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Pets, Winter and HOA Living

Pets, Winter and HOA Living

We still have a couple more months of winter to go, which means a lot of us will choose to stay inside where it’s warm and cozy. For those who have kids or pets, this also means a little extra work so that cabin fever doesn’t set in and cause disturbances. Similarly, if a resident has decided that this is the year to adopt or buy a pet, they should be sure to follow their HOA’s rules before taking that big step.

Once a member has taken on the responsibility of a pet, they also take on the responsibility of following the HOA’s pet policy. In most documents, the pet owners will be required to clean up after their pet to keep the association grounds well-maintained for everyone. For dogs especially who go outside a lot, excrement should be picked up and toys should not be left around in public areas. Keep all pets on a leash so they can be contained-even if the pet is well-trained, a noise could startle them and send them running.

Overall, be respectful of your neighbors. If your dog needs to burn off energy in the winter, try taking them to a doggy daycare. A pet who is constantly making noise can be a disturbance to the community. If you do go for a walk at dawn or dusk, wear some kind of reflective gear to keep you and your pet safe. Doing all this will help keep the order in your community so everyone can live comfortably.

Online Meetings Tips – Never Miss a Meeting

Online Meetings Tips – Never Miss a Meeting

Whether you are out of town our out of commission, you can keep tabs on association board meetings by tuning in online.

 

Online meeting tools (Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts) allow board members to hear each other through microphones and speakers, and to see each other through video cameras regardless of where everyone is located. You’ll be able to follow all of the action virtually; and you can even share documents that are circulating during the meeting.
Whether you’re physically present of calling in for the meeting, all participants should be reminded to:
  • Be professional, courteous and considerate
  • Avoid rustling papers or creating noise if near a microphone
  • Refrain from talking while others are speaking
If you are calling in;
  • Announce yourself (maybe even before talking if needed)
  • Mute your phone unless you are talking, especially if there is background noise, such as a barking dog, at your location
You’re still encouraged to join in person onsite for the meeting, but if you can’t there is that opportunity to follow the proceedings.

 

[taken from “Tips from CAI”]
Ice Dams – It ‘Tis the Season

Ice Dams – It ‘Tis the Season

Let’s face it, ice dams and Minnesota winters go hand-in-hand. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms on a roof, typically along the gutter line. This ridge of ice blocks melting snow (i.e. water) from draining off the roof and then that water refreezes. So what causes ice dams? Can they be prevented? What can we do once they form? Here are some ice dam basics:

Ice dams are the result of temperature variances on roof. Temperature variances may be due to a lack of ventilation, insufficient insulation, or simply radiant heat from the sun (even on a below freezing day, the sun can warm the roof enough to create temperature differences). When ventilation or insulation are lacking, the attic space below the roof warms up. The warm air in the attic then transfers heat to the roof, warming it above the outside temperature. Similarly, solar heat gain may also cause temperature differences at the roof. When the roof warms, snow begins to melt. As the water from the melted snow moves down the roof, it eventually hits a colder section (or the outside temperature drops) and the water refreezes causing the ridge of ice mentioned above. This cycle repeats day after day and the ice dam eventually increases in size and weight. If not treated correctly, this ice dam may cause roof or gutter damage, or force the water into the home causing internal water damage.

Opinions vary on the ability to completely prevent ice dams in our climate. Even with sufficient insulation and ventilation, radiant heat from the sun or the design of a roof may still allow ice dams to form. The first step in ice dam prevention is to ensure the attic space is properly ventilated and insulated. It also a good idea to seal any locations where air leaks from the living space into the attic. Local energy providers often provide energy audits of properties and can help identify any air leakage, ventilation or insulation issues. As a note, mechanical air ventilation is not recommended because it can cause other moisture and pressure issues within the home. Natural ventilation practices are recommended. In addition, gutters and downspouts should be clear of leafs and debris. This may not prevent ice dams, but will allow melted ice that reaches the gutter to drain away from the roof. Another prevention method is to remove snow from the roof. However, this can be dangerous and may cause roof damage, so hiring a professional is recommended. Your manager has access to these professionals. We do not recommend the board, manager or homeowner conduct snow removal!

