New Owner Trashes Fine in Florida HOA

Question: I live in a homeowners’ association and the declaration of covenants provides that trash cans may not be put at the curb until 7PM the night before trash pickup. I am new to the community and was not aware of this provision and put my trash cans out at 5PM. About a week later I received a notice that the board had levied a fine of $200 against me and that the fining committee would be meeting to consider whether to confirm or reject the fine. I thought that a fine could not exceed $100 per violation. Is the $200 fine levied against me legal? S.H. (via e mail)

Answer: It could be. It will depend on the association’s governing documents.

While your ignorance of the recorded covenants is not a legal defense, I must say you’re your association’s fining practices seem overly aggressive, bordering on overreaching. While not required by law, most associations provide a warning letter as a means of seeking compliance with the governing documents before resorting to fines, especially for minor violations such as this.

Until very recently, both the Florida Condominium Act (Chapter 718, Florida Statutes) and the Florida Homeowners’ Association Act (Chapter 720, Florida Statutes) provided that a fine could not exceed $100 per violation. Chapter 720, Florida Statutes was amended, effective July 1, 2015, to provide that the maximum per day fine can exceed $100 per violation if a higher amount is set forth in the association’s governing documents.

There is a similar dichotomy between the condominium and the HOA statutes as to the maximum fine that can be imposed for a “continuing” violation. For condominiums, Chapter 718 provides that a fine for a continuing violation is capped at $1,000. However, Chapter 720 provides that a fine for a continuing violation may exceed $1,000 provided that a higher maximum amount is specified in the governing documents.

If the governing documents for your community allow fines of $200, and the fine is properly imposed, it is legal, but it doesn’t sound fair.

 

Written by Joseph Adams

Originally posted at Florida Condo & HOA Law Blog

Making a Good First Impression: 10 Ways to Make Move-Ins Easier for Residents

Let’s be honest – moving is not fun. But for community managers, move-in day is a perfect opportunity to kick start resident retention efforts by making a good first impression. Here are some easy ways you can make the move-in process less stressful for your residents and start building a solid relationship with them.

1. Set a specific time for lease signing that is completely separate from the time the new resident picks up their keys. This gives them time to actually read and review their legal documents, sign up for automatic rent payments and ask questions without feeling stressed out – after all, moving is stressful enough.

2.  Is your building a mid-rise or a high-rise? Be sure to thoroughly explain elevator time so your new resident knows exactly when they can use the elevator during their move-in. Some people have never lived in elevator buildings before and therefore are unsure how to go about reserving and utilizing the elevator. Don’t make them ask…tell them ahead of time how it works.

3. Equip your resident’s new apartment with move-in supplies. Move-in supplies are things like a bottle of hand soap, a roll of paper towels, a roll of toilet tissue, freshly made ice in the freezer (with a sign that states the ice is freshly made) and maybe an inexpensive shower curtain placed in the bathtub. This really sets the tone for a great experience and will make your resident very happy. And by the way, toilet paper is NEVER a move-in gift.

4. Provide a nice move-in gift. This is not the time to get rid of the leftovers from the company picnic. And residents don’t always want things that are emblazoned with the company logo. Offer something like a fresh bouquet of flowers (already placed in the apartment), a small plant, or a set of reusable shopping bags (especially if you are in a city or state where plastic bags are no longer allowed).

5. Set the thermostat in the apartment to a comfortable temperature on the morning your resident is moving in. There aren’t many things worse than walking into a blazing hot apartment after moving heavy furniture. Also, make sure the fridge is cold and the hot water heater is no longer on ‘vacation’ if you set it back during periods of vacancy.

6. Place carpet protection tape throughout the high traffic areas of the apartment. This clear film with adhesive backing will keep the carpet clean and is a welcome sight to new residents, especially on rainy or winter day move-ins. A roll of carpet protection tape will cost approximately $55 for 200 feet. This will keep the carpet clean, the new resident happy and prevent your maintenance team from having to come back and clean the carpeting again after the move-in is completed. Plus, it makes a great first impression!

7. Stop by on move-in day to see how things are going. Maybe deliver a few cold bottles of water or a couple of garbage bags for any trash they may create. Offer to walk through the apartment and help your new resident complete the inventory checklist. It’s a great way to get it completed, signed and on file.

8. Offer to show them how to use all of the appliances in the apartment. Switching from a gas stove to electric (or vice versa) can be daunting to some. For residents who are living in an apartment for the very first time, this orientation can be amazingly helpful. New residents who have never lived in the United States may also want a walk-through of how to use everything. And don’t forget to show them where the circuit breaker panel is!

9. Put a customized refrigerator magnet on the door of the fridge. Along with the property logo, include important information such as the office phone number, email address, website and office hours. Don’t stop there! Make sure the magnet is holding up coupons from area restaurants and service providers with offers for your residents. The best type of magnet is the chip clip/magnet combination. Residents seem to prefer those the best.

10. Follow up again with your new residents in approximately 24 hours to make sure all of their concerns are handled appropriately. Then call back at the end of their first week, and at least one more time before their first month is over.

Written by Lisa Trosien

Originally posted at PayLease.com

Condo Unit Owner Unhappy with Bulk Cable Provider

Re post from Ask Mister Condo:

N.H. from outside of Connecticut writes:

Dear Mister Condo,AskMisterCondo

A condo owner does not like our cable provider and wants to either stop paying for the cable monthly or have us switch to another (faster internet speed) provider – who does notoffer a bulk rate. The Board likes our current provider and is paying a bulk cable rate. How do we resolve this?

