Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution

It’s not uncommon for differences to arise between neighbors and townhome and condo living is no different.
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel you must speak up about a neighbor’s behavior or treatment of property, there are several ways to start the process and even resolve it without involving your Community Manager.
Some of the steps we recommend you start with include:

1. Talk to your neighbor. Sometimes people aren’t aware that they’re doing something to bother you. Starting a face-to-face conversation to express your concerns can many times clear it up before it goes any further. Your approach to the situation can “make or break” the outcome. Some tips we suggest include:

    • Assume the other person is unaware of the problem.
    • Use problem-solving phrases, such as “How do you suggest we approach this?” or “I think I have a solution.”
    • Don’t let the issue fester. If you bring your concern to the table, try to come to a resolution before your leave. Situations tend to get worse when one or both parties overthink it.
    • If possible, avoid discussing your issue with other HOA members. Getting too many people involved can make it harder to solve in the long run.
2. Check your HOA’s Bylaws
Be sure you know the bylaws of your HOA to ensure you have a valid complaint. This information can give you ground to take your issue further or put into perspective the validity of your complaint.
3. Mediation
Not all disputes between neighbors should involve your HOA board. Third-part mediators can provide a non-biased and safe table to for you and your neighbor to discuss the problems and find peaceful resolution.
4. Suspecting criminal activity. It is important to note, if your suspect criminal activity is occurring in your neighborhood, it should be reported to the local authorities. When involving the police, your written log of complaints and observations will be useful for the authorities.

5. Destruction of HOA common areas or property. If you witness a neighbor intentionally destroying HOA common property, bring it to the attention of your community manager or HOA board.

We hope you find this information helped. Our HOA communities are wonderful places to live and we strive to keep them that way!

Another Successful Sharper Golf Scramble

Another Successful Sharper Golf Scramble

On behalf of the leadership team and everyone at Sharper Management, thank you for making the third annual Sharper Scramble appreciation golf tournament another success. Despite the 110-degree heat index, nearly 130 Sharper staff members, Board members and trusted business partners came out for a fun day of golf, food and fellowship. The event was held July 19th at Boulder Pointe Golf Club in Elko.

“We put together this event as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to the many important people that have helped shape Sharper Management to the company we are today,” said Dan Cunningham, principal and chief executive officer. “From valued Board members making up our robust client list, to trusted business partners who’s quality of work reflects on our company, to the many Sharper staff members that keep this train rolling down the tracks, this event is our way of bringing us all together to celebrate.”

In addition to providing a fun afternoon, the Sharper Scramble also has a charitable outreach component, important to the mission and core values of Sharper Management. This year the event helped raise $2,000 for Open Arms – a local nonprofit that cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses across the Twin Cities.

If you were unable to join us this year, we hope you will consider being a part of this great event next summer.

Sharper Offers Board Training Opportunities

Sharper Offers Board Training Opportunities

Sharper Management will present two free Board training opportunities in the coming months.  All Board members from community associations managed by Sharper are welcome to attend.

Tuesday, October 15th at 6 p.m. – “Financial Fundamentals and Simplifying Insurance”
Wells Fargo Plaza, 2nd Floor Training Room at 7900 Xerxes Avenue, Bloomington, MN 55431

This focused session coincides with most association’s end-of-fiscal year and insurance renewal seasons. Insurance and financials are always large and complex topics.  Led by Sharper’s two directors of community management, Candy Lee, CMCA, AMS, PCAM and Michelle Stephans, Director of Business Development, in addition to trusted insurance vendor and expert, Eric Skarnes, of Insurance Warehouse, this session will cover topics such as:

* Defining Types of Insurance Policies & How they Interact
* Insurance Claims & How They are Handled
* Market Place Update

* Basic Financial Reporting
* Understanding Operating Cashflow & Reserve Savings
* Budgeting Process & Methods
* Replacement Reserve Studies & Requirements

Tuesday, January 14th at 6 p.m.  – “Board Basics: An Orientation for Board Members”
Bell Plaza office building in Bloomington (3800 American Blvd W)

This general orientation session will be led by Sharper’s two directors of community management, Candy Lee, CMCA, AMS, PCAM and Josh Reams, CMCA, AMS, PCAM.  Topics covered will include:

* Defining Types of “Associations”
* Roles & Responsibilities of the Board
* Financial Fundamentals
* An Overview to Governing Documents & State Statutes
* How to Run Effective Board Meetings
* Insurance Basics
* Property Management Practices

If you are interested in reserving your spot, please email

Creating Successful Annual Meetings

Creating Successful Annual Meetings

For some Board members, the annual meeting can be a source of anxiety. And for many community associations, the annual meeting has become the collective wasteland for complaints, critiques and requests from residents. The first step in creating constructive and beneficial annual meetings is understanding the definition and primary purpose of it.