If ice dams do form, removal may be necessary to avoid damage to the roof or unit interior. The best removal method is to have a professional remove the snow and steam the ice dams. This will temporarily solve the issue, but the prevention methods above should also be addressed to prevent future ice dams. The use of picks or other sharp tools is not recommended as it may damage the roof. In addition, the use of sidewalk salt (often seen as a sock filled with salt) should not be used on a roof as it may damage and discolor the shingles, and may void the warranty. Heat cables can be helpful; however they require installation prior to the ice dam formation, are visible year round, and will increase energy usage.

In general, when addressing ice dams, prevention is the best route. There may be some upfront costs, but the benefits outweigh the cost when considering roof, gutter and interior damage. When ice dams do form, consult your manager and we will guide you on the best way to address them and then help prevent future issues.

Holiday Greetings from Sharper Management

Holiday Greetings from Sharper Management

All of us at Sharper Management would like to take a moment to thank you for a wonderful 2019.
We experienced another incredible year of growth, adding a number of new clients from all over the metro area. We find it a tremendous honor to be entrusted to work with Boards to help manage homeowner associations and make them the best they can be.
To help us provide the services necessary to do so, we continue to add more staff; continuously look for, and implement new ways, to improve our tools and technology; we strive to stay on top of industry trends; and find ways to stay connect to our Minnesota community. All of these things make up our core values and we feel we dove in to each in 2019.
From company growth, staff development, wining industry awards, leadership involvement in industry organizations, community outreach initiatives, and more, you can read all about our fantastic 2019 in our website’s News section here – https://sharpermanagement.com/blog/
Again, we want to sincerely thank you for making 2019 a remarkable year and we look forward to all that 2020 has to offer. All of us a Sharper wish you and your family a wonderful Holiday Season!
Insurance: So Why Does the Association Have to File a Claim?

Insurance: So Why Does the Association Have to File a Claim?

There are few things trickier and more complicated in the operation of a community association than that of insurance. What types of policies must the association have? What is the scope of coverage? How does the “master policy” work with the individual homeowner’s policy (“HO6”)? There are many components and questions. Perhaps the most seldom understood, and sometimes hotly debated, topic on insurance is when and why the association must file a claim on the master policy.
In scenarios of massive losses like a hail storm, tornado or fire – or in cases where damage is limited to common areas such as a condo building hallway or a party room – it is pretty clear that the master policy should kick in and cover damages. But what about when a townhome wasn’t properly winterized and pipes freeze? Or what about the resident on the top floor of the condo building that let the bathtub overflow, flooding the units below, and causing tens of thousands of dollars of damage? Many Boards don’t understand why the association’s master policy would cover such losses where there is perceived negligence and/or the damage is inside of a unit, and therefore “not the associations responsibility.” It’s a natural reaction.
While the scope of coverage from association to association will vary, it is pretty common that the governing documents are going to require the master policy covers “the replacement costs of the building AND units.” In fact, if the association falls under the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act (“MCIOA” or 515B), state statute requires that the master policy covers the “total amount of not less than full insurable replacement cost of the insured property.” It goes on to say “in the case of a common interest community that contains units, or structures within units, sharing or having continuous walls, siding or roofs, the insurance maintained under subsections (a) (1) shall include those units, or structures within those units, and the common elements.”
What does this language mean? It means coverage is extended far beyond what many might expect the master policy to cover. Unless the association’s documents say otherwise, the policy might not cover finishing items such as carpeting, wall paper, or paint; but the subflooring, sheetrock, ceiling, framing, insulation is, in fact, insured by the master policy. Should there be a loss (such as those frozen pipes that burst in a townhome or the units affected in that condo building bathtub overflow) AND THAT LOSS EXCEEDS THE MASTER POLICY DEDUCTIBLE, there IS coverage for that loss.
You may be asking; “Why should the association’s policy cover it?” There is a very simple answer. By state statute, the master insurance policy is PRIMARY. 515B states “(4) if at the time of loss under the policy there is other insurance in the name of a unit owner covering the same property covered by the policy, the association’s policy is primary insurance.” You can read the entire statute on insurance here – https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/515B.3-113
The association does not get to decide what is and isn’t “coverable.” Additionally, the association doesn’t get to decide and assign “negligence.” If there is a loss and damages exceed the master policy’s deductible, a claim should be filed and coverage should be awarded per the governing documents. Insurance agents know the game. If there is a loss, the homeowner’s HO6 agent/policy is going to ask the question – how much damage? If more than the deductible, they know the master policy has to kick in and the HO6 will cover the owner’s personal property, non-covered items such as finish work like carpet, wallpaper and structural coverage up to the deductible.
What the association does get to decide is how the deductible should be handled. It can be absorbed as a common expense, or, more advisably, can be assessed against the owner(s) responsible or those that are benefiting. However, that’s an entirely different newsletter article.
At the end of the day, the role of a master policy to the association, and the fiduciary duty of the Board to the members of the association, is to protect property values. Master insurance policies, state statutes and governing documents put in place comprehensive insurance requirements to ensure that property losses are handled and property conditions restored – thereby maintaining property values.
HOLIDAY RECIPE: SUPER SOFT SUGAR COOKIES WITH EASY ICING

