Year: 2006

December 22, 2006

Discussions of controversial and even not so controversial community association issues are not always models of civility and reasoned political discourse. In this respect, the decision-making process in many homeowner associations does not differ much from what passes for intelligent debate in the halls of Congress today. Insults, name-calling, and allegations of evil intent are not uncommon forms of expression for owners expressing their dissatisfaction with board policies and the trustees who adopt them. These [Read More...]

November 22, 2006

The transition from developer to unit owner control of the board can be a stressful, uncertain and overwhelming time in the life of a community association. A new board may be confronted with questions regarding the condition of the common area, the financial health of the association and a myriad of operational issues. Many of the steps the board takes, or fails to take, in this critical period will have long-lasting impacts on the health [Read More...]

October 22, 2006

The development community greeted the permitting reform bill that Gov. Mitt Romney signed into law a few weeks ago with relief and high hopes that it will eliminate many of the costly and time consuming legal logjams in which Massachusetts real estate projects regularly become ensnared. But a realistic review of the law and its likely effects suggests that developers would be well-advised to curb their enthusiasm and scale back their hopes for sweeping changes [Read More...]

August 22, 2006

Question: How can community association boards alter the uses of common areas? Answer: Very carefully, and with scrupulous attention to the requirements of the community’s governing documents and the wishes of its residents. A recent decision by a California appeals court illustrates what happens when a board ignores that common sense advice. The story, which reads like a case study in what not to do, takes place at Pelican Hill Community Association in Orange County, [Read More...]

July 22, 2006

The condominium association’s board of directors has just approved a large special assessment to finance the replacement of an aging heating and cooling system, and owners are not pleased, to say the least. But one owner in particular is infuriated by the decision. He shouts obscenities at the board during the meeting and continues to hurl insults at the board president after the session ends, blocking the door as the president tries to leave the [Read More...]

June 22, 2006

Thoreau famously advised writers to “simplify, simplify.” But for community associations writing or negotiating management contracts, “Specify, specify” is far better advice. When relationships between associations and their managers break down, as they do occasionally, the problems can often be traced to the failure on both sides to articulate their expectations at the outset and state them clearly in the contract they sign. A well-drafted contract can avoid many problems and provide a framework for [Read More...]

May 22, 2006

Jayne and Ed Elebiari said their dog “Pooky” helped them cope with the debilitating depression from which they both suffered, and asked the board of their condominium association to waive the community’s “no-pet” policy so they could keep their tiny companion. The board said no – a decision that cost the association $12,500 in damages, awarded by a court that found the association had improperly denied the Elebiaris’ request. Following similar logic, a Michigan court [Read More...]

April 22, 2006

Many homeowner associations, if not most of them, have established Web sites for their communities; far too few of them have also created the privacy and use policies that are essential both to protect residents from the theft or misuse of their personal information, and to help associations reduce and manage those potential Internet risks. Privacy policies describe the framework for protecting the personal information associations collect from residents and make available on the community’s [Read More...]

March 28, 2006

The Massachusetts Board of Fire Prevention Regulations has adopted regulations implementing the state’s new law requiring the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in virtually all residential structures. The statute applies to all residential structures that either contain “fossil-fuel burning equipment” (defined as furnaces, water heaters, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers or other equipment that produces carbon monoxide as a byproduct) or incorporate enclosed parking within the structure. The implementing regulations, published in February, 2006 and revised [Read More...]

March 24, 2006

A fire in a community association is always upsetting and often destructive, but, it is hardly a rare occurrence anymore. This one, however, made the national news. The fire, in an Arizona condominium, started in a carport crammed with debris and then spread to the owner’s equally cluttered residence. The owner survived, but was burned severely, because debris covering virtually every surface and stacked several feet high in every room, blocked her escape. The elderly [Read More...]

March 22, 2006

All homeowner associations have rules and regulations and most have at least some residents who violate those rules occasionally, if not repeatedly. Enforcing the rules and the association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions, is the responsibility of the association’s governing board — a responsibility that some boards execute more effectively than others. The boards that do the best job realize there is a lot more to enforcement than simply identifying violations and punishing violators. Effective enforcement [Read More...]

February 25, 2006

What’s in a name? When Shakespeare’s Juliet asked that question, she was talking about Romeo, whom she loved despite the name that placed him on the opposite side of a family feud. Community associations asking that question today would more likely be thinking about their Web sites, because “what’s in a name” on the Web is the potential for confusion, litigation, and liability. That’s why it is essential for a community to protect its name [Read More...]

February 22, 2006

Not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY) describes the common and (for developers) frustrating reaction of community residents to plans for the construction of new housing, new commercial structures, or new anything in close proximity to where they live. But NIMBY doesn’t begin to describe the reaction to news that a convicted sex offender may be living nearby. NIMBies protesting low-income housing are concerned (or say they are concerned) primarily about their property values. Residents protesting the presence of a [Read More...]

January 28, 2006

The Pledge of Allegiance (to the United States flag) remains a morning ritual for students in many classrooms throughout the country. While there is no comparable public oath recited by the volunteers elected to the boards of their homeowner associations, association directors do make a formal, if silent, promise to execute their responsibilities in good faith and to act in the best interests of the communities they serve. Unlike the pledge of allegiance, which often [Read More...]

January 22, 2006

Picture this, although it’s not a pleasant image. A fire caused by an electrical short swept through your community last night. No one was hurt, fortunately, but one building was destroyed completely and two others suffered extensive damage. Your first thought as a member of the board of directors: Buildings can be repaired or replaced. Your second thought: It’s a good thing our insurance will cover the costs. But will it? There is no question [Read More...]