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  • 10/01/2019 11:01 AM | Bridget Nichols (Administrator)

    By Pamela Babcock


    From online meetings and electronic voting to tablets and do-it-all management software, technology is transforming the way associations operate. There's something out there for every community—even those most resistant to change.

    Major traffic jams often greeted everyone entering Kiawah Island, S.C., as renters in the community association and guests of the neighboring resort queued at the gatehouse. The experience raised residents' ire and created a negative first impression for visitors. 

    Jimmy Bailey Jr., CMCA, AMS, chief operating officer of Kiawah Island Community Association, collaborated with the resort to set up a system so guests and renters could download and print gate passes in advance, allowing most drivers to sail through with ease. 

    "Implementation of this simple step—much like printing a boarding pass before going to the airport—dramatically improved gate operations and virtually eliminated long summer lines," says Bailey.

    When Lee Ann Weir, CMCA, AMS, general manager of Lionsgate at Woodmont Corner in Bethesda, Md., wanted to gauge owner interest in renting underutilized areas of the condominium garage for storage, she simply clicked the survey link on the community's BuildingLink website interface and fielded a poll. Within minutes, her inbox was growing with numerous responses.

    And Fripp Island Property Owners Association in South Carolina recently paid $8,000 to upgrade its boardroom audio-visual system, saying goodbye to a dated setup with blurry images and garbled speech, giving both the local and long-distance audience a much-improved experience.

    Community associations increasingly are leveraging technology to improve operations, governance and management using the latest tools, including devices, hardware and software. Some are arming managers and board members with tablets backed up to the cloud, while others are exploring new ways to hold online meetings, engaging owners with electronic voting and more.

    Yet there are many community associations today that are behind the technology curve. Some don't have the budget, know-how or interest in adopting the latest and greatest tools and features. Failing to at least explore what's available could be a mistake, according to experts. 

    "As technology has evolved, there's really killer software for everything from a 10-unit condominium to an association with 30,000 doors," says Bruce R. Gran, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, president and CEO of Gran Community Association Consulting in Scottsdale, Ariz. "If you're not leveraging technology, then you're out of the game. It used to be optional, but it's not anymore. Technology is your starting point."

    Gran says many owners today want association technology to feel just like the experiences they have with other types of technology as a consumer. 

    "I'm looking for my association to give me the same experience I get from American Express or Chase or Bank of America," explains Gran, adding that all have excellent websites. "Residents expect to be able to make a payment on their phones. If they have a violation, they want to look at it and be able to respond online. And they want to be able to do pretty much everything on a phone or tablet." 

    TABLET TRENDS

    Stephen R. Gothard, vice president of Advanced Technology Group, a King of Prussia, Pa., provider of community management software, says the biggest trend is technology for smartphones and tablets.

    The devices can make board members and managers more efficient since they allow an entire library of an association's history to be available in perpetuity, says Blake Morlet, CMCA, senior manager of The Avalon Management Group, AAMC, in Temecula, Calif., which manages about 30,000 units in Los Angeles and San Diego.

    Such devices are a particular boon for board members who spend a majority of their time off-site or travel frequently since they can participate in meetings remotely via video chat. Meanwhile, managers can gain efficiencies as they prepare for each board meeting by creating content and delivering it digitally. 

    The upshot? "Managers who have more time on their hands can provide better service," observes Morlet.

    Avalon uses Apple's iPad and applications such as Google Apps for business e-mail and Google Drive for storage and information distribution. Implementing technology in association management has been so vital to Avalon's growth and effectiveness that the company offers only technology driven digital management services to new clients, Morlet says. 

    Gothard notes that adequate cell or wireless Internet coverage is often a stumbling block for associations and their residents. A property's size and location—and a resistance to installing cell towers or wireless networks—can impact what associations offer and residents' experience on their smartphone or tablet. 

    "You may have Wi-Fi in your house. But what do you do when you're down at the community pool?" Gothard asks. "People want to be connected."

    THE VIDEO AGE

    Although tablets are not yet de rigueur for board members at Kiawah Island Community Association, technology increasingly is being used in many facets of operations. Since only 15 percent of the community's 8,272 owners live on the property full-time, webinars, video calls and electronic communication are all part of regularly doing business.

    "Rarely do we hold a committee or board meeting without someone participating via video," notes Bailey. 

