Everybody Hates Assessments: Handling the Unpleasant Inevitable

Ahh, the pleasures of home ownership; a space to call your very own, to arrange and enjoy as you see fit, all while building equity. It’s a key component of the American Dream—but when the faucet leaks in your condo or co-op unit, there’s no more calling the landlord. You’ve got to fix it yourself. […]

Respecting Rules & Rights: Strategies for Dealing With ‘Problem’ Residents

Everyone wants to be a good neighbor—at least that’s what we’d like to believe. But, living in small spaces and sharing common areas can (and unfortunately does) lead to occasional conflict. That’s the unintended but inevitable consequence of shared interest community living. What one resident considers normal or acceptable may not be seen as such […]

Financial Literacy for Board Members: Knowing More = Governing Better

When a condo or co-op resident runs for a seat on their board, the decision to do so generally comes from a desire to ‘step up’ and participate in the governance of the place they call home, and the building or association community as a whole.   Often, the residents willing to serve on their board […]

Q&A: Regulating Risk

Q. During the warmer months, owners in our condominium building have noticed a few e-bikes/scooters with lithium batteries around our community. At night these e- bikes/scooters seem to be housed in owners’ or renters’ dwellings. Based on some news stories we’ve seen (although I’m sure they are pretty isolated incidents), we have concerns that these […]

Holding Orderly, Efficient Annual Meetings – It’s Not as Hard as It Seems!

Talk to anyone familiar with common-interest community governance anywhere in the country, and they will tell you the same thing: apathy is rampant among residents of co-ops, condos, and HOAs. Not only is it difficult to get owners and shareholders to run for their boards of directors, but it’s a struggle to even get them […]

Boards & Boundaries: How ‘Available’ Should You Be?

In multifamily residential communities, where neighbors share common space, amenities, and maintenance—if not actual walls—establishing and maintaining boundaries can be a bit tricky……Non-physical boundaries are yet another thing. Living in close proximity to one’s neighbors requires a certain tolerance of other people being in one’s business, as well as (one hopes) a certain restraint in […]

Tree Care & Maintenance: Keeping Your Biggest Landscaping Elements Healthy

Trees provide us with many benefits, from the obvious to the not-so-obvious. Whether your community is an urban high-rise surrounded by hundreds of others, or a sprawling suburban development with acres of grounds, its trees are an integral part of the landscape—one that we often take for granted, but which requires specific, dedicated care and […]

Aesthetic Rules Balancing Community Value with Individual Rights

In the world of single-family homes, property owners can do pretty much whatever they want when it comes to the look of their place. They can paint their house bright purple, for instance. Or display Christmas or Halloween decorations that are so bright or scary they may keep the neighbors up at night. Clearly, the […]

The Finer Points of Fining Condominium Owners

Condo association rules provide a behavioral road map for owners, explaining what they are allowed and not allowed to do. But creating effective rules is only half the challenge for boards; enforcing the rules is the other arguably more challenging half of this equation.  When it comes to enforcement, boards don’t have many tools. They […]

Replacing Board Members

Problem: One member of our seven-member board has resigned, leaving us with only six members. The association’s documents require a seven-member board, but the next election, at which a new board member might be elected, is several months away and there don’t appear to be any owners willing to fill the vacant position.    Read the […]

Roof Replacement 101: A Project Too Vital to Put Off

Nothing lasts forever, not even your roof. While roofs have a relatively long life compared to other building systems and components, at some point they will need either partial or full replacement. Here are the facts and factors you and your community need to know when your roof’s useful life starts winding down.    Read the […]

Tree Care & Maintenance: Keeping Your Biggest Landscaping Elements Healthy

Trees provide us with many benefits, from the obvious to the not-so-obvious. Whether your community is an urban high-rise surrounded by hundreds of others, or a sprawling suburban development with acres of grounds, its trees are an integral part of the landscape—one that we often take for granted, but which requires specific, dedicated care and […]

Holding Orderly, Efficient Annual Meetings – It’s Not as Hard as It Seems!

Talk to anyone familiar with common-interest community governance anywhere in the country, and they will tell you the same thing: apathy is rampant among residents of co-ops, condos, and HOAs. Not only is it difficult to get owners and shareholders to run for their boards of directors, but it’s a struggle to even get them […]

Boards & Boundaries: How ‘Available’ Should You Be?

In multifamily residential communities, where neighbors share common space, amenities, and maintenance—if not actual walls—establishing and maintaining boundaries can be a bit tricky.   Read the article…………………………….