HOLIDAY RECIPE: SUPER SOFT SUGAR COOKIES WITH EASY ICING

Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction (www.sallybakingaddiction.com)

INGREDIENTS

Cookies

  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, slightly softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg*
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract(optional, but makes the flavor outstanding)
  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour(spoon and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Easy Icing

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup*
  • 2 – 2.5 Tablespoons (30-38ml) room temperature water
  • pinch salt*

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Make sure you have allotted enough time (and enough counter space!) to make these cookies. The cookie dough needs to chill, the cookies need to cool completely, and the icing needs 24 hours to completely harden. If enjoying right away and hardened icing isn’t a concern, you’ll only need about 4 hours to make these.
  2. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamed and smooth – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat on high until fully combine, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces (with paper) onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days. Chilling is mandatory.
  5. Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. The amount of batches will depend on how large/small you cut your cookies. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut in shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until very lightly colored on top and around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing. No need to cover the cookies as the cookies cool.
  7. For the icing, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water in a medium bowl. It should be quite thick. If it is much too thick, add 1/2 Tablespoon more water. If it is much too thin, add 2 more Tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar. If you drizzle a little of the icing with the whisk, the ribbon of icing will hold for a few seconds before melting back into the icing. That is when you know it’s the right consistency and is ready to use. If desired, add liquid or gel food coloring. You can pour some icing into different bowls if using multiple colors. If not decorating right away, cover the icing tightly and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  8. Decorate the cooled cookies however you’d like. Squeeze bottlesmake decorating so easy. You may enjoy right away or you can wait 24 hours for the icing to set and harden– no need to cover the cookies as the icing sets. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending. I find they stay soft for about 5 days at room temperature and up to 10 days in the refrigerator.
Packages, Gifts, Security, Oh My!

Packages, Gifts, Security, Oh My!

With the holidays comes packages!  We’ve all seen those doorbell videos of package thieves grabbing your gifts.  Just like kids, these thieves look forward to the holidays. Unattended packages on doorsteps are an irresistible temptation, and many communities struggle with crime during the holidays. The association itself is not responsible for delivered package, yet individual homeowners can play a part in protecting the community.
These tips may help reduce crime in your association:
  • Deliver to work/friend/neighbor. Utilize different delivery options during the holiday season. Have packages delivered where someone can accept them, or require a signature.
  • Delivery instructions. FedEx and UPS drivers will often honor requests to place packages behind a gate, shrub, or other location; contact your carrier to find out the options.
  • Track packages. Package tracking has come a long way, you can often receive a text message when their package is delivered.

Standard security options such as cameras and HOA funded patrols may help but, as we’ve seen on those videos, sometimes they do not.  In addition, frequent security patrols can be very expensive, may not be in the association’s budget and, ultimately, impact dues. One main deterrent is a strong community.