    Kiawah Island has used commercially available platforms Skype and GoToMeeting. However, their effectiveness has varied, particularly because of sometimes spotty Internet connections. "We have looked into the possibility of using something more robust and sophisticated but have not yet pulled the trigger, primarily due to cost," says Bailey.

    Several of the community's seven board members use personal tablets for board meetings and to download meeting materials, but it's not required. Some of Bailey's board members still use spiral-bound notebooks and mechanical pencils. "It sort of runs the gamut," he observes.

    In 2009, the community began using BigPulse online voting software; owner participation has increased each year, reaching as high as 39 percent in the last election.

    The association also communicates with owners using e-mail, text messaging, social media, video, its website and a mobile app that resembles the website and was developed last year by a Charleston, S.C.-based technology firm. Kiawah Island uses the app to send notifications to residents about things like traffic and gate information, weather alerts, voting or other time-sensitive notices.

    TRACKING TOOL

    BuildingLink, the web-based platform used by Lionsgate in Bethesda, Md., combines everything from communication tools and an ability to report maintenance issues to incident reports, package delivery tracking and more. 

    A resident might notice crumbling concrete in a common area, snap a photograph and upload the report directly to the manager, explains Robert Garcia, a D.C.-area representative for BuildingLink. Maintenance tickets are centrally located, meaning board members and managers can pull up any repairs within the past month, for example, and track who got the job—in-house staff or an external contractor—and how well the job was done.

    BuildingLink, used primarily by condominiums, also offers a resident discussion board that goes beyond a simple listserv. Discussions can be controlled by the association, which means it can be kept "clean and useful" with posts like "who knows a good caterer?" or "I'm forming a walking club," Garcia explains.

    Associations also can track various logistics, including permission-to-enter slips for real estate agents and preventative maintenance schedules that provide alerts when something needs to be done.

    The 158-unit Lionsgate has been using BuildingLink and its mobile app since 2010.

    Weir says the community was able to customize fields for bicycle storage, pet information, and parking space and car identification. Lionsgate even used the system in conjunction with security cameras to help solve a case involving minor damage from a hit and run. Another plus is a secure key drawer that opens with fingerprint identification technology, Weir adds.

    TECH TRANSITION

    Kate Hines, AMS, LSM, PCAM, general manager of Fripp Island in South Carolina, says the community of 2,167 homes is always looking for ways to do things better and smarter and also to save money where it can. As the association learned, the transition to technology isn't always seamless. 

    The community held its first online board election in February through Votenet.com, a voting platform that cost the association about $1,300. The move saved $2,500 in printing and mailing costs. Unfortunately, owner response wasn't as great as expected. The association sent several e-mail blasts announcing the change, but only 21 percent of owners cast ballots compared with an average of 36 percent in previous elections. A couple of owners were mailed a paper ballot because they didn't want to vote electronically. 

    Fripp Island is hoping to find a better way to market the online voting by working with the board's communication committee. "We're not calling it quits," Hines says. "Votenet could not be simpler."

    In February, the community switched to MailChimp, an e-mail management and tracking system, to send a bi-weekly newsletter to owners. Owners love the change. 

    "It's professional, attractive and easy," says Hines. "We're getting a lot of compliments."

    The association spends about $50 a month to send an average of three e-mails to about 2,000 addresses. Hines loves MailChimp's ability to provide a report on each sent message, tracking how many people received it, how many people opened the e-mail, the links that are being clicked and more. 

    In April, an urgent e-mail about a security incident during prom week garnered a 67 percent open rate within 20 minutes. MailChimp also tracks whether a message is read on a smartphone or computer—valuable information as the community continues to ponder additional technology upgrades.

    In January, Fripp Island began using GoToMeeting, at a cost of $400 annually, for board meetings. Half of the community's 10-member board are nonresidents. The association previously used Skype, which often was glitchy due to Internet connections.

    "The voices are clear, the people are clear, and we don't have the screw-ups we had with Skype," says Hines. 

    The association also upgraded its audio-visual system in April, installing speakers and microphones in the ceiling and a much bigger video screen on the wall.

    IN DEVELOPMENT

    Gothard believes there will be many technological innovations for associations in coming years. He points to rapid communications as an example. Some communities are already employing emergency broadcast texts and targeted notifications, such as package-delivery alerts. 

    Through new software updates and a better understanding of a community's data, Gothard thinks there will be even more targeted messages, such as, "The plumber was in your home from 10:23 to 11:50 fixing your leaking faucet."

