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Helpful Articles

About Our Insurance Agent
Insurance agents, like doctors, have a broad range of specialties and areas of expertise. Fortunately, community association insurance is one of them. Community associations have unique needs and exposures, so the board has been very diligent in selecting an agent with experience in this area. Our insurance agent serves the association by:
  • Reviewing the association’s documents, recommending the legal minimum insurance requirement, and recommending additional coverage that might be appropriate.
  • Inspecting the community and identifying exposure that needs to be addressed.
  • Verifying the property values for replacement and/or reproduction costs.
  • Obtaining premium quotations and helping the board select the best program.
  • Educating the board about coverage, exclusions, and limitations.
  • Educating the residents about the association’s policy, where it stops, and the residents’ and owners’ responsibilities begin.
  • Providing certificates of insurance or evidence of coverage to lenders.
  • Helping the board decide how claims deductibles will be processed.
  • Assisting the association to establish procedures for service providers
  • Reviewing the association’s claims annually and recommending how to reduce future claims.
All meetings of the association board are open meetings. Residents are encouraged to observe meetings and read approved minutes. Residents who would like to be placed on the board agenda - and become an official part of the board meeting - will need to submit a written request beforehand (complete with explanation and subject to be discussed) so research can be conducted, if needed, before the meeting.
Here are few tips for participating in board meetings and open forums. Open forums are held at the conclusion of each board meeting.
1. Put things in writing beforehand. You will get the best response if you put your question or opinions in writing prior to the meeting. Some issues may require a little research before the meeting and the board can serve you better if members have time to consider your concern.
2. Call ahead. As a courtesy, the association asks that you confirm things by phone and let the manager know that you wish to address the board. This also allows us to notify you if a meeting is cancelled for any reason.
3. Plan your remarks to last no longer than five minutes. Board members enjoy visiting with residents; however, the meeting agenda is usually very full, and the five-minute limit ensures that all business gets conducted. This doesn’t mean big issues can’t be presented. If your concern requires more time, please summarize it in five minutes during the open forum, and the board will add it to the agenda for the next meeting.
4. Don’t expect an immediate response. Board members don’t act independently. All issues require discussion and sometimes a vote. Sometimes an immediate answer is possible, but it’s just as likely that you won’t get a response until after the meeting.
5. If you need information, call the office. The purpose of the each homeowner forum is for residents to share opinions and concerns with the board. Residents seeking general information (like a status report on a project or the board’s position on an issue) can get a more immediate answer from the manager.
Community Association Fundamentals
Even though we live in a condominium, you might be surprised how many of our neighbors may not really understand the fundamental nature of common-interest communities. And we know that many others, including the media and government officials, lack a true understanding of the community association (or condominium) concept.
Community Associations Institute (CAI), a national membership organization that represents the best interests of common-interest communities like ours, developed 10 basic principles that answer three essential questions: What is the basic function of a community association? What are the essential obligations and expectations of homeowners? What are the core principles that should guide association leaders?
We believe that these principles are extremely important to successful living in a condominium neighborhood.
1. Associations ensure that the collective rights and interests of homeowners are respected and preserved.
2. Associations are the most local form of representative democracy, with leaders elected by their neighbors to govern in the best interest of all residents.
3. Associations provide services and amenities to residents, protect property values and meet the established expectations of homeowners.
4. Associations succeed when they cultivate a true sense of community, active homeowner involvement and a culture of building consensus.
5. Association homeowners have the right to elect their community leaders and to use the democratic process to determine the policies that will protect their investments.
6. Association homeowners choose where to live and accept a contractual responsibility to abide by established policies and meet their financial obligations to the association.
7. Association leaders protect the community’s financial health by using established management practices and sound business principles.
8. Association leaders have a legal and ethical obligation to adhere to the association’s governing documents and abide by all applicable laws.
9. Association leaders seek an effective balance between the preferences of individual residents and the collective rights of homeowners.
10. Association leaders and residents should be reasonable, flexible and open to the possibility—and benefits—of compromise.
For more information about Community Associations Institute, go to www.caionline.org .
It isn’t news most homeowners want to hear: that fees might be increased. But sometimes a fee increase is the best way to keep the association in good financial health -- and, sometimes, increases are unavoidable.
Here are some of the reactions homeowners typically have when they hear that their fees are about to increase, followed by the related rationales for an increase.
“I can’t afford the increase.”
 When you live in an association, you need to be willing to share the costs, as described in the governing documents to which you agreed in escrow. Keep in mind that if the association does not maintain its property, real-estate values can decline.
“I probably won’t be living here in 15 years when the streets need repaving. Why should I have to pay now?”
Senior citizens, as well as young people living in condos they consider to be starter homes, often pose this question. The problem with this “short-timer” logic is that these people are themselves benefiting from the use of the streets, pool, and other common assets paid for by members who lived there before. Members should pay for the incremental use of these items each year they live there.
“Why don’t we just have a special assessment for a specific project?”
