Sunday, October 16, 2016

Words & Concepts to Know When Living in a Community Association

It's Dictionary Day!

There are plenty of words and important concepts to know when living in a Homeowners' or Condominium Association.


Let's start with the basics - what is a Homeowners' Association and/or Condominium Association?

A Homeowners' Association (HOA), as well as a Condominium Association, is a corporation that is formed by a developer and/or builder for the purpose of selling homes. By forming an HOA or Condominium Association, the developer is able to exit financial and legal responsibilities of the entity once the community is developed to a certain percentage (view your community documents for accurate percentage). When you buy into an HOA or Condominium Association, you are obligated and legally responsible to follow the community’s Governing Documents, which include: the Articles of Incorporation; By-laws; Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions; and, for some communities, Rules and Regulations. Additionally, these community corporations are also obligated to follow local and state laws. These restrictions and laws are set and enforced to maintain property values and to help your community remain a peaceful and desirable place to live.  
After polling our Community Association Managers, we were able to come up with a list of the top 10 words and/or concepts one should know when living in a Community Association
...and here they are! 
  1. Architectural Guidelines: These are rules and restrictions that are set in place to ensure that the changes an individual wishes to make to the exterior of their home are in compliance with his/her community’s Governing Documents. The process for each community is different and one should refer to both the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions as well as the Community Rules and Regulations for the exact process and restrictions within his/her community. Architectural restrictions are important in helping maintain property values.
  2. Articles of Incorporation: Formal documents filed with a government body to legally document the creation of a corporation.
  3. Association Fees: Association fees are paid either monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly, to the Association so that continued maintenance and upkeep of the community are routinely and efficiently being completed. These fees cover costs that include, but are not limited to, lawn maintenance and snow removal, janitorial services, insurance, storm water management, administrative expenses, pool management, water & sewer, trash removal, management fees, clubhouse repairs, legal fees and more. Without the association fees, such services to your community would not be available. To see exactly where your money is being distributed, please view your community budget.  
  4. By-laws: By-laws are written documents that provide rules and regulations for the operation of the corporation or organization. These documents set the standard for electing a Board of Directors and also provide information and procedures for holding meetings. By-laws govern how an association operates.
  5. Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions: Also known as CC&Rs, these documents lay out specific guidelines for communities that must be followed by each homeowner - these are the neighborhood rules! Such items found in the CC&Rs include, but are not limited to, lawn maintenance, noise ordinances, architectural guidelines, pet policies, trash and recycling regulations, and many more.
  6. Plat: A plat is a plan/map of an area of land. In an HOA or Condominium Association, a plat of a homeowner’s specific lot is required when submitting an architectural request so that your Board and Community Association Manager can ensure you are not impeding onto a neighbor’s property or covering an easement. Your Community Association Manager, may use a plat of the whole community, to look at easements, determine public or private roads, determine whose property a certain object is located on, etc.
  7. Property Management Company: Your property management company deals directly with homeowners and tenants, and acts as the liaison between you and your Board of Directors. Property management companies collect your association fees that go towards your community's budget, handle repair and maintenance issues, respond to homeowner complaints, prepare annual meetings, create community budgets, send community notices, and much more.
  8. Reserve Account: A reserve account is extremely important to have for an HOA or Condominium Association. A community's reserve account is essentially a savings account that is set up so that when larger maintenances items or unexpected expenses occur, the community can pull money from this account without creating a special assessment.
  9. Special Assessment: A special assessment is an additional charge to homeowners that can be assessed due to the lack of funds or overage of a line item in a budget. For example, a community may have budgeted $15k for snow removal but, because of the unforeseen heavy snowfall, the snow removal costs for the year totaled $20k. Through a special assessment each home is required to pay a certain amount to make up the difference and balance the community budget.
  10. Volunteer: A person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task. All of your Board members are volunteers choosing to help and make a difference in your community. Your management company takes direction from your Board of Directors. This is your community but together, we can make it great!
 We hope this helps you to better understand the concept of what it means to live in an HOA or Condominium Association!
#dictionaryday #letushelpyou #understanding #community

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Thank a Volunteer!

Doing good may be its own reward, but most volunteers would probably agree that it’s also nice to be recognized for the time, effort, and commitment they put into serving others—particularly in what can sometimes seem to be thankless roles.
Members of your community devote their energy and enthusiasm to making your community the very best it can be by serving on the board, a committee, and on neighborhood projects. And, volunteers help keep assessments down—every hour of volunteer work is an hour of salary the 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.
  • When you see a board member, committee member or anyone volunteering their time to     better the community, simply say "Thank you."
  • Send an e-mail to a volunteer explaining that he or she is valued for stepping up.
  • Write a personal note or letter to your Board of Directors, thanking them for a job well done. 
  • Let other people know how happy you are with your Board of Directors - a few kind words can go a long way!
As volunteers, your neighbors invest their time in projects that benefit you. 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!

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller
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Thursday, September 1, 2016

What is a Quorum and Why is it Important?

A quorum is the minimum number of owners who must be at a meeting before business can be transacted. State law tells us what that minimum number is for our association. It’s relatively low, but we still have a tough time getting to it. It’s a common problem in many 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. And, 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 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 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 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. 

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 homeowner.

Friday, August 26, 2016

National Dog Day!

Keeping Your Dog Safe

 & Your Community Happy!


On a serious note...