    And as vehicle manufacturers continue to develop technology for cars, Gothard envisions a day when a manager drives through a neighborhood and conducts inspections right from the car through a grill-mounted, rotating camera controlled from the center console. 

    "Imagine having those images and the resulting inspection details sent immediately back to the office, and the necessary letters merged and printed in minutes rather than days," he says. "The same technology could be used for maintenance purposes. A manager takes a picture from his car of a broken fence or downed tree, fills out the details and in minutes sends maintenance staff or a vendor a work order." 

    Gothard is excited about how technology can continue to improve associations and thinks board members and managers should be too. "I think we will see things we've never thought of come to light and technology that we cannot even imagine," he says. "As software developers, we strongly believe that if you don't dream it, you can't develop it."


    BUILDING BLOCKS

    Even communities resistant to technology should explore how technology can help improve operations, governance and management. Association leaders should take the following steps:

    • Consider forming a technology committee or holding technology workshops.
    • Survey your owners, then tailor your technology to their wants and needs.
    • Make sure your technology can grow and change with the association and its population.

    Tablets often are the easiest way to get started, according to Blake Morlet, CMCA, senior manager of The Avalon Management Group, AAMC, in Temecula, Calif. They can become your go-to source for all association information, including e-mail, board packets and financial statements, governing documents and contracts, minutes, resolutions, legal opinions, education information, guidebooks, site plans and maps.

    With a tablet, you can carry around years' worth of documents as well as quickly review homeowner requests and photos, for example. In addition, tablets make it a lot easier to pass community history on to subsequent boards. 

    Once an association decides which equipment and services it will purchase or rent, Morlet recommends the board establish policies for appropriate use, repair and replacement. —P.B.


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    Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer in the New York City area.

  • 10/01/2019 10:58 AM | Bridget Nichols (Administrator)

    By Andy Pendl, Vice President, ARE Solar.

    When talking about solar, the biggest questions tend to be about upfront cost vs long term payback, overall durability of the product with the weather we experience in Colorado (hail and blizzards are top of mind), and how we store the energy that's being produced.  While each of these questions have unique points to consider, the rate at which communities are installing solar panels is a good indicator toward figuring out whether it is going to be beneficial in the long run.  Solar panels have made a quick transition from being a luxury feature on a few homes, to a commonality in new builds.  Many largescale home builders are including solar panels as a stock part when building new HOA communities, where every home sold includes solar.  In today’s world, you're just as likely to get solar panels as you would a master suite and granite countertops.  

    There are many benefits to installing solar for both the HOAs and individual homeowners.  The first, and most obvious, is that the long-term cost of electricity is offset from day one, and the savings is easy to see on the utility bill.  This can benefit individual owners if they have panels on their roof, or the HOA if they put solar on their community resource building, pool house, or another neighborhood amenity.  By offsetting the electricity rates now, consumers can lock in their price and mitigate against the inevitable rate increases.  Typically, we find that consumers will to see a return on their investment in under 10 years, sometimes much earlier.  If financing is used, the cost of the monthly payments is likely at or below what the utility would have charged for the same amount of electricity.  

    Regarding durability, we've found that panels hold up very well against the Colorado weather. Each system is designed with the assistance of a structural engineer to ensure that the wind and snow loads for each specific location are considered.  If any special considerations need to be addressed, the engineers will point that out as part of the design and permit process.  Snow is only a concern in that the panels are covered, so they can't make electricity; however, it tends to melt off quickly and the calculations used for total output takes into account any estimated snow days.  Wind can be a larger concern, as nobody wants to have damage caused by something being ripped off their roof; This is always reviewed during the design process to ensure that even the worst winds will not affect the structural integrity of the panels.  Here in Colorado, it's reasonable to worry that the panels could be damaged by hail.  It can certainly happen, but in our 10 years in business only one storm has ever been able to break panels.  The storm that closed the Colorado Mills mall for almost 6 months damaged some panels at the nearby National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)*.  But of the over 3,000 panels on the building, only ONE sustained damage to the point that it needed to be replaced.  What is much more likely is that the roof itself will have hail damage and need replacing.  In this instance, the panels will have to be removed temporarily while that work is performed.  