Emergency Preparedness in the Era of Climate Change: Preparing for the Unpredictable

The acceleration of global warming and the accompanying climate crisis is affecting shared-interest residential communities all over the United States and around the world. This past September was the wettest ever recorded in the eastern United States, with nine times the normal rainfall. Scientists warn that excessive rain and wind, extreme heat and cold, as […]

Powering E-Devices Safely: There Are Fires … And There Are E-Device Fires

All over the news, from coast to coast, reports of fires and explosions caused by lithium-ion batteries describe blazes that are out of control, difficult to extinguish, and excessively smokey. Tragically, many have resulted in fatalities and serious injuries, and certainly all have caused extensive damage to properties and the environment.   Read the article………………………..

Holding Elections: Every Board’s Duty

Shared residential communities such as condos, co-ops, and HOAs are modern examples of classic Athenian democracy: citizens governing themselves through active participation in governance. The key to that governance is the regularity of elections to the community’s leadership—which in this case is the board of directors.  Read the article………………………………

Maintaining Your Elevators: Regular Care Can Help Avoid Huge Replacement Costs

The elevator is one of those inventions—along with running hot and cold water and indoor plumbing—that have been around for so long we take it for granted. But elevators obviously weren’t always a part of the architectural landscape. Without them we’d still be living in a world of six-story buildings (maybe seven for the strong-legged), […]

Effective Committees: Maximizing Use of Community Volunteers

In a typical condo, co-op, or homeowners association, residents have a lot to say about how their building or community is or should be functioning … but few actually step up to run for and serve on the board that does the actual governing. One reason is that board service can be a heavy lift, […]

Condo Column: Insurance Tips – Part II (NH)

Following up on the last column, there is the matter of your condominium association’s insurance deductible. To be clear, you will never get from your insurance company all of the money needed to make the repairs, for the simple reason that even if you get everything you wanted in your negotiations with the adjuster, the […]

Amending Your Governing Documents – Why, When, & How to Make Changes

In addition to their boards, common interest communities are governed by a set of foundational documents. In a condominium, those documents are the declaration and bylaws; co-ops also have bylaws, as well as a unique document called a proprietary lease. In addition, both condos and co-ops have a set of house rules that can vary […]

Litigation in Your Community – Lawsuits Can Have Long-Term Impacts

When seeking a place to call home, potential co-op and condo buyers are seeking a place of peace and quiet. No one wants to live in the midst of a tempest. And peace and quiet can be both literal and figurative, of course. The constant din of discord and disagreement caused by endless litigation, for […]

Resources for Multifamily Boards Where Communities Go to Stay in the Know

The Community Associations Network (www.communityassociations.net) is an online resource that aggregates news and information related to co-ops, condos, and HOAs. There, boards and service professionals can access the latest on legislation, events, and issues pertaining to association living and governance throughout the U.S. and Canada.   Read the article………………………..

Website Accessibility: The ADA and FHA

In recent years, and trending more frequently as of late, we have heard about businesses, big and small, receiving demand letters related to their website accessibility, alleging ADA noncompliance, and threatening to file suit and seek damages on behalf of the people with disabilities they represent. Here we will cover what web accessibility means and […]

When It’s Time for an Audit – Covering the Basics for Multifamily Boards

When the average American taxpayer (or tax-dodger, one supposes) hears the word “audit,” they’re likely struck with a feeling somewhere between annoyance and terror—usually because being audited means that something has been found amiss in their filing. For businesses that rely on the accuracy and timeliness of their financial records, however, including condominium and homeowners […]

Updating Bylaws & House Rules: Keeping Pace With Tech & Culture

The governing documents of a condominium, cooperative, or homeowners association spell out the rules, regulations, and administrative policies that all residents and board members alike are obligated to follow as a condition of their residence.   Read the article………………………..

What’s Trending in Multifamily Amenities

The appeal of multifamily living is not just in the hands-off maintenance and shared general expenses that come with living in a condo, co-op, or HOA. It’s also in the sense of community and the on-site offerings that can be shared among neighbors. Amenities and social programming in co-ops, condos, and HOAs can distinguish one […]

Window Maintenance & Replacement: Caring for a Crucial Building System

When it comes to the list of most important systems to maintain—and potentially the most expensive to replace—in a multifamily building, windows are definitely near the top. The useful life of a given window depends on a number of factors, including its composition and design, as well as seasonal shifts and prevailing weather conditions. Deteriorated […]

Continuity & Transfer of Power: Getting New Boards & Board Members Up to Speed

Among the keys to successful governance of residential communities is continuity. The most basic of democratically elected units, condo, co-op, and HOA boards are the custodians of their community’s welfare, success, and continued operation. Over time, the experience and insight accrued by board members, directors, or trustees are the compass and rudder that steer and […]

Condo Column: Case law update (NH)

Here are some recent cases that I thought might be of interest.  In Civic Association of Surrey Park v. Riegel, a case out of Delaware from Nov. 30, 2022, Surrey Park fined the Riegels who had built a shed without first obtaining association approval.   Read the article………………………..

