Where Do Your Residents Live? Tips for Collecting Resident Email Addresses

You are a community manager. You know where your renters reside, right? You know their unit number and their building. You, of all people, are “in the know” when it comes to someone’s location.

But if this is true, then why is it so hard to reach them? You have mailings, flyers, bulletins, Happy Hours and pool parties. And yet, your renters are uninformed. They didn’t know the parking lot was being re-painted. They didn’t know the gym was closed for equipment repairs. And they certainly didn’t know that they could pay their rent online. How is that possible?

Because while you know where they reside, you may not know where they live. And where do they live? On their devices. If your renters are typical Americans, they have a smart phone attached to them around the clock. They may not know where their children are, but they are within 3 feet of their cell phone at all times.

Can you use this technological appendage to your advantage? Absolutely. Make gathering email addresses part of your resident routine. Then you have one more way to reach them – in addition to (or replacing) the mailings and flyers and bulletins…you can send emails about cool events or property news. And you can send rent reminders directly to the device that they will not leave home without.

Here are the best ways to collect resident email addresses:

  1. On the rental application. Clearly there is an expectation that you are gathering information and an email address is just another piece of data that they are typically willing to volunteer at this stage in the relationship.
  2. Contests. As you strive for community engagement, hosting contests and give-aways are a common way to connect. Make an email address required for entry into the contest.
  3. News they can use. If you share meaningful information like rent reminders, the value of this communication will be evident. Word will spread from neighbor to neighbor about the quality of the email information, which will entice more residents to share their email address.

Once the email address is acquired, you can use it to further your electronic relationship with your resident. You want to connect with them and you want them to enjoy living at your property. But let’s face it – you also want them to be good renters and part of that equation is paying their rent on time. By establishing a robust online payment engine AND using their email address to send rent reminders and confirmations, you are helping them and helping yourself at the same time. It’s all about reaching them where they live, in addition to where they reside

Written by Kristin Runyan Originally posted on PayLease.com

The Emotional Cost of Foreclosure

Have you ever had to foreclose on a neighbor? The word “foreclosure” strikes a note of fear and panic in most people. Typically, foreclosure is only considered when all other possibilities have been considered and no other solution can be found. It is the final remedy an association has to fix a problem that could otherwise financially cripple a financially sound community.

If you’ve ever seen the classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, then you can easily picture the antagonist, Mr. Henry Potter (portrayed as the perfect villain by Lionel Barrymore). Mr. Potter was an evil banker, ready to foreclose with joy on any home owner who has fallen behind in his monthly payments. While most of us will find no enjoyment when the time comes to foreclose on a fellow unit owner, we would be well served to remove our compassion from the equation and appreciate the importance of this legal and business transaction for the necessity it has become.

The financial and legal obligations of the association are clear. Almost every association has rules and by-laws in place that describe a default by a unit owner to pay common fees and the actions that will be taken to collect any delinquent monies. The challenge for Board members, especially in smaller community associations, is that the foreclosure action isn’t against an unknown business entity. It involves the Board, representing the association, making a decision that will ultimately evict a neighbor. It is a human conflict of the highest order, the kind that can keep you awake at night if you allow it to.

In my experience, making policy is relatively simple compared to implementing policy. It is far easier to agree to foreclose on any unit owner who falls more than two months behind in their common fees than it is to watch a neighbor lose a job and struggle to make ends meet. It is not uncommon for people to live paycheck to paycheck. The topsy-turvy economy has created huge amounts of unemployment and underemployment in our region. All of us know someone who has lost their job. It is simply human to show empathy for our fellow human beings. It is even more so when it is someone close to us, like a neighbor.

My advice is to take a good look at your association’s collection policies. Delinquent collection of common fees is crippling many communities in our state. If you haven’t already done so, now would be a great time to consider alternative payment methods. For instance, my association began taking credit cards this past year, which helped a few owners get current. You may also need to review your collection procedures and make sure you are giving your association members every opportunity to keep current with their common fees.

When all else fails, foreclosure may be your final option. If you have been diligent in offering solutions along the way, you need not feel like Mr. Henry Potter when the time comes to foreclose. It is simply the final action the association needed to take so that all of the other residents who are paying their fees on time can enjoy their own “Wonderful Life”.

Written by Bob Gourley Originally on MyEZCondo.com

Commit to Unit Owner Education. Reward Yourself with a Better Community!

For years, I have been writing about the importance of communication as it relates to community association living. I have stressed how important it is that you tell your story well and that you tell it often. Condominium newsletters, HOA newsletters, letters, websites and any other tools used to communicate need to educate readers about what is happening within their associations and why.