    The last question that inevitably comes up during conversations about solar is how we store the energy.  The reality is that in most cases, we don't!  The meter on the building is a “net” meter and can run backwards.  Because of this, the times when your system is making more electricity than the home is using, the meter goes backwards and credits you with the excess energy.  Then, in times that the building is using more electricity than it's making (nighttime, or when the AC and other large appliances are all running at the same time), the meter goes forward.  We try to size the system to get as close to 100% of the building’s needs as possible.  If it's sized right, in the spring and fall, the system will usually make more than the building needs, and then the energy bank that is stored would be used up in the winter and summer months.  There really isn't any need for a battery unless there is a specific requirement, such as keeping medical equipment running in the case of a power outage.

    Solar will continue to grow as more individuals and communities realize the financial benefits and understand how the systems work.  Solar energy is no longer a new technology, but a proven way to save money and ensure that electricity rates of the future don't break the bank.  If you're considering whether your HOA community should go solar, the answer is yes, and the time is now. 

    *(Link: https://denver.cbslocal.com/2017/05/10/solar-panels-survive-hailstorm/)

    Andy Pendl is the Vice President of ARE Solar.  ARE has been in business for 10 years serving the front range of Colorado.  They have worked on many high-profile projects, including the Greenbox Storage Facility across from Coors Field, and work with the West Metro Housing Authority on affordable housing projects.  ARE Solar works in both residential and commercial areas, and an array of property types including apartments, warehouses, and office spaces.  

  • 10/01/2019 10:56 AM | Bridget Nichols (Administrator)

    By Josh Pangan, Director of Business Operations at Optimal Outsource - Community Mailing Specialists

    While walking through the airport or clicking through your television, you may have come across a promotion from the United States Postal Service regarding “Informed Delivery.”  Simply put, Informed Delivery allows homeowners to see what's in their mailbox from their email inbox.  So what is this new feature from the USPS? Clairvoyance?  Magic?  Or, is it a welcomed response from a time-honored service striving to turn a corner with technology?  My vote is it's welcomed, and very cool!  

    Typically, my neighborhood mailman delivers to my mailbox around 2 p.m. while I'm at work. However, like magic, I've known since 8 a.m. what was to arrive that afternoon.    

    Every morning I can preview my mail scheduled to deliver that day via email notification, online dashboard, or mobile app.  Users also have the ability to interact with digital content provided by business mailers (e.g., special offers, related web links) directly from Informed Delivery!  So when my HOA assessment statement arrives, I'll not only see an image of the envelope but also, I may be able to click a link that leads me to anyplace relevant to that envelope, like my community association's website.

    Email is the dominant communication platform for most individuals; however, regular mail is still a daily part of all of our lives.  USPS set out to integrate the two worlds by bridging a homeowner’s need to interact digitally without losing the importance of their physical mail.  The USPS was already digitally scanning the front of all letter-size mail pieces to assist in the sorting and delivery of mail. With their existing technology, it was a logical transition to display those same images to homeowners in advance of the delivery of the physical mail.

    Informed Delivery is completely free and safe. The USPS Information Security program and the Inspection Service monitors the network for unusual activity to ensure that your information is kept safe. It is available nationwide to eligible residential consumers as well as those with a PO box in an eligible zip code. During the sign-up process, homeowners will be prompted to complete an identity verification process to confirm their home address.

    If you are interested in Informed Delivery, please visit informeddelivery.usps.com to sign up. Follow the on-screen prompts to check if your individual delivery address is eligible for the feature.  Once opted-in, enjoy the service and be on the lookout for what's next!

  • 10/01/2019 10:53 AM | Bridget Nichols (Administrator)

    By Miles Buckingham, ShareholderNemirow Perez, P.C.

    Imagine the worst thing that a Board Member ever wrote or said out loud. 

    Now imagine that same thing read out loud to a jury. Seem uncomfortable? Remarkably, that is actually preferable to having the Judge tell the jury how communications of the Board were deleted, lost, or destroyed. When documents which should have been preserved were not, the Judge may tell the jury that they should assume that the lost email would have been very, very damaging to the Association. Saying things in writing that are not well thought-out can be very harmful. Deleting evidence can be worse. It is better to avoid the whole situation by being smart, starting now.    

    Welcome to the world of preserving and producing documents. The law requires the preservation and protection of a broad scope of communications, writings, documents, and materials against deletion, loss, or destruction. That duty exists even outside of actual or threatened litigation. In the face of a likely or threatened claim, the duty to preserve materials grows.

    Standard Document Requests

    Making association documents open and available for review and inspection facilitates transparency and good governance. Even so, responding to, and meeting the obligation of demands for records can be expensive, onerous, and fraught with potential exposure and liability. 

