Association Assessment Payments

Man, those dreaded Association payments I make every month, quarter, or year!  What are they doing with my money?  The grass in front looks horrible and my neighbor stores all this crap out on his front porch and I know he isn’t getting letters!  What if I just withheld my payment?  What are they going to do about it?!?

Not for Profit Corporation

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard those complaints!  It’s important to realize that your Association is a not-for-profit corporation.  This is not the same as a non-profit!  A not for profit corporation is one that does not have any profit margins–your association counts on every penny to be received in a timely manner in order to pay their bills.  There is no wiggle room to waive your assessments, even if they wanted to.

What do my assessments go to?

You may have a bad patch of grass in the common area but your assessments pay for so much else.  Not only are your amenities included such as pool maintenance but it also puts asides reserves for the major repairs and replacements of those items.  Landscaping is constant in Florida and is a big part of most Associations.  Management companies perform a valuable service and that’s not for free!  One thing people don’t often think about is the cost of insurance.  Whether you’re a part of an HOA or a condo, the Association must insure with both property and liability for all of the common elements.  In addition, there is something called Directors & Officers insurance that without, there would be no one willing to serve on the Board as a volunteer.  Sometimes, there is also flood insurance that must be obtained.  There is usually little wiggle room for items such as landscaping replacement especially when the membership demands that the assessments stay as low as possible after all!

I hate what they’re doing and no one listens!  I’m just not going to pay!

I’ve strongly advise any owner I speak with not to take this course of action.  I’ve likened it to not agreeing with your mayor so you don’t pay your taxes.  You’re going to lose!  Even if you put it in an escrow account, it’s not going to bode well for you.  The state of Florida feels very strongly about assessments.  In fact, it’s priority falls only behind your taxes and your first mortgage.  Notice I didn’t say mortgages?  That’s right.  The Association goes above second mortgage and equity lines of credit, utility liens or any other encumbrances you have on your property.  What does this mean?  The Association can, and will, foreclose on your home if you do not pay your assessments.  I know you might live in an HOA and don’t see why.  Well, even an HOA takes over many duties a municipality would typically handle.  Think of the front entryway to your community as a good example.  There are much less expensive means to getting your way than refusing to pay your assessments.

What’s the big deal if your assessments are only $75 per year?  I’m so glad you asked! The State also doesn’t have a minimum amount to begin foreclosure.  Imagine if many or all of the owners within your community had the same mindset.  The Association would be unable to pay the bills and be placed in receivership.  When this occurs, the Court appoints a receiver, who is paid nicely for their services, to handle the affairs of the Association as they deem fit, regardless of the cost to the membership.

It’s the neighborly thing to do

I know it burns when you have to pay that assessment and things aren’t just the way you’d like them in your Association.  But is it really worth losing your house over?  To be frank, paying your assessments should come over your cable bill.  It should come before many of your bills.  Just because the Board is made up of your neighbors, it doesn’t mean they will not do what is necessary to maintain services for you and your neighbors.  Part of their job is to make sure your neighbors are not footing the bill for the services you are enjoying whether it’s the pool or the increase in property value from your beautiful entryway free-of-charge.

7 Things you should know about HOA Reserve Funds

Are you ready? What you need to know when the big storm hits!

It’s easy to forget about the year that Central Florida was hit by three hurricanes within the span of a few weeks.  It was a long time ago and we have a tendency to block such horrible things from our mind!  Try as hard as we want to forget, it happened and most of us were little prepared.  I remember trying to drive to my communities with very little gas left and trying to find a gas station with power to get my tank filled.

Have you taken a look lately at your hurricane plan?  Do you even have a hurricane plan?  If you create a plan for your community and yourself just once, all it will take is a simple review and update every year.  Does your community have residents that are Red Cross certified?  Do you know who will help coordinate if a crisis comes knocking?

SUGGESTIONS TO RESIDENTS OF CONDOMINIUM AND HOMEOWNER ASSOCIATION

WATCH AND WARNING ALERTS

HURRICANE WATCH: Hurricane conditions are possible in specified areas of the WATCH area, usually 48 hours in advance.

HURRICANE WARNING: Hurricane conditions are expected in specified areas of the WATCH area, usually 36 hours in advance.

RESPONSIBILITY: The following is information that is to be conveyed to residents by BUILDING CAPTAIN (apartments) or NEIGHBORHOOD CAPTAINS (all other homes). This information should be done prior to HURRICANE WATCH.

WHEN WATCH IS ISSUED:

1. Notify all residents to make arrangements to bring inside any lawn furniture, outdoor decorations, hanging plants, BBQ grills, and anything that can be picked up by the wind

  1. 2. If you have a low spot in your parking area, notify residents to park in other areas, as flooding can occur,
  2. 3. If possible, check with residents as to who plans to vacate their home during the storm, and find out where they will be.
  3. 4. Remind residents that electric power can be lost, and to be prepared for an emergency that can last up to 5-7 days. DO NOT USE CANDLES. If power is lost, turn off all electric switches that are open to prevent a power surge to your appliances, when power is restored. Do not use your stove top as a shelf when power is off.
WHEN STORM IS IMMINENT:

Keep sewer drains in front of building/houses clean of all debris, to prevent flooding into the building lobby, garage or entrance to your home. CLEAN DRAIN AFTER

THE STORM IS OVER….YOUR SAFETY COMES FIRST!

