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Common Board Member Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Common Board Member Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Are you a new Board member who is still “getting their feet wet” in the first year of service? Being on your board is a fulfilling role and we’d like to help you with a few tips on some common pitfalls you may encounter on your journey as a new board member.
Some of the common mistakes association board members should note:
Holding Meetings Improperly
All board meetings need to be documented and with notice given to all homeowners. Any time a majority of board members get together and speak about association business, it is considered a board meeting. That may mean a casual lunch date could become a board meeting if you meet the right criteria.
Disregard for Governing Documents
Sometimes boards do not carefully read the community’s governing documents, and then fail to abide by them. This can happen if a new board is elected and they neglect to review the declaration and bylaws of the association. This is usually unintentional, but it can cause a lot of issues. Every board member should read the bylaws and all other association documents.
Making Changes Without Having a Complete Picture
Sometimes a new Board will make big decisions without carefully reviewing all circumstances and opinions. One example we’ve seen frequently is changing vendors too quickly. Take time to discuss with as a Board and with your Community Manager to get a clear picture on vendors.
Seek Proper Advice
Legal advice is sometimes needed when making decisions. Your community manager will be a great sounding board on when you may need an attorney to become involved.
Sharper Management holds Board Training Sessions twice a year. Be sure to check this newsletter for dates in January and October each year.
Choosing Contractors for Your HOA

Choosing Contractors for Your HOA

If the ground hog was right last month, Spring is just around the corner. With that comes warm-weather maintenance projects.
When selecting vendors for your projects, keep some of these tips in mind:
Hire Licensed, Bonded and Insured Vendors
It should go without saying, but it is important to hire ONLY licensed, bonded and insured contractors. When vendors have these things in place, your HOA is protected in the event of property damage or injury. Remember to verify that vendors maintain workers’ compensation and general liability.
Also, it’s good practice to have bidders clarify what portions of their proposed services will be subcontracted when they submit a proposal. If a subcontractor will perform work, they should be subject to the same requirements as the prime contractor. Bonding may not be necessary for all work, but requiring a bond is a good way of insuring that you are dealing with a reputable contractor.
Written Vendor Contracts
Having written contracts in place when hiring a vendor will help protect the HOA. A written agreement should contain the scope of work, the timeline in which work needs to be performed, price to be paid for the work, contract termination options, methods of payment, how breaches of the contract will be addressed, warranties, indemnification of the community association for any damages brought about by the vendor during the course of the work, and a clause that makes the vendor responsible for compliance with all regulatory entities.
Develop a Clear Scope of Work
The first step in establishing a regular service contract or in starting a project should be establishing a Scope of Work. The Scope of Work can be used as part of a Request for Proposal process and then can be incorporated into a contract that is awarded. A clear Scope of Work also allows the Board to effectively compare pricing based on apples-to-apples service.
Vendor References
Check with references before hiring a vendor. Look for their online reviews. Google and Yelp can tell the story before you even speak to a vendor. The Better Business Bureau will also have a clear rating of the contractor to help in making your decision.
Competitive Bid Process
Always get at least a comparison quote if not at least 3 quotes through a competitive bid process. This will guarantee the best deal for the association.
If you have a full-service management agreement with Sharper Management, your community manager can help you with this process. Have a wonderful Spring season.
Creating a Maintenance Plan for Your HOA

Creating a Maintenance Plan for Your HOA

Creating a Maintenance Plan for your HOA
As we near the end of February, your Board conversations are likely turning to summer maintenance projects. Having an overall Maintenance Plan in place is a helpful tool to have in your pocket at this time of year. An effective approach to maintaining your Association helps to ensure you are spending maintenance dollars where they are needed the most.
Five Key Goals a Maintenance Plan Should Achieve:
  1. First and foremost, a Maintenance Plan is in place to preserve the value of all owner’s investment in the property. Enhance the property value, maintain the property value and create a comfortable place to live.
  2. Increase efficiency of HOA operations. Preventative Maintenance Plans help buildings operate efficiently. By effectively maintaining equipment, it functions at the highest levels and can reduce operational inefficiencies due to unexpected breakdown and can lessen wasteful energy usage.
  3. Prevent failures of building systems. Buildings that operate trouble-free allow the occupants to enjoy the property as intended. Preventive maintenance includes regular inspections and replacement of equipment crucial to building operations.
  4. Sustain a safe and healthy environment. Protecting the physical integrity of building components preserves a safe environment for residents.
  5. Provide cost effective maintenance. Preventive maintenance can prevent minor problems from escalating into major failures and costly repairs. Preventive maintenance can be handled relatively cheaply, efficiently and systematically through advance scheduling while major failures always happen after hours, at peak billing times and to equipment that must be special ordered.
An overall Maintenance Plan provides clear direction to the board and management on how and when to make repairs to building and grounds components. If followed in conjunction with a reserve study, the components will enjoy their maximum useful lives and related repair costs kept to a minimum.
Spring Is Coming…And So Is the Home Selling Season

Spring Is Coming…And So Is the Home Selling Season

Selling Your HOA Property

If 2020 begins your moving journey, there’s a few things to take care of as you prepare your property for sale.

Staging
First of all, staging your townhome or condo is an important part of the process; this helps potential buyers visualize themselves and their unique style in the space. Prepare by hiding personal items like photos, toiletries, and knickknacks. As you start putting those away (or have decided to get a jump start on packing), make sure you label everything. There are specialized apps or ways to utilize default apps (like Notes) to help keep organized. Take a snapshot of each box’s interior so you know where all of your important items are kept.

In addition, make a list of things that can be packed in advance and what can be left for later. Decor, for example, can be some of the first packed away-especially if it’s distracting to the eye. Plus, if your closets are too full as you’re showing the space, remove about half of it to make the storage look larger. Try to do the same for any other spaces like your pantry.

De-clutter/Recycle
A clean and minimal space will also help your sale while allowing you a chance to declutter. When you’re packing, ask yourself if you still need this item. Whether you’re downsizing or upgrading, it’s good practice to go through your things so you’re not dragging around unnecessary items through the years.

Re-arranging
Ask your real estate agent how you should stage your furniture. They will most likely know what’s popular in interior décor and how your property can fit that trend; see whether a piece needs to be moved to open up the space or put in storage if it’s too distracting.

Quick Fix
Look for any quick fixes like a leaky faucet or outdated hardware. A simple paint job or updated hardware can be the key to make your space look more modern on a budget.

We hope these tips will help you prepare for a successful sale and move. You may find resale documents on the Sharper Management website, or click here.

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.