    When it comes to record requests for documents reflecting actions taken by the Board without a meeting, virtually everything is fair game. A very ordinary exchange of emails about renewing a contract or a contentious design application may have to be turned over, completely. Now, in lightning-fast emails and texts between Board members, someone inevitably interjects a comment or a joke into the thread. Even if that is embarrassing, in bad taste, all of it- the good, bad, and ugly parts of the exchange are available for an owner to demand and review.  

    In Colorado, owners have the right and ability to demand quick access to a wide-ranging set of association “records.” Under 38-33.3-317, C.R.S. broad categories of materials can be requested by owners and must be made available in as little as ten (10) days. This law is to be read in conjunction with the association’s document inspection policy, which can promise more information in even less time. See 38-33.3-209.5, C.R.S. A demand for documents need not be made only on the form created by the association for facilitating a request. Instead, a demand for records may be buried within a dozen-page letter of complaint, creating opportunities for claims of illegally withheld information and materials. Everything from owners needs to be read.

    The process of obtaining emails or texts for production can be expensive and time consuming. Board members who use emails or text systems which are not dedicated to HOA business find themselves having to surrender access to their personal email accounts, or explaining to employers that their email system will have to be accessed just because the board member could not be bothered to check two different email accounts. In the financial, or medical industries, these intrusions could mean a person’s job. 

    Having a dedicated email for HOA matters can be invaluable. Dedicated email accounts where the manager has password access or is automatically copied on all emails are even better. A segregated email account prevents your Board from the embarrassment of having their personal matters reviewed for a document demand. And while applications like Boardroom check a lot of boxes, the system is not easily accessible to counsel in case of a suit. There is also the issue of who owns, and is preserving, the data being created by that application. If it disappears tomorrow, so too do the documents the Association is obliged to preserve.

    Being able to quickly access, search, and produce records should be a primary goal of any system used by Boards to communicate or share HOA matters. If each member of your Board is not using a dedicated email address which can be accessed, searched, and archived by management (or two members of the Board of Directors) at any time, you have a problem on your hands even though you may not know it for a few years.  

    Litigation-Based Document Requests

    In this era of technology, electronic documents have become the same as hardcopy documents. As such, they must be preserved properly. In lawsuits, a much broader scope of materials can be demanded from managers and the Board. If materials have not been preserved, there is a very real risk of very real consequences from the Court. From the moment that the Association, or any member of the Board or Management have a credible and reasonable belief or expectation that a suit may be filed, any archiving or deletion of communications needs to stop. Not just emails, but all text messages having anything to do with anything even touching an aspect of the suit need to be saved. All emails need to be preserved too. This can take disabling the auto-archiving default processes of an email program used by Board members. Taking affirmative steps to preserve everything in the face of a claim is not enough: Being able to prove that these steps were ordered, and actually taken, is important as well.

    What to Do

    If your Board of Directors tolerates Board members using personal emails for HOA business, stop that right now. Collect and save the HOA emails the Board members have to date and preserve them all in addition to those communications on a dedicated channel going forward. Create a document retention plan for both non-litigation scenarios, and possible litigation scenarios. Educate your Board members (and managers) as to the level of intrusion which is possible just using the Common Interest Ownership Act. Get them to appreciate that virtually everything that is done as a Board member is open, and available for review. Talk to a lawyer to get help preparing to meet these challenges. 

  • 10/01/2019 10:51 AM | Bridget Nichols (Administrator)

    By Amber Wood, City & County of DenverEnergy Program Administrator

    Denver’s Green Buildings Ordinance developed from the citizen-led Green Roof Ordinance that provides flexible compliance options while honoring the original vote.   The Ordinance requires all existing buildings over 25,000 square feet to install a cool roof at roof replacement and choose one of five compliance paths including green roof/space, pay for off-site green, solar, certification, and the Energy Program.  


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    Green Buildings Ordinance Options for Existing Buildings


    The Energy Program is one compliance path for existing buildings and includes flexible energy efficiency and renewable energy options.  The program allows a building to take advantage of recent energy improvement projects and have up to 5 years to comply with the Ordinance after enrolling in the Energy Program.  The Energy Program helps owners and managers lower energy expenses, increase building valuation, and there are many benefits from living in an energy efficient residence.  

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    Owners and managers can enroll a building in the Energy Program prior to or at the time of roof replacement.  To enroll early in the Energy Program, you simply need to complete an online form.  You can submit your early enrollment Energy Program Form online here.  Enrollment applies to a building for 20 years or through one roof replacement, whichever is longer.  