Virtually every community has a leash law. The law requires that dogs be kept on a leash at all times when on public property. While on private property, dogs must be under the control of their owners. The intent of this law is to protect the health and safety of the public and to protect your pet. The use of a leash will benefit you, your neighborhood, and your pet. There are many good reasons to keep your dog on a leash:
  • It’s a great good neighbor policy, preventing your dog from trespassing on neighbor’s property during your walk. It also keeps your dog from jumping on people you encounter, ensuring that your dog has the chance of being properly introduced.
  • Improved companionship. A well trained and leash-obedient dog is a pleasure to walk with.
  • Walking your pet on a leash will prevent the spread of disease. It is less likely that your dog will be exposed to Parvo or Distemper. A leashed dog can be restrained from sniffing the droppings of other animals.
  • A leash is commonly referred to as “Your Pet’s Lifeline,” protecting your pet from traffic and unrestrained animals. Accidents or animal bites are greatly reduced when responsible pet owners obey the leash law.
  • An obedient and well behaved dog is a positive reflection of its owner.
  • It’s a great identification tool, symbolizing that the dog has an owner, and enabling someone who sees the leash and identification tag attached to the dog’s collar to find you if you and your pet should become separated.
  • It’s a great relief to wildlife, keeping your dog from chasing squirrels, deer and other wildlife.
  • It’s the law! The law is in place to protect other members of the public and your pet from injury.
Be a good neighbor. Be a good friend. Use a leash.

On a fun note!
13 Things Your Dog Can Teach You

1. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
2. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
3. Let others know when they've invaded your territory.
4. Take naps and stretch before rising.
5. Run, romp, and play daily.
6. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
7. When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
8. No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout - run right back out and make friends.
9. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
10. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.
11. Be loyal.
12. Never pretend to be something you are not.
13.If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thunderstorm Safety – Avoiding a Lightning Strike

Warm weather usually means fun in the 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

There's a storm brewing - Hanover, PA
  • 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.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Impending Weather by Steve Wolf CMCA, AMS, PCAM, Tidewater Community Association Manager

I want to take a moment to address everyone regarding the impending snow storm this weekend. As it stands right now, it looks like the Maryland area is in for a direct hit. 

Below is a link to the latest report. It indicates the potential for snow that will be measurable in feet.  If this is the case, there are a few safety tips that I would like to point out, as well as some websites to view for additional information.  Please remember that these types of storms are dangerous, and have the potential to be tragic….so please stay vigilantAside from my job as a Community Association Manager for Tidewater Property Management, I am a Firefighter/Medic with the fire department in Baltimore County. Although most likely I will be deployed, I will keep the Tidewater vendors and Boards updated with information as it becomes available.  Please note, I will be in constant communication with our vendors responsible for snow removal. If this turns out to be a big storm, we respectively ask our clients to be patient because it is going to take some time to clear. Rest assured that our Tidewater crews will be working around the clock to make sure sidewalks and roadways are clear. Also note that once the government declares a state of emergency, only emergency vehicles, State Highway, and essential personnel will be allowed on Maryland Roadways.

How to Prepare for a Winter Storm
  • Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Insulate your home by installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic from the inside to keep cold air out.
  • Maintain heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected every year.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
  •  If the power goes out, close off unused rooms to consolidate and retain heat.  Wear layered clothing and use blankets or sleeping bags to stay warm. Bring pets inside.

Put Together a Supply Kit

  • Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
  • Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered Radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc.)
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
  • Tools/supplies for securing your home
  • Sand, rock salt or non-clumping kitty litter to make walkways and steps less slippery
  • Warm coats, gloves or mittens, hats, boots and extra blankets and warm clothing for all household members
  • Ample alternate heating methods such as fireplaces or wood- or coal-burning stoves
NEVER use generators, outdoor heating or cooking equipment, such as a grill, camp stove, or a gasoline or propane heater, indoors.

NEVER heat a home with a stove.

If driving is absolutely necessary, keep disaster supplies in your vehicle, make sure your vehicle is properly equipped, and use extra precaution on the roads.

If you do not have adequate supplies to stay warm in your home and you can get there safely, you may want to go to a shelter.

For additional information, please visit the following websites:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Are You Ready for Cold Weather?

Fall is the time to prepare for winter—cold and wet conditions not only make you miserable, but they can damage your home.  Luckily, winter conditions have only recently been resurfacing. Some winterizing can wait, some can’t. Make a list of what needs to be done, and tackle the time-sensitive tasks first. Here’s a simple checklist from Tidewater to help you get a jump on winter.

Indoor Winterizing
  • Examine doors and replace weather-stripping as needed.
  • Examine window caulking and reseal where needed.
  • Examine and repair vents where needed.
  • Clean chimneys and flues.
  • Remove items near heat vents.
  • Place nonskid runners or door mats outside to help keep water, sand and salt out of the house.

Outdoor Winterizing
  • Cut back tree branches and shrubs that hide signs or block light.
  • Examine outdoor handrails and tighten if needed.
  • Turn off electrical breakers for outdoor equipment.
  • Close hose bibs.
  • Clean out gutters and downspouts.
  • Clear yard drains.
  • Spray outdoor locks and hinges with lubricant.
  • Stake driveway and walkway edges that may be difficult to find under deep snow.

Assemble, stockpile or refresh winter supplies:
  • Batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • Ice melt and deicer
  • Sand
  • Snow shovels
  • Generator fuel
  • Antifreeze