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Getting Ready to Sell in an HOA

Getting Ready to Sell in an HOA

Prepping for the sale of your home doesn’t need to be an arduous task. Just like selling any other single-family home, selling your townhouse or condo may require a few interior updates and fixes, but there are also a few simple things that you can do that will go a long way in adding appeal to your property.

Simple Tips for Selling

  • Clean and re-organize your space – As long as you’re trying to sell your CIC property, you will need to keep it clean and organized in case of any last-minute showings. Rooms should be re-arranged to appear spacious, and storage areas should be emptied, when possible, to make them appear larger.
  • Depersonalize your space – Take down or remove items such are your photos on the wall, religious items, knickknacks, worn-down furniture, and other personal items. Potential buyers want to envision themselves in the space, and a non-personalized space can help them do that.
  • Little updates go a long way – Updating things like cabinet hardware or outlet covers will help the space feel updated without a lot of effort. If your walls aren’t already neutral colors, then re-paint them so they’ll appeal to a wide range of buyers. In general, a new coat of paint will make a space look better.
  • Focus on your kitchen and bathroom – The kitchen and bathroom are big sellers in any home. Make sure they are clean! If your bathtub has mold in the grout, scrub it or reroute the lines to freshen them. Remove clutter from your kitchen countertop space. This will make even a small kitchen seem larger.
  • Be flexible with your showings – Stay courteous and responsive when dealing with potential buyers. Flexibility when setting up a showing will help move you to sale faster.
  • Choose the right realtor – Make sure you choose a realtor who knows how to market an HOA property. Ask questions about where they plan to market your home. Does include a full range of the most popular real estate websites such as Realtor.com? Will they bring in a professional photographer to ensure your online photos make your home look its very best?

With these helpful tips, you should be able to expertly present your property to potential buyers. Remember to also play up the benefits of your HOA.

As the seller, you’ll need to provide resale documents to your potential buyer. You can find this information on our website. Visit sharpermanagement.com and look for the Resale Disclosures link in the menu bar. Or, click here.

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Construction Chat: To Blacktop or Not to Blacktop?

Construction Chat: To Blacktop or Not to Blacktop?

Similar to concrete, your association’s blacktop makes a statement about the community. After the extreme temperatures from this winter, it’s important to include pavement maintenance or replacement on property inspection lists.

When reviewing your pavement, look for damage such as potholes, large cracks, and persistent puddles. Potholes and cracks in pavement are a common occurrence for Minnesota in the spring, and residents will have to deal with them enough driving around the city. They’ll likely not be pleased dealing with them at their residence, and it can negatively affect your association’s curb appeal for potential buyers.

Insistent puddles, the ones that just won’t go away, let you know there is a drainage or ponding issue with your lot. When this happens, the long-standing water begins to wear down the blacktop. It also increases the chances of the pavement being drastically affected by Minnesota’s extreme freeze-thaw.

The best way to solve these issues is by getting a professional out to examine the parking lot and give an estimate on the work needed. For the potholes and cracks, if they’re not too extensive, they may be patched or solved with a mill and overlay, which is less expensive than a complete tear out and replacement.

Once your new blacktop is installed, but sure to maintain it properly with regular sealcoating. This extends the pavement’s durability and strength so the association can save money over time through preventative action.

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Don’t Break Your Own Rules in Rule Enforcement

Don’t Break Your Own Rules in Rule Enforcement

Spring is here and that means Community Managers and Board members will be active in walk-arounds/site inspections while hoping to whip the association back in to shape after a long winter’s nap. Rule violations are always a focus in these efforts.

Melted snow un-earths pet damage to turf; holiday lights still adorn balconies; neglected exterior maintenance items that homeowners may be responsible for become apparent; “big-boy toys” like boats and RVs begin to come out and park in driveways and guest parking; kid toys and sports equipment litter patios and common areas; and on and on. While associations should be assertive and fair in cleaning up these and other rule violations, there is one area that Boards can get themselves in trouble when it comes to enforcement – adhering to their own appeal opportunities and hearing processes.
Many Declarations documents give some parameters and rights to members/homeowners when it comes to compliance and remedies in regard to rule enforcement. It is always wise to not only have a thorough Enforcement Policy (warning, first fine, second fine, etc), but also an appeal and hearing procedure as part of the Rules & Regulations document. This policy should mirror or further enhance -but never contradict – any existing language in the Declarations or ByLaws.