Strong communities can reduce crime. Owners who know their neighbors are more likely to report suspicious behavior. If you haven’t already, during this holiday season and beyond, get to know your neighbors.  It’s all about community!

Snow Contracts and Expectations

Snow Contracts and Expectations

Winter in Minnesota is quickly approaching! When the white stuff starts to fall, it’s important to understand how specifications in snow contracts will affect when snow is removed from your roadways, driveways and sidewalks.

Just like snowflakes, every snow contract is unique. To better understand the nuances of your contract, check with your Board or contact Sharper Management. We are happy to share this information with you.

While unique, there are some common specifications of a snow removal contract. Some of these specifications are:

Trigger Depth – Your contract likely states an accumulation total that must be met before snow service will commence. This can be anywhere from a trace up to multiple inches. For most, it is somewhere between 1 – 2 inches. This can be one of the biggest variables in the pricing of your snow contract and the definition of “trigger depth” is important. Does your contract state that service will happen when the trigger depth has been met for a single snow event/storm, or is it vague regarding at what point trigger depth is met? There is a significant difference between the definitions. For example, you could have a winter where less than 1 inch of snow accumulates per event, but there may be many events like this in a relatively short period of days thus creating heavily packed drives in your association. Most contracts are written “by event”.

Timing – The second most important component of your contract is the time in which snow service must be completed. For most contracts, “final cleanup” is somewhere between 6 – 12 hours after the snow has stopped falling. This timeline is also subject to snow accumulation totals. The more snow received, the more time allowed for cleanup.

Open-Ups – Most contracts provide for an open-up during snowfall events that exceed a particular total. For example, if 4 -6 inches of snow depth is met, but the event has not stopped, it is common for an open up to happen. Open-ups are simply done to allow vehicles to come in and out of the community. They are not the same as a final clean up and generally consist of a single pass through the roadways with the plow. One thing to define in your snow contract is whether open-ups include driveways, or just main roadways. Typical language states that an open-up will occur prior to __AM and/or after __PM. Then the final cleanup will occur per the contract as discussed in the “timing” section above.

We realize that snow is inevitable and, while often beautiful, can create some frustrations. Knowing a bit more about how your snow contract is written may alleviate some of these frustrations over the coming months. Stay safe this winter!

Sharper Management Supports Community Organization Open Arms

Sharper Management Supports Community Organization Open Arms

Giving back to our community is one of Sharper Management’s most important core values. Each year we choose local charitable organizations to support – it’s just the right thing to do.
This year as part of the Sharper Open, an annual golf tournament held in July, we incorporated a charitable component. Recently, our Accounting Manager Todd Essig, delivered the proceeds from that event to Open Arms. Open Arms is a nonprofit that cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities. Donations such as our helps Open Arms and their more than 7,600 volunteers deliver 624,000 meal to neighbors in need each year.
“We’re so happy to be able to give back to our community in this way,” states Partner and Chief Operating Officer Matt Froelich. “The work of Open Arms is an important way we can help care for those in need in our own backyard.”
Founded in 2010, Sharper Management is a locally owned, mid-sized property management company offering a full suite of premiere services to homeowner’s associations of all sizes. Sharper Management currently provides services to the Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN seven-county metro area.
For more information on Sharper Management services and employment opportunities, call 952-224-4777 or send an email to info@sharpermanagement.com.
Announcing the New Resident Center App

Announcing the New Resident Center App

Sharper Management is excited to announce the new Resident Center mobile app powered by our software system, Buildium! A new mobile app made specifically for you and your members. Resident Center is designed with simplicity in mind. Homeowners can make payments, submit maintenance requests, contact your property manager and more–with just a few taps. The features available vary based on the permissions granted, but some of the key features are:
  • One-time and recurring online dues payments
  • Maintenance requests with photo attachments
  • Announcements, texting, and other communication features
  • Ability to provide proof of insurance coverage (when required)
  • Access to governing documents
As the Board, you are also able to access the financial reports and other documents. Be sure to check it out!