    Enroll before it's time for a roof replacement so that your building can:

    • Get credit for recent energy-efficient improvements (up to 5 years prior to enrollment).
    • Get ongoing credit for energy-efficient improvements (before replacing the roof). 

    Your building may already meet the energy savings needed!  Look-up your building on the Energize Denver Benchmarking Map to determine if the building complies with the Energy Program.  Your building already complies if:

    • It has an Energy Star score of 85 or greater.
    • The annual weather adjusted Energy Use Intensity (EUI) has improved by 10% or 15% (based on building size) compared to previous reporting years.  

    Annual reporting is required for each option in the Energy Program via the building’s annual energy benchmarking report sent to the city via ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.  Full details are available on the Energy Program’s website.  You can also contact us via email at energyprogram@denvergov.org or give us a call at 720-865-5451!   


  • 10/01/2019 10:49 AM | Bridget Nichols (Administrator)

    By Daniel Brannigan, CEO Insights

    Association websites can be a tremendously valuable portal for management companies that want to provide 24-hour communication with owners. A strong association website allows management to communicate with association residents, prospective buyers, service providers, employees, media and the public. An effective website can disseminate important information to each group in one complete package that can be updated as necessary. 

    “Websites allow management companies and associations to be accessible on the resident’s timeframe. So often, people in communities are volunteers so they tend to do things ‘off hours,’” says Susan Sanders, Vice President of AtHomeNet, an Internet development and hosting company. 

    Many management company and association websites list community descriptions, contact information, and some might even have community documents posted, but Sanders says most aren’t taking advantage of the available technology. 

    “Management companies and associations need to use technology to their advantage. Automate as many tasks as possible; only use human resources where they can truly have an impact,” says Sanders. 

    Including services such as online payments, amenity reservations, and even a frequently asked questions section can significantly increase management efficiency. Every question answered or service available to residents on a website is one less task that a manager needs to address. 

    Drew Regitz, president and co-founder of AssociationVoice, also an Internet development and hosting company, explains that websites need to have useful and useable information. 

    “It’s not necessarily if you build it they will come. It’s not the ‘Field of Dreams,’ so to speak,” says Regitz. “You’ve got one chance to make an impact with your site. First impressions count. If you don’t have useful and usable information, they won’t return.” 

    Some of that useful and useable information includes a calendar of events, an online survey, a chat room for residents, an intranet component—so employees and associations can communicate and share on their own site—and vendor portals where request-for-proposals can be posted and vendors can respond directly. 

    Several service providers specialize in creating and maintaining websites specifically for community associations or management companies. Cost typically depends on the size of the site and the features involved. 

    Some services even help place your site high in search engines queries. However, once you get visitors there, you’ll want the features to keep them coming back. 

    Daniel Brannigan is editor of CEO Insights.

  • 10/01/2019 10:46 AM | Bridget Nichols (Administrator)

    By Clint Larson, 303tech

    A few months ago, we received a call from a client about some missing emails.  Upon investigation those missing emails turned out to be much more than that.

    Several weeks prior, some of this company’s email accounts were compromised.  Not just one, or two, but as many as five accounts.  The hackers gained access through a simple email request to verify the email credentials, and then they waited patiently for their opportunity.  They had access to the CEO, CFO, AR, Executive Assistant, and the Help Desk.  The hackers waited, going through email accounts, learning how the company operated, and with whom.

    One day, the CEO received a call from one of their clients explaining that they were pulling the money together and he would have it by the end of the week.  The CEO, confused, started inquiring about what he was talking about.  For the last week, the customer had been receiving emails from the CEO, CFO, and AR about multiple outstanding invoices.  These emails started out kind enough, but soon turned very demanding.  The emails were requesting hour by hour progress on the payment which needed to be wired into the account immediately.  The sum: $1,845,000.  The exact amount of the outstanding balance.

    Fortunately, that client was able to pull back the transfer before any money was lost.

    Hackers have easy, affordable access to more and more sophisticated systems. They are no longer just sending out an email campaign in hopes of someone clicking on it.  It is one thing to steal the identity of a person, but what happens when they steal the identity of an entire company?  This is easier than you think. Once they have access to the emails, they can setup phone systems, start making calls, and request money be directed to anywhere they desire.

