treasurer, to The Broward Coalition of Condominium, Homeowners Associations and Community Organizations, Inc. The Broward Coalition maintains a coordinated, focused, approach to condominium and homeowner association matters. This affords all members the opportunity to share information, improve association law, and achieve peace of mind. The Coalition, including association boards, residents and business partners, has built, and continues to expand, a community network more than several thousand members strong.
Broward Coalition