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Rhode Island Condo & HOA Articles Archive

/ Owner - July 2, 2012
  • 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 vehicles could explode and cause a fire.    Read the Q&A………………………………..
  • 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 to show up to the once-a-year meetings held to elect those board members and to update the community on what is happening in their home and property.   Read the article…………………………….
  • 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 minding one’s own. A lot of neighborly behavior is subjective—one man’s helpfulness is another man’s nosiness, after all—making it hard to delineate and enforce these particular boundaries.    Read the article…………………………….
  • 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 maintenance in order to stay healthy and lush for decades to come.   Read the article…………………………….
  • 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 community nature of co-op and condo living—particularly in urban multifamily buildings—puts some limits to these forms of self-expression in the name of visual continuity, taste, and property values. But can rules governing aesthetics collide with owners’ rights of free speech and expression?   Read the article…………………………….
  • 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 can’t “vote owners off the island,” they can’t arrest owners and they can’t evict owners from units they own.    Read the article…………………………….
  • 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 Q&A………………………………..
  • 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 article…………………………….
  • 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 maintenance in order to stay healthy and lush for decades to come.   Read the article…………………………….
  • 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 to show up to the once-a-year meetings held to elect those board members and to update the community on what is happening in their home and property.   Read the article…………………………….
  • 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 well as increasingly intense discrete weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes, will continue and likely worsen as the planet continues to heat.   Read the article………………………………..
  • 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), and we’d be climbing stairs all day long.    Read the article……………………………..
  • 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, requiring time, energy, and diplomacy that the average homeowner might be unable or unwilling to give on a volunteer basis.    Read the article……………………………….
  • 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 somewhat from community to community.   Read the article………………………………..
  • 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 example, can be as distracting and destructive to a property’s reputation as the roar of truck traffic day after day.    Read the article…………………………….
  • 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………………………..
  • Important Changes to Rhode Island Condominium Law
    In 2022, the Rhode Island Legislature passed a change in the law, R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-36.1-3.13, as it relates to the responsibilities of insurance coverage for Condominiums. The new law establishes that the Unit Owner’s insurance policy is required to cover the amount up to the Association’s master policy deductible.   Read the article………………………..
  • 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 associations and cooperative corporations, an audit is—or at least ought to be—a regular part of a healthy fiscal practice.   Read the article………………………..
  • Fannie Mae’s Secret ‘Blacklist’ of Properties: As Many as 1,700 Condos, Co-ops & HOAs May Be Affected
    According to a recent investigative piece by the Orange County (Florida) Register, Fannie Mae is keeping a secret “blacklist” of condominium, HOA and cooperative properties which the federal agency has decreed that lenders should stay away from. Fannie Mae is a United States Government sponsored enterprise whose purpose is to expand the secondary mortgage market. According to the Register, Fannie Mae’s “blacklist” identifies 1,400 properties and growing. A more recent report indicated that the list has grown to 1,700 properties.   Read the article………………………..
  • 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………………………..
  • Insurance Premiums Skyrocket – 90% of Multifamily Communities Report Paying More – What’s to Blame?
    Inflation has hit the insurance building insurance industry in a big way. And according to a recent survey conducted by the Foundation for Community Association Research (FCAR), skyrocketing premiums are putting serious financial pressure on condo and homeowners associations nationwide.    Read the article………………………..
  • Important Changes to Rhode Island Condominium Law
    In 2022, the Rhode Island Legislature passed a change in the law, R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-36.1-3.13, as it relates to the responsibilities of insurance coverage for Condominiums. The new law establishes that the Unit Owner’s insurance policy is required to cover the amount up to the Association’s master policy deductible.   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 building or community from another and add to its popularity and property value.    Read the article………………………..
  • 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 windows can lead to problems with other building envelope systems, including façades of all types, from clapboard to masonry and everything in between.   Read the article………………………..
  • 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 stabilize the community.    Read the article………………………..