 It can be difficult to collect money when you suddenly have a large expense. It’s better to collect it gradually, so the funds are there when you need them. Also, a special assessment unfairly penalizes homeowners who happen to live in the association at the time.
Homeowner Rights & Responsibilities
As a homeowner in our association, you have certain rights—and responsibilities.
You have the right to . . .
  • A responsive and competent community association.
  • Honest, fair, and respectful treatment by community leaders and managers.
  • Attend meetings, serve on committees, and run for election.
  • Access appropriate association records.
  • Prudent financial management of fees and other assessments.
  • Live in a community where the property is maintained according to established standards.
  • Fair treatment regarding financial and other association obligations, including the opportunity to discuss payment plans and options before the association takes any legal action, and the right to appeal decisions.
  • Receive all rules and regulations governing the community association—if not prior to purchase and settlement, then upon joining the community.
You also have the responsibility to . . .
  • Treat property according to established standards.
  • Treat association leaders with honesty and respect.
  • Read and comply with rules and regulations of the community and ensure that your guest(s) do too.
  • Vote in community elections and on other issues.
  • Pay association assessments and charges on time.
  • Contact association leaders or managers, if necessary, to discuss financial obligations and alternative payment arrangements.Request reconsideration of material decisions that personally affect you.
  • Provide your current contact information to the association so you receive all information from the community.
Our Approach to Board Governance
Our condominium association is a representative form of governance founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people. Much of our country is based on the principles of representative democracy. 
Examples of this are schools boards, city governments, county governments, state governments, federal government - and yes, our condominium association. We vote for a person, or persons, who will act on our behalf - and we depend on interested people to run for office and serve.
Some might advocate that a board should not take action without a vote of the members to find out what the people want. Our democractic principles and traditions show us a better way. If our association members were to vote on every issue before a decision was made, the operation of our association would slow to a crawl, become ineffective and could not respond efficiently to the various needs of our members,
Boards find out what their members want in various ways. Surveys can be conducted, casual conversations and periodic "town hall" type meetings can take place,  and association websites can build communications. Residents are also given the opportunity to be heard at each board meeting.
For this type of representative governance to work well, it's up to you to attend meetings, involve yourself in neighborhood activities, voice your opinions, serve on committees, and participate in the exchange of ideas when the opportunity arises.  Your input, ideas, thoughts, and opinions are crucial to an effective representive form of goverance.
When the season for annual meetings and annual board elections approaches, consider carefully which candidates you select - including yourself. Consider running for the board to help shape the future of your community. Be willing to serve your neighbors in a meaningful way. Our association - our neighborhood - depends on it.
Just like homeowners, the association saves money to cover large future expenses—like new roofs and future paint jobs. Because the association represents many homeowners, our savings are significant. We take advantage of that—up to a point—by investing the savings to earn a little extra money for the association. However, to protect the homeowners’ money, the association has an investment policy that guides the board in managing those investments.
Protecting the principle is the core of our association’s investment policy, and that requires the board to be conservative with the association’s resources. This protects the members from well-meaning board members who may have a high tolerance for risk or who believe themselves to be capable fund managers. In fact, the policy only allows the association deal with insured, licensed and bonded agents.
The investment policy requires the board to place all association funds in government-insured accounts or similarly protected investments, and it prohibits putting more money in one account than the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will insure.
And finally, the investment policy provides continuity from one board to the next, which ensures that association funds are managed consistently over time.
The Purpose of Condominium Associations
What is this entity that collects your assessments, mows the lawn and occasionally throws a party? One way to think of our community association is as a service organization that provides three types of services to owners and residents.
  • Community maintenance services - collecting trash, publishing the newsletter, orienting new owners, conducting meetings and sponsoring social activities.
  • Governance services - fulfilling legal obligations, resolving disputes, enforcing community policies, administering design review policies, and recruiting new volunteer leaders.
  • Business services - operating and maintaining the common areas, competitively bidding maintenance work, investing reserve funds, developing long-range plans and collecting assessments.
The board and office manager make every effort to deliver these services fairly and effectively to protect and enhance the value of our homes—and the lenders’ interests in our homes. They also strive, through collective participation and mutual decision making, to preserve that intrinsic value called “quality of life” that is at the heart of the community association concept.
Ten Reasons to Volunteer for the Association:
1. Protect your self-interests. Protect your property values and maintain the quality of life in your community.
2. Correct a problem and add value to others
3. Be sociable. Meet your neighbors, make friends, and exchange opinions.
4. Give back. Repay a little of what’s been done for you.
5. Advance your career. Build your personal resume by including your community volunteer service.
6. Have some fun. Association work isn’t drudgery. It’s fun accomplishing good things with your neighbors.
7. Get educated. Learn how things are done..
8. Express yourself. Help with the type of creative projects that you enjoy.
9. Earn recognition. If you would like a little attention or validation, your contributions will be recognized and celebrated.