The most common approach to creating fairness when it comes to rule remedies is to allow for an appeal and hearing procedure. Some rule violations, after all, might have extenuating circumstances, or sometimes the violation might have been applied to the incorrect offender. Allowing for an appeal procedure creates an opportunity to hear this out. This “appeal” should come in way of a “hearing” before the Board. Additionally, the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act (“MCIOA”) contemplates this notion when it provides that owners should be able to speak before the Board.
A common approach that has been incorporated into more recent governing documents is to allow for a rule offender to be given 10 days to request a hearing before the Board. The Board then has 30 days to schedule said hearing from receipt of a formal request for a hearing (tip: which could and should be at the next scheduled Board meeting). The Board then has a reasonable amount of time to further deliberate the information presented and provide a formal written response to the owner either upholding or altering the rule violation and any corresponding sanctions.

The key, however, to making this procedure work, is to be appropriately notify the homeowners of their right to appeal and hearing in all correspondences that related to the rule violation. Many Declarations (and therefore coinciding rules and enforcement policies) do state something along the lines of “the offender shall be given notice of the nature of the rule violation and the right to a hearing…” If any of the rule violation letters, be it the original warning or certainly any subsequent fines, did not state the owner had a right to an appeal and/or hearing, the Association did not follow through on their requirements for enforcement. Should the matter end up in court, a judge might likely side with the homeowner.

While no one wants to add administrative steps, particularly with regards to owners breaking rules, it is important to be aware of any appeal and/or hearing procedures that may already be in place – and certainly it is important to be incorporating those requirements in enforcement efforts.

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A Lesson in the Business Judgement Rule

A Lesson in the Business Judgement Rule

There are two key legal terms that are often times thrown around but seldom understood in regard to serving on the Board of Directors: responsibilities and protections. As to the former (responsibilities), it is important to understand the concept of Fiduciary Duty. In short and very simplistically, it is the premise that Board members are acting for the benefit of all and for the association – and not for one’s self-interests. For a more in depth exploration of this concept, see the article from last fall: https://sharpermanagement.com/2018/10/fiduciary-duty/.
As to latter (protections), if the Board is, indeed, acting for the benefit of all and exercising their “duty of care” and “duty of loyalty,” then they are typically protected from lawsuits under the umbrella known as the “Business Judgement Rule.”
This premise means that actions taken by the Board, if within their powers, must reflect a reasonable and honest exercise of judgment. Given that Board members cannot always ensure success in whatever the initiative may be, the business judgment rule specifies that the court will not review the business decisions of directors who performed their duties (1) in good faith; (2) with the care that an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise under similar circumstances; and (3) in a manner the directors reasonably believe to be in the best interests of the corporation.
The Cornell Law School has a rather concise overview here:  https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/business_judgment_rule.
  1. Good Faith – has been covered a number of times. Acting in the best interest of the collective.
  2. With Care – this is the one that is fairly subjective and where a Board is susceptible to claims of negligence or ill-intent. Boards must always use their resources, illustrating careful thought and having researched information as contributing factors to a decision. Some examples illustrating this would include: reviewing a Management Report prior to a meeting; asking for an attorney to review a detailed or complex contract/agreement prior to executing; utilizing an engineer for an in-depth study of a complex structural problem and gathering formal recommendations; engaging with an accountant to do an annual audit of the financials; speaking directly to an insurance agent before binding coverage. Engaging with experts and showing due diligence is always a good way to prove “duty of care” was taken
  3. Best Interest – if meeting minutes reflect these steps were taken, and if the discussion and decisions happened in a recognized open meeting of the Board, the Board is acting in a reasonable manner and in the best interest of the association.

As volunteers of a non-profit corporation, it is sometimes hard to recognize and accept there is a significant amount of liability put on the Board. If Fiduciary Duty is understood and followed, and Directors & Officers insurance is put in place, the Board should be comforted in the protections afforded under the Business Judgement Rule doctrine.