  • Handling Sensitive Complaints in Co-ops & Condos: Sex, Smells, & Nuisances
    Conflict comes hand-in-hand with living in close quarters—and condominium and cooperative living is a prime example. Most dust-ups between neighbors involve run-of-the-mill issues like noise or hallway clutter, and can be settled with a cordial conversation between the parties involved—or with a mild nudge from the manager or board.  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 of the owner—in any case, it’s a person or entity knowledgeable about multifamily residential real estate and how it operates.   Read the article………………………..
  • 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 the article………………………..
  • 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 board and manager were aware of, but had done nothing to address.   Read the article………………………..
  • 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 remarks in the elevator…the list goes on.   Read the article………………………..
  • 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………………………..
  • 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 of a particular community—usually status as a member in good standing and a minimum age, for example.  Read the article………………………..
  • Workers’ Compensation Coverage & Insurance Costs: The Difference Between Volunteers & Employees
    With inflation at historic highs, labor and supply shortages complicating even routine projects and maintenance, and budgets tight (and getting tighter), many condo and homeowner associations are looking for ways to control costs and still get needed work done on their properties.   Read the article………………………..
  • Workers’ Compensation Coverage & Insurance Costs: The Difference Between Volunteers & Employees
    With inflation at historic highs, labor and supply shortages complicating even routine projects and maintenance, and budgets tight (and getting tighter), many condo and homeowner associations are looking for ways to control costs and still get needed work done on their properties.    Read the article……………………..
  • 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 damaging—scale.   Read the article…………………..
  • The Impact of Litigation in Condos, Co-ops, & HOAs: Do Lawsuits Damage a Community?
    Americans are a particularly litigious lot, believing as many of us do that we are endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty…and the pursuit of recompense for any slight or wrong done to us, real or perceived. This tendency is unfortunately common in the nation’s condos, co-ops, and HOAs, where the ideals of communal living and shared ownership sometimes get overshadowed by grievance and strife.   Read the article…………………………….
  • 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, managers, and owners are the nerve system of the community.    Read the entire article……………………………….
  • 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 of attention to detail, façades, roofs, and other crucial parts of multifamily buildings can live out—and perhaps even surpass—their useful life, regardless of what they’re made of.   Read the entire article……………………………….
  • 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 maybe half an hour.   Read the entire article……………………………….
  • Dealing With Disruptive Residents – Empathy & Education vs. Enforcement & Eviction
    If you live in, work in, or provide services for a co-op, condo, or HOA, you know that however harmonious a building or association is in general, there is always that one person—or perhaps more than one—who throws a wrench in the works. It could be the guy who seems to take pleasure in disrespecting the doorman, or the lady who insists on feeding the feral cats (and by extension the neighborhood rats), or the family who lets their kids play basketball inside their apartment.    Read the entire article……………………………….
  • 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 make important decisions on behalf of the other. Fiduciary responsibility is a cornerstone of both board and management service.    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 of attention to detail, façades, roofs, and other crucial parts of multifamily buildings can live out—and perhaps even surpass—their useful life, regardless of what they’re made of.   Read the article………………………..
  • 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 obligated to provide what’s agreed upon in it—nothing more, nothing less.   Read the entire article……………………………….
  • ‘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 the country decided that if there was ever a time to add a furry (or feathered, or scaly) friend to the family, this was it.   Read the entire article……………………………….
  • You Looking at Me? Video Doorbell Cameras Trigger Privacy Concerns and Potential Liability Risks (MA)
    Video doorbells (VDs), hugely popular and increasingly ubiquitous, enable homeowners to see, record and communicate with visitors at their door, answer the door remotely when they are away, discourage thieves from stealing packages or video them if they do, and notice when the teen who’s supposed to be in at 10 doesn’t cross the threshold until after midnight.   Read the entire article……………………………….
  • Façade Inspections: A Critical Component of Your Maintenance Plan
    In light of the tragic condo building collapse in Surfside, Florida, earlier this year, condo and co-op boards, as well as rental building landlords, are taking a hard look at their building system inspection policies. While all mandatory inspections exist for a reason and should be taken very seriously, among the most critical is façade inspection. How often should a façade be inspected? Should that inspection be done by a hired professional? A local government official? By a private agency? By one of each? If something troubling is found, what remediation should be required and how quickly?     Read the entire article……………………………….
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