There has never been a time when communication and education efforts between Board Members, Property Managers, and unit owners have been more important. Community Association Volunteer Leaders at many events that I attend often indicate that there seems to be a vacuum of education between Board Members and unit owners regarding the responsibilities of each as it pertains to creating and maintaining a healthy and vibrant community association.

Let’s Begin at the Beginning

Educators have long asserted that the learning process begins at birth. The birth of a community association resident begins when they purchase a unit within your association. What can we do to begin the education process when a community association unit is put up for sale?

Currently, there are no regulations requiring the education of realtors as to the rights and responsibilities of folks who choose to live in community associations. In their profession, realtors are compensated in the form of commission which is only earned upon the successful completion of the sale. They are not required to notify the potential buyer of their rights and responsibilities prior to the completion of the sale.

Potential buyers are generally interested in the appearance and upkeep of the unit and the overall look and feel of the community. Again, there are no regulations regarding their education about their responsibilities once they become unit owners. In fact, as is often the case, their first dose of education often comes when they violate a rule or regulation resulting in a violation letter or fine. In a worst-case scenario, this can create a potential long-term conflict between the community association and its residents. At the very least, it can create a poor start to a new unit owner’s experience.

CAI has published a two-page pamphlet called “Rights and Responsibilities for Better Communities – Principles for Homeowners and Community Leaders” that is available, free of charge, athttp://www.caionline.org/info/readingroom/Publication%20Excerpt%20Library/rights.pdf

If a community were to adopt these practical guidelines and distribute them freely to realtors and potential purchasers, I think many of the problems that surface because of poor initial education efforts could be avoided. As a disclaimer, CAI says: “Like many worthwhile endeavors, community living cannot be free of conflict. Utopia does not exist. With all of their inherent advantages—and there are many—community associations often face difficult issues. While adopting Rights and Responsibilities will not eliminate all conflict, its adoption can stimulate communication, promote trust and cooperation, clarify expectations and build a greater sense of community. CAI urges you to take advantage of this opportunity.” And so do I.

Education is an Ongoing Process

Education, by its very nature, never ends. It is an organic and ongoing process. It also takes work and commitment. As a leader within your community, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to assume that all of your community members are educated as to the efforts of the Board of Directors and/or Property Manager. In fact, it is far better to assume that they don’t know what decisions you are making or why. Educating them as to what is happening and why is an excellent use of your time.

Recent regulations are, in large part, aimed at providing unit owners access to the business proceedings of the Board. I suggest you take it a step further and engage your fellow unit owners with education about the challenges facing the Board and the decision-making efforts being made on their behalf. Dedicate a portion of your condominium or HOA newsletter and website to education on a regular basis.

 

Originally written by Bob Gourley on MyEZCondo.com

Explaining How You Govern Your Condominium Association

In a speech to the House of Commons in 1947, Winston Churchill said:
“No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Leaders like Winston Churchill aren’t routinely needed to govern a community association, although I have heard stories where Churchill himself may have been loath to step in and take charge. While community associations come in many shapes and sizes, governance and the principals of governance are quite common. Community associations that are governed by the Common Interest Ownership Act have seen some of their rules of governance change or get modified this past year. It is my opinion that telling the story of your community’s governance has never been more important. Here’s how to do it.

Your community’s governance is outlined on paper in your association documents and the state laws that either agree with or supersede your methods of governance. However, for those of you who have read your association’s documents in detail, you know that these rules and regulations can be a bit dry and confusing to many of your association’s members. Why not bring the document to life by describing the process by which your community is governed?

Basic principles of democracy are employed in so much as every community member has a voice in the form of a vote. However, the association behaves more like a republic once those votes are cast to elect directors to the Board. Finally, the Board President routinely has substantial powers to conduct the business of the association. These powers are not usurped but rather granted by the vote of the members of the association who vote in person or via proxy at regular meetings of the association. Disgruntled association members may not agree with actions or decisions made by the Board but they should be aware and respectful of the process by which those decisions are made. Further, since directors are elected by free votes of the citizenry, directors and officers can be voted out of office via due electoral process.

It should come as no surprise to regular readers of my blog that I believe in full disclosure at all times with regards to community governance. Too many times, I hear of community members not knowing or understanding how their community is governed. A simple newsletter can dispel this problem. Telling the story of how your community is governed is the first step in cultivating future leaders. A community can only thrive as well as it is governed.

If all of this seems a little daunting, let me leave you with another quote from the great man himself. During World War II, on June 18, 1940, in another speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill gave the following words of inspiration: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”

I hope that you will find success in telling your community association members the story of their governance. Perhaps you’ll inspire them to become more active and even seek out leadership roles within your community. At the very least, you will know that you have done your best to inform your members that their community is well-governed and that the rules of governance not only ask for but require their active involvement. It may well be your finest hour as well.

Written by Bob Gourley originally posted on MyEZCondo.com