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Sharper Management Expands Condominium Management Contracts in St. Paul, MN

Sharper Management Expands Condominium Management Contracts in St. Paul, MN

April 23, 2019 — Sharper Management, a locally-owned, mid-sized property management company located in Eden Prairie, MN has recently been brought on board to manage the Hague Commons Condominium Association in St. Paul, MN. Sharper Management’s ability to customize financial-only management contract was one of the key factors in the associations decision to bring Sharper on board. Known for their professionalism and transparency, Sharper Management manages several other HOAs in the area including Dakota on the Park in the Lowertown area of DT St. Paul.

“We’re excited about our growing presence in St. Paul,” states Dan Cunningham, Partner and Managing Broker. “Our clients truly appreciate our ability to tailor services to their specific needs. This flexibility along with the exceptional and reliable property management services we offer is continuing to be a deciding factor in many local association’s choice to hire Sharper. We’re happy to grow with our clients and help board members throughout the area.”

Known for their reliable and committed approach to services for condominium and townhome associations in Minnesota, Sharper Management specializes in providing exceptional property management solutions. Offering a full-suite of premier services to the Minneapolis-St. Paul seven-county area, Sharper Management continues to expand their service area and look forward to building more new relationships throughout the Twin Cities.

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Getting Ready to Sell in an HOA

How Associations Work – Sharper Management’s Role

While the elected board of a CIC, or Common Interest Community, operates on behalf of preserving their community, they will most likely hire a management company to aid them in the day-to-day duties.
The management company will act under the board’s orders and takes direction from them on how to manage the association under their specific regulations. In some cases, the management company will also assist with the budget process, prepare board meetings, and serve as a consultant in the event of issues in the association’s community. Essentially, management companies are there to make it easier for the board to uphold their community’s standards and investment in their homes.
Our role as a management company to many association communities includes helping the board in their administrative, maintenance, and communication duties. Our high-quality service revolves around a culture of communication, teamwork, and growth; we show this through our typical services, which we further outline on our website. In general, our team helps the board manage the maintenance of the community, staffing a 24-hour emergency phone line and help facilitating emergency services, providing and maintaining a web portal that all homeowner and board members can utilize, taking care of all aspects of the financial management of the association, help facilitating various needs or questions from homeowners within the association, and so much more.

 

Our services may differ slightly by type of CIC we are managing, but we follow our overarching values as a locally-owned company dedicated to supporting our partnered associations. We help protect each association member’s investment in a home by preserving the property and streamlining communication between unit owners and the board, the most important relationship in a Common Interest Community. We are proud to be managing the properties you call home, and look forward to continuing to support all members of the association.
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Understanding Your Governing Documents

Understanding Your Governing Documents

After joining a CIC, or Common Interest Community, each member receives governing documents they must follow in respect to how the community and individual units are operated and used. In most cases, governing documents include a declaration, bylaws, articles of incorporation, and rules and regulations. Those documents will describe important administration or financial info like the association’s rights and responsibilities, the homeowner’s rights and responsibilities, how the annual budget is created, and the procedure to follow when electing a board.
Most importantly, the governing documents will also outline the powers granted to that elected board, which exists to help operate and preserve the association. The board will typically have the power to create or amend rules and regulations in the CIC, create procedures and parameters for fining when owners are not compliant, adopt an operating budget (which sets “dues”), hire vendors to provide services to the association, etc.
Additionally, if damages or other issues occur on association property, the governing documents disclose the insurance coverage of the CIC and how the responsibility between the association and unit owner differ. In many cases, documents may define that anything outside an individual unit becomes a responsibility of the association, while maintaining and repairing damage inside the unit boundaries becomes a responsibility of the unit owner. It’s important to understand that distinction while owning the unit, which the governing documents and board will uphold.
When a homeowner decides to sell their unit, the governing documents will most likely include regulations to follow during that process. In Minnesota, under the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act, the seller of a unit must provide the governing documents to a prospective buyer to view before purchasing.
In every step of the association member’s ownership, the governing documents are necessary to read and learn in order to understand the operation of their Common Interest Community.
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Signs It is Time to Update Governing Documents