Definition & Function – Minnesota Statute 317A, Nonprofit Corporations Act, mandates that all corporations with members (which all homeowner associations are) “shall hold at least an annual meeting of members with voting rights.” Minnesota Statute 515B, Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act, mirrors the language, “a meeting of the association shall be held at least one per year.”

Perhaps more importantly, though, is understanding the primary role of this meeting. Once again, both 317A and 515B provide context. The fundamental reasons for an annual meeting are as follows:
(i)    an election of successor directors for those directors whose terms have expired
(ii)    a report on the activities and financial condition of the association, and
(iii)    consideration of and action on any other matters included in the notice of meeting.

Put simply, the purpose of the meeting is to vote in board members, approve the minutes from the previous year, and give a brief financial and activities report of the past year. That’s it. Rarely are there other items requiring a membership vote. And never should that vote happen unless it is included in the notice of the meeting.

Pitfalls – where many associations might struggle with the annual meeting, it typically comes down to the same reason. The perception is that it is the annual meeting of the members, therefore owners should have a say and a vote on various matters. Many associations have years of precedence that’s been set where there is no control and other topics dominate the meeting.

Solutions – first, control and order must rule at an annual meeting. The meeting facilitator, typically the Board President, should open the meeting by stating the expectation that the purpose of today’s meeting is to vote in Board members. Other operational business should be brought more appropriately to an open Board meeting, where action can be taken.

It is so important to recognize section III. of the state statute cited above. “Consideration of and action on any other matters included in the notice of meeting.”  To reiterate, no other business can be conducted at the annual meeting if it was not included in the meeting notice. Any motion from the membership on this or that could be grounds for an illegal vote.  Think about it.  What if you choose not to go to the annual meeting because there was nothing listed on the agenda (which is typically the case for an annual meeting) and then you learned that at the meeting the membership voted to raise dues?  You probably would have gone had you know that was going to be voted on.

While it might seem counter-intuitive and cold to keep an annual meeting of members very brief and matter of fact, it is important that it be run as a business meeting. If an association wants to use the meeting as an opportunity to hear concerns and have dialog between the board, management, owners, etc., have an open forum session after the annual meeting is adjourned. No minutes. No votes to be taken. Just a forum for dialog.  And, once again, try to push those conversations and request to a Board meeting, where action can be taken.

Hopefully a more thorough understanding of the definition and function of the annual meeting, along with the pitfalls and solutions mentioned above, can help your association create more successful and constructive annual meetings going forward.

Sharper Rolls Out Client Care Center

Sharper Rolls Out Client Care Center

Earlier this month, Sharper Management rolled out a new department designed to streamline communication efforts and increase customer service, and thus increase client satisfaction. The Client Care Center is a “call center” like setup where every call from homeowners, vendors, realtors, insurance agents, etc will receive a live body in the Sharper office. Perhaps more importantly, those staff members answering calls and emails are equipped with the information and tools to satisfy even the most difficult of questions, and to help facilitate resolution on just about any matter.

The reality is an overwhelming majority of the 75 calls received on average each day are very basic questions. Are pets allowed? What is garbage pickup day? How much are my monthly dues? Can you send me a certificate of insurance? All of these questions can be handled by the team of individuals making up Client Care. Such calls and emails need not be sent to a Community Manager or an Assistant Community Manager, interrupting their workflow, or worse, going to voicemail because they are unavailable to take the call or unable to respond to the email quickly. Even more difficult inquires such as maintenance requests (ex: a piece siding blows off) and even vendor service issues (ex: they missed my driveway when they plowed) can be facilitated directly by a Client Care team member.

Finally, another focus and purpose of the Client Care Center is to more thoroughly document communications. Actionable items such as maintenance requests can be put into a Task and our Task system can be better utilized. Call logs can be generated for association reporting purposes – and for important historical documentation record keeping. Overall, better administrative tracking will result from the Client Care system.

“At the end of the day, we recognize this is a customer service industry. We also realize that our overall goal is to help enhance property values for the clients that entrust us with management services for their association,” said Matt Froehlich, owner and chief operating officer. “Our goals with the Client Care Center is two-fold. First, it clearly provides an enhanced customer service experience for the nearly 13,000 homes we are responsible for assisting. Secondly, it frees up our Community Managers and Assistant Managers to be working on bigger picture things like building budgets, getting bids, contract negotiations, and enables them to spend more time “in the field” focusing on things such as vendor and project management, site inspections and rule enforcement efforts. The Client Care Center will be a win-win for everybody and we are extremely excited about it.”