Mister Condo replies:

N.H., for the most part the Board is free to choose whichever service providers they wish for their buildings. The individual unit owner who stops paying his cable bills will very likely have his service terminated and may also face additional penalties and/or late fees if he doesn’t cancel through the proper channels. Individual unit owners who find themselves at odds over their condo association’s choice for bulk providers are often left with few other options if the utility does not have access to the common areas of the association, which the Board controls. Cellular service may be available but is generally a good bit more expensive than cable for television and Internet purposes. You may wish to consult with an attorney to see if your local laws supersede your association’s governance documents but, for the most part, the Board is the sole deciding authority on which services provider is used.

The best solution would be to work with the Board to see if there are alternatives in the association’s best interest. Faster Internet speeds, lower rates, better programming options are all reasons to change. However, if the Board is perfectly pleased with the current provider, the request is likely to fall on deaf ears. However, if enough unit owners demand change, the Board may find itself defending its position and individual Board members may find their positions challenged by new volunteers looking to serve on the Board just to bring about change in the bulk rate cable supplier.

 

Found at Ask Mister Condo

Maintenance and Construction. Fact or Benefit?

Did your community get a new roof this year? Was your parking lot repaved? Was the pool filtration system overhauled? Were your decks replaced? Chances are pretty good that your community either underwent or will soon undergo a major construction or maintenance project. Don’t miss this opportunity to tell the story of your project or you may just be leaving money on the table!

I am often asked about the difference between a fact and a benefit as it pertains to preparing a community newsletter. As a former sales and marketing guy, you can bet I know the difference between a fact and a benefit. In construction and maintenance issues, the facts often describe the tangible details of the project such as the cost, the materials used, the contractor chosen to perform the work, how long the project will take and things of that nature. While those items are newsworthy, they won’t help you win over critics or skeptics. For that task, you will need benefits.

Benefits, quite simply, will help you tell your maintenance and construction story in such a way as to show your residents what is in it for them. Benefits are far less tangible but far more effective in explaining the need for a project and the reason to spend the association’s money. If you think about the last major purchase you made, you will most likely remember that why you bought the item is more important than what you paid for it or what you even bought. The same mentality applies to maintenance and construction projects. Here are a few examples:

Item – New Roof Installed
Fact – Shingles carry a 30 year warranty
Benefit – Interior of home stays drier

Item – Blacktop Sealing
Fact – Creates a waterproof barrier
Benefit – Underlying pavement lasts longer

Item – New Pool Filtration
Fact – More fuel efficient
Benefit – Saves money

Item – New Decks Installed
Fact – Made of Artificial Material
Benefit – Lasts longer, looks better

In many instances, money spent on today’s maintenance and construction project benefits all members of an association with lower costs in the future. Any time you maintain, protect, or enhance common elements of your association, you should do so for the benefit of your members. People want to “know” the facts but they “buy” the benefits. Use the power of benefits to keep your residents happy and informed about all of your construction and maintenance projects. You won’t just build a better property. You’ll build a better community!

 

Written by Bob Gourley on MyEZCondo.com

Explaining the “Benefits” of a New Roof

I am often asked about the difference between a fact and a benefit as it pertains to preparing a community association newsletter to tell the story of a community enhancement, such as a new roof. Community association members buy benefits but before they do, they want to know the facts. In construction and maintenance issues, the facts often describe the tangible details of the project such as the cost, the materials used, the contractor chosen to perform the work, how long the project will take and things of that nature. While those items are newsworthy, they won’t help you win over critics or skeptics. For that task, you will need to discuss benefits.

Benefits, quite simply, will help you tell your maintenance and construction story in such a way as to show your residents what is in it for them. Benefits are far less tangible but far more effective in explaining the need for a project and the reason to spend the association’s money. If you think about the last major purchase you made, you will most likely remember that why you bought the item is more important than what you paid for it or what you actually purchased. The same mentality applies to maintenance and construction projects like new roofs.

A roof replacement has many benefits to homeowners. However, many benefits will go unnoticed unless you point them out. Let’s take a look at a few facts and benefits to see if we can find the best way for you to tell the story of roof replacement in your community.

News Item: New roof installed.
Fact: Shingles carry a 30 year warranty.
Benefit: The community won’t have to do this again for quite some time. The new roof looks great and enhances curb appeal!

News Item: Old roof was failing.
Fact: The association is charged with protecting homes from the damage of the failed roof.
Benefit: Interior of homes stay dry; association meets its obligation to homeowners.

News Item: Old roof reached the end of its useful life.
Fact: Old roofs will fail. It’s not a question of if but rather when.
Benefit: By taking proactive measures, the association will save additional money by not having to pay for repairs from a roof that will fail.

In most instances, money spent on today’s new roofing project benefits all members of an association with lower costs in the future. Any time you maintain, protect or enhance common elements of your association, you do so for the benefit of your members. People want to “know” the facts but they “buy” the benefits. Use the power of benefits to keep your residents happy and informed about all of your construction and maintenance projects. You won’t just build a better property. You’ll build a better community!

Bob Gourley is founder of MyEZCondo, a communications firm that produces newsletter and website content material for condominiums and homeowner associations throughout the USA. He also serves as board president of his local HOA.

As originally appeared in CondoManagement Magazine