    What if this was a title company looking for a mortgage payoff?  What if this was a request from a management company looking to transfer the reserves to a new management company?  What if this was a vendor looking for a deposit before work could begin?

    Would you know how to spot it?  Would you know what to do?

    There are hundreds of scams in cyberspace.

    Wire Fraud

    Romance Scams

    Payroll Diversion

    Company Impersonation

    Business Identity Theft

    Ransomware

    Phishing

    Tax/W-2 Fraud

    Pet Scams


    That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    The real estate industry lost over $18 million in October of 2017.  That is just the real estate industry, and in a single month.  We are a part of that industry.

    What can you do?

    Follow some simple rules about emails:

    1. Are you expecting this email?
    2. Is this the type of email this person would typically send you?
    3. Is there a call for immediate action (click a link or open attachment)?

    These three things may seem simple enough! If you follow them you are going to save yourself, your company, and your clients a lot of headaches.

    Other items such as; email addresses being misspelled, improper grammar, special characters like Ⱨere or y, and learning to hover over a link to see where it is actually going to take you.  All of these things will help prevent these malicious attacks.

    What to do if you are a victim.

    1. Change all of your passwords.
    2. Contact your Bank/Financial institution and put a fraud alert on your accounts
    3. Contact ReportWireFraud@state.co.us  ReportWireFraud.com
      1. Be prepared with email requesting funds w/wiring instructions
      2. Email Headers (IT people can get that)
      3. Also report this to IC3.gov

    If you need any further information, please contact CBI or 303tech.

  • 09/30/2019 9:35 AM | Bridget Nichols (Administrator)
    By Tony Diaz III, CMCA, AMS, Worth Ross Management Co., Inc. AAMC 

     

    These are questions that you might consider asking the insurance agent or broker when your BOD is looking to renew or purchase insurance for the HOA. Prior to contacting the agent, managers can do some research to get a better understanding of the building’s needs. These are items you might consider:   

     

    • Use the FEMA website maps to determine the location of any flood plans and see if the building is in a flood plan area. If so, I alert the agent to this fact and send them a copy of the map you printedhttps://msc.fema.gov/portal.  
    • Research the last time a building valuation was completed. If you can’t find it or it’s been more than 3 years since the last one was completed, order a new one. Your agent should be able to recommend a company to assist you. Knowing this the value helps in case of total loss. This will help the BOD request full replacement value should there be a need to rebuild. Some policies do this automatically so make sure you are aware if yours is or is not one of those.  
    • Ask the representative for various deductible options for the BOD to consider. Each level will result in an increase or decrease in the overall policy costs. Note that some items may have a standard deductible which may be changed depending on the various options available via that policy. 
    • Ensure that your insurance representative knows that the BOD would like to review and may seek protection from updated building and other city/county codes by requesting a quote for Law & Ordinances Insurance to cover any financial gap caused by new building codes and ordinances.  
    • Inquire as to any coverage included or available for purchase for Earthquake, earth shifting or other similar perils which may not be common in your area. 
    • Some areas in the USA offer additional coverage for foundations and other structural concerns for “below ground” items. This may be hard to find, but I make it a point to ask the agent to explore these options because this can be a costly repair if needed. 
    • Ask that the deductible and limits for each type of item covered is clearly shown so that the BOD has a full understanding of what their coverage limits are. Once that is determined, ask for various options for the Umbrella coverage. Usually coverage starts at $5M and can go as high as $25M with just a slight increase in your payment. Try and get at least $20M since it is relatively inexpensive.  
    • Inquire about various options for D&O, Errors & Omissions, Employee Dishonesty/Theft which usually fall into the Crime/Fidelity coverage and can vary by carrier. 
    • Ask about wind, windstorm and hail. There are usually various options and deductibles available and in this part of the country it’s recommended you explore the options so you can present them to the BOD. 
    • Have a clear understanding of fire, and other perils which are typically covered or suggested by the agent. Some agents refer to this as “special form” which refers to their standard coverage proposal. 
    • Ask the agent to provide any additional information about policies or recommendations which they may have so that you get a professional’s input on any additional items the BOD may choose to explore. 
    • Lastly, once the new policy is bound, you might ask your agent to attend the next BOD meeting to give a short overview of the policies and coverage. This allows owners to ask questions and get a better understanding of how the BOD has elected to protect everyone financial and structural interest. 