Client Care is staffed by Sam Crowther, previously having spent the past year as the receptionist at Sharper and comes with a vast background in customer service positions – and Grant Peterson, having spent over a year as an assistant community manager at Sharper and whom also has significant background in communications and customer service.

Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation

August is vacation month in Minnesota. Our best weather of the season is upon us, the kids are still out of school, and the time is just right to get away for some R&R. Unfortunately, your perfect vacation could be ruined upon your arrival back home when you find your home has been broken into while you were away. As your thoughts are racing through this scene, you wonder what you could have done to prevent this?

While there is no foolproof way to ensure your home will not be burglarized while you’re away, there are smart precautions to take that could help to minimize your home becoming a target for thieves.

Just like a well-planned list of activities for a nice vacation can help make things go smoothly, so can a well-planned vacation security checklist. Some simple suggestions include:

  • Stop the mail. An overflowing mailbox or newspapers on the doorstep are great indicators that no one is home.
  • Leave your blinds open. One of the first thing a thief is likely to do is close the blinds while they are inside your home. If you arrive back and the blinds are closed, it’s a great early tip that something is amiss.
  • Be aware of what you are posting on social media. Post your vacation photos after your return and don’t announce to the world that you’re at the airport awaiting take off. If you must post such things, check your security settings and be sure only those you’ve invited to your networks can see what you’re writing. Set them to private and not public.
  • Lock up. This seems so simple, but it’s easy to forget the flip the front door lock especially if you don’t use that entrance very often. Also check windows and side doors to your garage. Be sure they are all secure before leaving.
  • Do not leave a spare key on the porch under the potted plants. Burglars know the tricks and will likely find your extra, hidden key!
  • Mind your trash. Leaving your cans out when no other neighbors do is another tipoff that you’re not home.

We hope you enjoy your vacation time!

Summer Living in an HOA – The Pool

Summer Living in an HOA – The Pool

Living in Minnesota we know all too well how much our temperatures swing between summer to winter. We go from one cold extreme to a very hot extreme within a few short months. That makes having a pool in your HOA very attractive in the summertime. It’s important to keep in mind some of the most basic pool safety tips while enjoying our beautiful warm weather.

Every HOA will have their own set of rules to be aware of, but the common ones we see most often include:

  • No pushing, running, or excessive horseplay in the pool area. Pools decks can be slippery.
  • No swimming under the influence.
  • No glass in the pool area.
  • No swimming during a rain or thunderstorm.

Lifeguards are not on duty in a HOA pool. It is swim at your own risk which means you and the children the accompany you. Please be sure closely watch children while they are in the pool. Young children who are not fully potty trained must wear swim diapers to avoid contamination of the pool.

Be reasonable about the amount of noise you and your family are making while in the pool common area.

Teach children basic water safety tips and enroll them in swimming lessons.
Keep children away from pool drains, pipes, and other openings to avoid entrapments.

Don’t rely on fun toys such as water wings or noodles to keep your children safe. If your child can’t swim, fit them with an appropriate personal floatation device (PFD).

Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.

Summer Storms

Summer Storms

We’ve already experienced some of the fury Mother Nature can produce this summer season resulting in widespread hail damage to roofs and siding in the south metro. We thought this would be a great time to share a few tidbits regarding insurance coverages and what to do in the event of server weather.

If you’ve grown up in the Midwest, you’re already adept at being “sky aware” on sticky, hot, humid days. Our modern lives and cell phone make getting weather updates and notifications easier than ever to stay current on your local weather conditions. But, do you know what the alerts mean?

Watches – The conditions are favorable or expected but not occurring or imminent.
Tornado Watch – Atmospheric conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornados.
Severe Thunderstorm Watches – Atmospheric conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms capable of producing hail at least 1″ in diameter and/or 50 know (58 mph) or great wind speeds.

Warnings – A tornado is occurring or is imminent for the warning area.