10. Try some altruism. Improve society by helping others.
What is a Condominium Association?
Some residents think condominium associations (generally called community associations) exist just to tell them what to do—or not do. Actually, the association is more like a housing management or service-delivery organization that provides three types of services to all residents.
Community services: These can include securing trash collection, publishing newsletters, orienting new owners, holding community-wide information meetings, contracting for special rates on water and sewer, and scheduling recreational and social functions.
Governance services: These can include ensuring that residents are complying with the association’s governing documents, that the association is adhering to local, state, and federal statutes (like fair housing laws), enforcing community rules and policies, and recruiting new volunteer leaders.
Business services: These can include operating the common areas efficiently, bidding maintenance work competitively, investing reserve funds wisely, developing long-range plans, and equitably and efficiently collecting assessments.
Providing these services requires good management (whether carried out by a professional manager or a self-managing board of home owners), strong planning and organization, and carefully monitoring the association’s affairs. It isn’t easy, but by fairly and effectively delivering these services, community associations protect and enhance the value of individual homes and lenders’ interests in those homes.
What is this Thing Called Fiduciary Duty?
From time to time you may hear that the board of the association operates in a fiduciary capacity for the homeowners. Or you may read about the board’s fiduciary responsibility in the governing documents. Just exactly what does this mean?
Fiduciary duty simply means the board has an ethical and legal obligation to make decisions in the best interests of the entire association. That’s a small explanation for a very big responsibility.
Fiduciary duty includes a duty of loyalty to the association, which means that board members should never use their position to take advantage of the association. They should never make decisions for the association that benefit themselves at the expense of the association and its members.
Fiduciary duty also includes the duty to exercise ordinary care. This means board members must perform their duties in good faith and in a manner they believe to be in the best interest of the association, with such care as an ordinary prudent person in a similar position under similar circumstances would use.
In short, boards must act in the best interests of the association and act reasonably.
Board members fulfill their fiduciary duty by:
  • Developing and using a formal budgeting process
  • Establishing and adhering to budgetary guidelines
  • Making sure the budgeting process reflects the wishes of the association members
  • Promoting understanding and acceptance of the reserve accounts among the members
  • Collecting sufficient fees to adequately operate the association
  • Soliciting bids and negotiating appropriate contracts
  • Authorizing expenditures
Why Do We Contract for Professional Landscaping?
Maintaining common areas is one of the board’s most basic responsibilities. To fulfill that responsibility, the board has contracted with a professional landscaping company. Before signing the contract, the board sought bids from several potential companies, carefully considered the competence and expertise of each company, checked references, and compared fees. 
These fees may seem like an added—or even unnecessary—expense; but, in the long run, the additional cost will be less than the losses we would face without professional help.
Consider the advantages: 
Professional Expertise: It takes more than a green thumb to maintain attractive and functional landscaping. Our contractor employs professional staff and trained labor crews. This expertise translates into a cost-effective and successful landscape maintenance program for our community. 
Bulk Purchase Savings: Our landscape contractor purchases plants and supplies in bulk quantities at reduced prices and passes the savings along to us. 
No Equipment to Buy or Maintain: The association doesn’t have to purchase, store, insure, maintain, or buy fuel for equipment. 
Improved Plant Survival: Trees, turf, shrubs, and other plantings are costly. Without proper care, they don’t survive, especially immediately after installation.
Reduced Liability: The association’s landscape contractor is properly insured and knowledgeable about—and in compliance with—all local and federal environmental requirements and safety regulations. Our contract shifts responsibility to the contractor and reduces the association’s liability. 
Landscaping is very important to the community’s quality of life and its image and value. Maintaining it can be very expensive. Is it worth what the association pays for these services? Yes! In fact, failing to invest in professional landscape maintenance is a false economy because curb appeal makes our neighborhood desirable and contributes to the value of our individual homes. 
Why Do We Need Reserves?
Equipment and major components (like the roofs) must be replaced from time to time, regardless of whether we plan for the expense. We prefer to plan and set the funds aside now. Reserve funds aren’t an extra expense—they just spread out expenses more evenly. There are other important reasons we put association monies into reserves.
1. Reserve funds meet legal, fiduciary, and professional requirements. A replacement fund may be required by:
  • Any secondary mortgage market in which the association participates (e.g., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA).
  • State statutes, regulations, or court decisions.
  • The community’s governing documents.
2. Reserve funds provide for major repairs and replacements that we know will be necessary at some point in time. Although assets such as roofs may be a long-term, every owner who lives under or around it should share its replacement costs. Owner should also recognize that roof depreciation costs should be paid as the roof is utilized - in place of passing it on to future association members. 
3. Reserve funds minimize the need for special assessments or borrowing. For most association members, this is the most important reason.
4. Reserve funds enhance resale values. Lenders and real estate agents are aware of the ramifications for new buyers if the reserves are inadequate. The State of Texas requires associations to disclose the amounts in their reserve funds to prospective purchasers.


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