Associations should provide rakes to Building Captains or designated residents to clean the debris from the drain.

RESIDENTS RESPONSIBILITY WHEN WATCH IS ISSUED:
  1. Be sure that you have food and emergency supplies in your home. DO NOT DEPEND ON A NEIGHBOR. Recommendations are: It is suggested that you have a least a 1 week surplus of non-perishable food.
    1. Canned products that can be eaten cold, bottled water (1 gal. per person per day…. minimum of a 7 day supply), flashlights battery operated lanterns, fans, portable radios and /or T.V. with extra batteries, toilet paper, paper plates/cups, first-aid supplies and a hand can opener. Freeze ziplock bags with ice cubes, store in a styrofoam or insulated chest to keep medication or food cold. Ice cubes will hold up to 24 hours in a well insulated chest.
    2. FILL YOUR CAR’S GAS TANK.
    3. It is recommended that you have a “Vial of Life” information folder in a conspicuous locatio (Fire Rescue looks for it on your refrigerator)
    4. Have a land line  (hard wired) telephone available portable phones may  not work when the electricity is off.
    5. Be sure to have ample medication on hand. It is recommended that you have at least a 1 week supply on hand. If you need medication that requires refrigeration (Insulin), plan to have a good insulated container that you can keep your medication in, with ice or an ice substitute (frozen chemical packs). Remember prescriptions, first aid supplies, and an extra pair of eye glasses are recommended to take with you if you have to leave your home. Have important documents available in a zip lock waterproof wrap, (credit card numbers, insurance papers, bank account numbers, an extra set of car keys, warranties, auto titles, wills, deeds, passports etc., and an inventory of household goods) for easy reference if needed.
    6. Be sure to have extra cash or travelers checks on hand, in case electricity is off, as computers will not work. Credit cards cannot be used to purchase merchandise, services, or food.
    7. At this time if your unit is on the 1st floor or a house, bring in outdoor furniture, decorations, plants, BBQ grills, or anything that can be picked up by the wind. The safety of property and yourself and others depend on this. All screened enclosures and entrances must be empty.
    8. Make preparations to put up your hurricane shutters.
    9. Fill a bath tub, and use the water to flush toilets, in case of pump failure.
    10. Make plans if you are told to evacuate. Choose several places—a friend’s house, hotel or a shelter. Pick a site that should be out of harm’s way.
    11. If you plan to leave your home, notify the BUILDING CAPTAIN or a NEIGHBORHOOD CAPTAIN that you will be leaving, and try to inform him/her where you will be.
    12. If you are staying in your home, select a safe area to wait out the storm. A closet or section of your home that has no windows is preferred. Have some supplies in this area, and be comfortable.
    13. If possible make plans to” buddy up” with a neighbor, in order to spend the hurricane together.
WHEN WARNING IS ISSUED
  1. Complete all preparation activities.
  2. If you are not advised to evacuate, stay indoors, and away from windows
  3. Be aware that the “eye” (usually calm) of the hurricane is deceptive, and the storm is not The worst part of the storm will happen once the “eye” passes over, and the wind blows from the opposite direction. Listen to your radio/TV for additional information.

m4340160_Hurricane_001

 

“Marco?” “Polo!” Where did my vendor go?

One of the biggest issues our homeowner and condominium associations face is finding a good vendor to meet their needs.  Oftentimes a vendor will give a wonderful presentation to the Board and the work is less than stellar—a classic case of over-promise and under-deliver.  In other instances, the Association will be hit with unexpected fees and costs that were not mentioned during the bidding process.  The best way to get what is expected is to be thorough in the beginning of the process.

Request for proposal, otherwise known as an RFP, is a great tool to make sure the vendors know exactly what is expected of them and can ensure the Board can compare proposals on an equal footing.  Putting together an RFP may take a little time but will pay off by saving time after the bids are collected by making comparisons easily.

Vet your vendors by speaking to references and going out to survey past projects that have completed.  Speaking to past and current customers of the contractor can help you gauge how likely it will be they will perform well for you.

It may be tempting to hire a neighbor who has experience in this field, but you need to ask if this person is licensed and insured.  A waiver of the requirement to maintain worker’s compensation can be obtained from the state but this waiver does not mean that the contractor cannot bring a claim against the Association for injury on the job.  Contact your insurance agent if you have any questions about liability from having someone who is not properly licensed or does not maintain adequate insurance and how it will affect your rates.  It may be cheaper to take a higher priced contract submitted by a licensed and insured vendor than to have your insurance premiums.

Finding a vendor that will meet or exceed your expectations isn’t easy but it’s not impossible.  You are more likely to get the “wow factor” by doing some legwork in the beginning.  Good luck!