Signs It is Time to Update Governing Documents

Perhaps the most important tool you have as a Board member to help in your governing responsibilities and decision-making process is the association’s set of governing documents. It is the foundation for every decision you make and the playbook for how those decisions will be executed into action. Like everything else in the association, however, governing documents also need maintenance and updating.
Here are a few key areas of the governing documents that might suggest it is time to either amend sections or re-state the entire document:
Developer/Declarant Rights – most Declaration of Covenants (other common titles: Declarations or Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) have language and numerous sections that instruct how the association should be run and give rights to the developer/declarant when the association is first incorporated and still under “declarant control.” Once the association turns over to the membership and starts to be controlled by a Board of Directors, those sections are irrelevant. They are worth removing to clean up the document and eliminate any confusion.
Ambiguous or Missing Information – the older the document, the more confusing the language can be. Some common examples of ambiguous information can be the definition of unit boundaries, listing of common elements and limited common elements, clear description of maintenance responsibilities, and scope of insurance requirements. If you find yourself spending the money to seek legal opinions for clarification, it’s a good sign you might need to amend and re-state the document(s).
Alignment with State Laws – it can be common for governing documents to contradict state laws. Under the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act (“MCIOA” or 515B), most sections of the statute preface by saying “unless the association’s documents say otherwise…” If the association’s document predates MCIOA, the association could be missing out on key provisions of the statute that better position the association for success. For example, MCIOA gives the Board authority to levy a special assessment. If the association’s governing documents, however, require the membership to approve a special assessment, state statute would default to the governing docs, and the Board would have to seek approval. It’s an example of a significant hamstring the Board could have on the operation of the association. In most instances, it befits the association to be a part of MCIOA and re-state the documents to both align and reference state statute.
Outdated Communication & Voting Requirements – some simple but powerful components should be a part of all governing documents. The bylaws should allow for proxy voting. Options for voting by mail and electronically should be incorporated. Delivery methods for communications should extend beyond the dated “mail only” option. Voting and communication requirements in the governing documents are a telltale sign of the age of the documents, and a good signal that it is time to amend or re-state.
Language Style – typically, the older the document, the more it sounds like a room full of lawyers drafted it. While modern day documents certainly use legal phrasing and key terms, they tend to be more clear and easier for a layman to understand.
Amending or re-stating governing documents can be a complicated endeavor. But again, they are your most powerful tool. If your documents are dated and issues listed above interfere with your interaction with them, it is a worthy cause to update.
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Year-End Requirements for Associations

Year-End Requirements for Associations

Did you know that associations, as a registered non-profit corporation, are required to file Federal and State taxes? It is also important to be aware of any requirements of your governing docs for an annual financial review or audit. If you are governed under MCIOA (Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act,which effects all condominium associations and any association incorporated after June 1, 1994),you are required to have, at minimum, an annual financial review. Note: you can have a vote of the membership to waive this requirement.

Financial reviews and audits do differ; however, they achieve the same goal. That is to have an independent, licensed CPA review the association’s financials and the accounting practices of its management company. It should also be noted that MCIOA puts this criteria on who performs the financial review or audit.

Your property manager and staff at Sharper are working hard behind the scenes to provide the engaged CPA firm with all of the materials required. Bank statements, reports, invoices, etc. all must be provided.

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Construction Chat: Navigating a Bad Ice Dam Year

Construction Chat: Navigating a Bad Ice Dam Year

The up and down temperatures and the record-breaking February snow totals have been the perfect recipe for ice dam formation on various types of roofs this year. Ice dams are particularly tricky for associations because the line between Homeowner vs. Association responsibility can become rather blurred.

First, it is important to understand how and why ice dams form. In short, they form when snow melts on your roof and then re-freezes over the eave-typically over the soffit area. The ice “dam” then prohibits further melting snow to drain properly off the roof, which can (but not always) cause leaking water into the home.

There are many factors as to why ice dams form-the inevitable freeze/thaw cycle; excess snow pack; clogged gutters or frozen downspouts-but the primary culprit is excessive heat loss from the unit and/or a lack of ventilation. Which is why, many times and depending on your governing documents, ice dams and the leakage they can cause are not necessarily the association’s responsibility. They are not caused by roofing deficiencies; they are caused by insulation and ventilation deficiencies INSIDE of the home.

It is important to understand how your association’s governing documents define “unit boundaries.” Does the boundary of the unit include “unfinished surfaces” or “no upper or lower boundaries”? If so, this could imply that the attic space (or the space between the roof deck and the ceiling) and insulation inside of it would be a homeowner responsibility; therefore, the heat loss causing the ice dam is the homeowner’s deal.

Once there is an understanding of who is responsible for what, it is very helpful for associations to review their ice dam situation and have a policy in place for how they are to be addressed.

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