The Board Management Relationship: A Functional Partnership

In the world of co-ops, condos, and HOAs, management plays a slightly different role than it does in the rest of the real estate world. For example, in many rental buildings, the landlord or property owner often acts as de facto manager as well; in others, the manager may be an employee or an associate […]

Holding Elections: Democracy at the Micro Level

In many ways co-op, condo, and HOA living represents the most basic form of representative democracy. Like the ancient Athenians, we gather periodically to elect a small group from among us to represent our joint interests and to oversee the finances and well-being of the community.  Ah, now, if only it were that simple.   Read […]

Surveillance in Buildings & HOAs Privacy vs. Safety? (MA)

In 2017, a Boston couple were brutally murdered in their penthouse apartment in a high-end condominium building. The murderer, the former employee of a company that supplied concierge services to the condo, had worked there, and so knew the ins and outs of the building—including some serious gaps in the property’s security that both the […]

Better Board Involvement: Getting Residents on Board (Literally)

Even among otherwise conscientious, community-minded condo, HOA, and co-op residents, the idea of running for and serving on their board often ranks somewhere between taxes and dental work on their list of things to look forward to. It conjures thoughts of endless meetings…arguing about the minutiae of vendor bids…confrontations with neighbors unhappy with board decisions…gossipy […]

Financial, Physical, & Operational Health: How Does Your Association Measure Up?

In early 2020, our firm was hired to prepare a reserve study for an unremarkable 136-unit, 12-story condominium in south Florida. It was the kind of association you could drive right by without noticing, not much different from all the other high-rise buildings in this coastal neighborhood.   Read the article………………………..

Conducting Better Meetings: Tips for Saving Time & Staying On Track

Residents in condo and HOA communities are frequently quite busy. Boards generally consist of elected volunteers who nearly always have other jobs and lives outside their duties as trustees. So while a professional management company can handle much of the day-to-day operations of a multifamily community, no decision can be made without those board members […]

Who’s a Good Board? Pros Weigh in on Co-op, Condo, HOA Leadership

The 347,000 planned communities in the United States—a number that includes cooperatives, condominiums, and homeowners associations—are generally governed by volunteer members of the building or community elected by their fellow unit owners or shareholders. There are no requirements or prerequisites for serving on a board, other than what might be specified in the governing documents […]

Managing Conflict: When Boards & Residents Take Sides

One of the unique aspects of life in an HOA, condo, or co-op is that in many ways, a building or association is a microcosm of the larger world outside it. It can suffer from the same factionalism and partisan bickering as any political entity, only on a much smaller, more intimate—and therefore potentially more […]

Communications & Community – Clarity, Transparency, & Respect

The words communication and community share a common root. It comes as no surprise, then, that the success of communities depends on effective communication between board members, managers, and residents. In multifamily residential communities like co-ops and condominiums, effective communication is a crucial component in achieving optimal results and operations. Lines of communication between boards, […]

Q&A: Make Well-Grounded Decisions on Change (MA)

Q. An owner in our condominium has asked the board for permission to install an electric vehicle charging station in his garage unit. This would require some infrastructure changes to the electrical system for the association. What sort of issues should the board consider in making a decision?   Read the entire article……………………………….

Maintaining Aging Buildings – Older Structures Have Special Concerns

Nothing lasts forever, even with good maintenance—including most building components. Exterior elements are perhaps most subject to wear and tear in any climate. Their construction and material type dictate their maintenance needs and repair schedules; masonry façades clearly have different needs than wood or clapboard fronts. But with a good care program and a bit […]

Building Inspections – Up & Down, Inside & Out

Car owners know that in order to operate their vehicle legally, they must have it professionally inspected every year. An older car might need some relatively minor repairs or adjustments to bring it into compliance with state emissions requirements, but for most, getting that mandatory approval sticker is a simple, inexpensive, predictable process that takes […]

Conflicts of Interest – Recognize Them Now to Avoid Problems Later

If you live in a condo or a co-op, you most likely have heard the term fiduciary duty, usually in reference to the responsibilities and obligations of board members and management. But what is a fiduciary duty? In essence, it’s a legal relationship between two parties that gives one party the right to act and […]

Management Contracts 101 – Negotiating Your Community’s Most Important Contract

There are elements of board service that can vex even the most committed, most intrepid volunteer—and negotiating a building’s management contract is probably at the top of that list. Vexing or not, however, the extent and quality of services available to your building community hinges on what’s in that contract; managers and management companies are […]

‘Pandemic Pets’ in Multifamily Communities

The coronavirus crisis has forced many unwelcome changes on households around the world—but it has also allowed or inspired some to make lifestyle choices that were impractical or otherwise out of reach before. One such choice has been to acquire a pet. With travel restricted, and working and schooling largely happening at home, households across […]