Posted on June 30, 2021 1:42 PM by Melissa Gentry
All community associations have three things in common.
- Membership is mandatory. Buying a home in a community association automatically makes you an association member—by law.
- Governing documents are binding. Association governing documents can be compared to contracts. They specify the owners’ obligations (following the rules, paying assessments) and the association’s obligations (maintaining common areas, preserving home values).
- You could lose your home if you fail to pay assessments. Associations have a legal right to place a lien on your property if you don’t pay assessments.
But, take heart! Associations also have three realities they can’t escape. Associations have an obligation to provide three broad categories of service to residents.
- Community services. For example, these can include maintaining a community website, orienting new owners or organizing social activities.
- Governance services. For example, establishing and maintaining design review standards, enforcing rules and recruiting new volunteer leaders.
- Business services. For example, competitively bidding maintenance work, investing reserve funds responsibly, developing long-range plans and collecting assessments.
By delivering these services fairly and effectively, community associations not only protect and enhance the value of individual homes, but they provide owners an opportunity to participate in decisions affecting their community and quality of life. And those are realities we can live with.
Posted on March 19, 2021 4:00 PM by Melissa Gentry
Since Governor Abbot rescinded GA-26 and lifted restrictions, it raises the question as to whether or not to reopen amenities. Even with the restrictions being lifted and vaccines becoming more readily available, it does not eliminate the risk of contracting the corona virus. If we do open them what kind of modifications will we need to take? We have been carefully researching and listening to the advice of multiple association attorneys. The decision comes down to cost and liability.
Recommended Safety Precautions
- Require masks to be worn at all times unless actively swimming in a pool.
- Provide sanitization stations.
- Enforce social distancing. Limit parties to no more than 10.
- Hire monitors to enforce social distancing and cleaning.
- Clean equipment between each use and keep a log of the cleaning schedule.
- Clean or remove furniture. Residents can bring their own portable chairs. If furniture remains, space at least 6 feet apart. Keep a cleaning log.
- Require waivers from all residents prior to using the amenities. The waiver should be reviewed or drafted by the association attorney.
- Do not allow guests. If guests are allowed, they must sign a waiver.
- No events that result in gatherings of more than 10.
- Signage in and around all amenities warning of the danger of COVID.
- Clean frequently or close restrooms.
- Implement a reservation system.
- Adopt a COVID policy.
Implementing all of these safety precautions will cost money. The first step is to list and estimate the expense for the precautions needed at each amenity. The association budget should then be carefully reviewed to ensure that there are adequate funds to support the necessary modifications.
Most insurance policies contain exclusions for outbreaks. If the association should be sued it will likely be the liability portion of the policy. Most insurance policies also contain defense costs. This includes attorney fees and court costs. In order for liability or defense to be covered, the loss must be insured and not excluded. The vast majority of liability policies include exclusions for the virus. The conclusion is that most insurance policies will not cover suits from the pandemic leaving the exposure and cost to the association. Defense and court costs can become expensive very quickly.
The board needs to weigh the expense of reopening precautions and staffing along with the vulnerability of the associations liability exposure to determine whether it is a practical decision. Contact your association’s insurance agent to determine coverage limits and exclusions. Reach out to your association manager to help determine if the association can afford the necessary safety precautions.
Most association boards are receiving feedback and pressure to reopen amenities. We understand the desire to return to normal and come together again as a community. The board has the fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the association. We need to actively communicate the expense and risk the membership. A plan will be needed to effectively communicate how the decision as to whether or not to reopening amenities was determined. These are not easy decisions and conversations. We are here to help and we will get through this together.
Posted on March 16, 2021 2:58 PM by Melissa Gentry
Categories: Board Member Articles
Our association makes every effort to work with homeowners who are having problems paying their assessments. But sometimes people get behind anyway. We want our homeowners to know that the association adheres to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), and we do not harass homeowners for unpaid assessments.
Community associations are required to collect assessments, which many state and federal courts consider to be debts. The FDCPA requires those who collect debts from individuals—like homeowners in a community association—to refrain from tactics that might be considered invasive. The FDCPA prohibits the association from:
* Harassing you
* Threatening you with violence or harm
* Publishing names of owners who are delinquent or refuse to pay
* Annoying you with repeated phone calls
* Making false statements about you
* Misrepresenting the amount you owe
* Depositing your post-dated check early
* Threatening to take legal action against you when we don’t really mean it
* Providing your personal information to anyone else without your permission
The FDCPA also requires the association to notify you in writing about your delinquent assessments. This correspondence must state that it is an attempt to collect a debt, include the amount of the debt and the association’s name, and it must state that you have 30 days to dispute the debt in writing. If an association violates any of these stipulations, it could be liable to the homeowner for damages, attorneys’ fees, and court costs.
For more information about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information page at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0149-debt-collection.
- January 2022 (1)