Tornado Warning – A severe thunderstorm has developed and has either produced a tornado or radar has indicated intense low-level rotation in the presence of atmospheric conditions conducive to tornado development and/or a human has spotted a tornado.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning – A severe thunderstorm has developed and is capable of producing hail greater than 1″ in diameter and/or 50knot (58 mph) wind speeds.
Seeking Shelter – Suggestions from the National Weather Service
If you are at home during a tornado:

  • Go to a windowless interior room on lowest level of your house. Go to a storm cellar or basement if your house has one. If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway or a smaller inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.
  • Get away from the windows.
  • Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they tend to attract debris.
  • Bring your pets with you if time allows.
After the Storm
Emergency Response
What to do if damage occurs during non-business hours? The Sharper Management team has a 24/7 emergency line in place just for situations like this. We are in touch with our own maintenance teams and vetted contractors who will respond to triage the situation to prevent further damage.
Repair Responsibility?
Your governing documents will explain who is responsible for repairs to exterior damage. Common roofs and generally items that are “studs out” are covered by the insurance policy of the HOA. That would include exterior items such as a damaged roof, siding, gutters, and windows. If a tree, for example, crashes into your condo complex and damages the roof and breaks windows, the “studs out” clause would put responsibility in the court of the HOA. However, if the fallen tree creates a hole in the roof and your unit floods, this damage is “studs in” and your homeowner’s policy would come into play. Again, it’s best to check your association’s documents for the details. If you find your individual home policy needs updating, now is a good time to do this.
Let’s all hope for calm weather in August!
Creating Successful Annual Meetings

Board Tips: Three Pitfalls to Excessive and Unproductive Meetings

We live in a culture of meetings – and unfortunately there is an epidemic of unproductive and unnecessary meetings. Just Google “make meetings more effective” and you are sure to pull up a plethora of Harvard Business School studies and countless Wall Street Journal op-ed pieces. Association Boards are certainly guilty of meetings that are too frequency, far too long, and not at all productive. Rather than focusing on how to make them more effective, below are three pitfalls, common themes observed by countless managers and homeowners, that can create unproductive and unsatisfactory Board meetings.
Don’t Beat a Dead Horse: when facing a difficult task or polarizing decision, often times Boards will endlessly revisit the topic. Unless new facts or circumstances have come to light, make the best decision possible with the information you have and move on. Any progress and forward movement is better than the opposite, and most of the time better than being completely stagnate. And finally, don’t waste time second guessing decisions already made.
Stop with the Hypotheticals: there is nothing that will make your manager’s eyes roll and fellow Board member’s heads spin more than brainstorming hypotheticals to a decision or task at hand. While thoroughly vetting issues and comprehensive discourse on complicate topics is necessary to sound decision making, there is also a point where it just gets downright unproductive. If the matter is truly complex, the Board and manager should be relying on expert information. Personal opinions, non-expert input, “what if’s?” and “if this, then what’s?” seldom help in constructively aiding the decision-making process.
Don’t Allow Tangents: this should go without saying. All too often, however, one or multiple Board members can “go rouge” – “step on their soapbox” – or whatever other cliché statement you want to say, to make a point (which may be related to the point above about nonsensical hypotheticals) or pursue their personal agenda. There is nothing more distracting, and nothing more detrimental, to a constructive meeting than tangents. A strong meeting facilitator is essential to control excess or non-productive dialog.
So, What Goes in Meeting Minutes, Anyways?

So, What Goes in Meeting Minutes, Anyways?

Ok… time to elect Officers! Who wants to be Secretary???……Anyone?……Hello?….
No one wants to be Secretary because most people find the role of taking Meeting Minutes to be a daunting task. If you refocus your view of what Minutes are supposed to be, however, it really isn’t a tall task at all.
Minutes should document decisions made. They are not meant to be a dictation of everything that was said at the meeting. In fact, it is highly recommended that Minutes do NOT capture, in detail, general ideas discussed. It can lead to very creative interpretations by readers! Minutes should be short and concise. Bullet points are your friend. They should follow (and may be in the format of) your Agenda.
Here are the essential points your Minutes should capture:
  • Correct legal name of the Association
  • Type of Meeting
  • Board Members in attendance and absent
  • Date, location and time meeting was called to order and adjourned.
  • Names of homeowners formally addressing the Board (example: those requesting, in advance, to be on the Agenda)
  • A generalized listing of topics discussed (short bullet points recommended)
  • A detailed statement of motions and resolutions proposed. Names do not need to be identified for “Yes” and “No” votes. The vote count, however, should be shown. Example: “Johnson moved to approve the Minutes from the June 15th meeting. Bartlett seconded. Minutes were approved unanimously.”
  • Finally, the date, time and location of the next meeting.
Again, the purpose of Minutes is to document decisions made and provide a listing of topics discussed.
Remember, Minutes can actually be used as a legal document and are the official record of your Association. Keep them concise and they will serve you well….and perhaps it won’t be so hard to get an answer to question “so…..who wants to be Secretary!?”