     

    These are ways that may help you address insurance renewals or the purchase of new insurance. These are all just recommendations which I hope will help my fellow managers. Even if you have been in the business for years, it might be wise to review this information with your broker or agent. Knowing the various policies and limits that are in place are key components we should all understand. 

     

  • 09/30/2019 9:33 AM | Bridget Nichols (Administrator)

    By Tony Diaz III, CMCA, AMS, Worth Ross Management Co., Inc. AAMC

    As onsite managers we are sometimes asked to help prepare an RFP and in selecting a contractor. While there are many approaches to doing this, I have found the following works best for me.  Using this method, allowed our building to complete 3 different yet major projects totaling almost $2.8 million in just 18 months. 

     

    • Step One – Build an RFP:  Depending on the type and size of the project, we managers might not be the best person to build the RFP. In all three of our recent projects, I suggested to the BOD to hire a third party who is better qualified to build the RFP. They agreed and the RFP was developed after several onsite visits and with significant input from the property manager. 

     

    • Step Two – Identify Potential Contractors:  Once the RFP meets the recommendations of the third-party expert and those of the onsite manger, you can work to put together a list of potential contractors. The RFP should be sent to them at the same time by the RPF provider.   

     

    • Step Three – Plan a Contractor Meeting:  While not required, I strongly recommend a mandatory meeting be called for all contractors who have an interest in providing a bid. This meeting should be 7 to 10 days after the RFP was sent out. This allows time for the contractors to review the RFP and identify any concerns or questions they may have.  

     

    • Step Four – Contractor Meeting:  Every contractor that wishes to provide a bit must attend this meeting. After all the contractors have arrived and introductions have concluded, the RFP provider should review the entire RFP with questions allowed at the conclusion of the presentation. This ensures the RFP is covered as presented prior to making possible changes.  

     

    • Step Five – Contractor Meeting Walk Through:  After the Q&A, all potential contractors should walk the property to review the items which need to be addressed according to the RFP. If subsequent visits are needed, they should work directly with the onsite manager to gain access to the building. 

     

    • Step Six – Contractor Meeting Conclusion:  To conclude the meeting, it is important the certain items are covered one last time. Those could include the due date for the bid. Where the bid should be sent. Explain that any questions which may arise after they depart the site should be sent to the RFP provider so they can respond and copy all other vendors. This ensures everyone gets the same information. 

     

    • Step Seven – Review of Bids:  The provider of the RFP should receive and review all the bids. They should give the onsite manager a comparison of the various bids. They should also provide a recommendation with their justification on the selected contractor. 

     

    • Step Eight – Selection of a Contractor:  The manager can now review the information provided. Compare it to the original RFP and the provider’s recommendation.  Once the manager feels comfortable with 1 to 3 potential contractors, they can present the information to the BOD for a final decision.  

  • 08/01/2019 10:42 AM | Bridget Nichols (Administrator)

    By Trisha K. Harris, White Bear Ankele Tanaka & Waldron


    It’s August, and that means one thing: Budget season is upon us. With budget season comes the age-old question for many boards and managers; Should we raise assessments?  Is there any chance we could actually lower assessments this year?  There are many factors that go into such budgetary decisions.  The following are considerations that go into either choice.


    Raise the Roof


    • Does your association have deferred maintenance that can no longer go unchecked? If so, an assessment increase may be inevitable in order to avoid a large special assessment at some point in the future.
    • Has your association been lagging in saving reserve funds in line with your reserve study?  If so, you may need to consider raising assessments to get your reserve fund caught up to the level recommended by your reserve study.
    • Does your association desire to make certain larger-scale improvements, such as adding new playground equipment or upgrading landscaping?  If so, it may be prudent to raise assessments to fund such projects over time, rather than imposing a special assessment.
    • Is your association consistently busting your budget each year?  If so, it may be necessary to take a hard look at your budget line items to determine where budget shortfalls are occurring, and increasing assessments to give the association more breathing room in your contingency line item.
    • What is your current delinquency rate?  If owners are struggling to pay assessments at the current rate, will an increase in assessments create more collection problems for the association?
    • Is owner approval required for an assessment increase?  If your community is a post-CCIOA community (meaning it was created on or after July 1, 1992), you must follow the budget ratification process set forth in CCIOA in relation to ratification of your budget and any assessment increases contained in your budget.  The same budget ratification process applies to pre-CCIOA communities (those created before July 1, 1992) unless your declaration sets a maximum assessment amount or limits any increase in an annual budget to a specific amount and your proposed assessment is within those limits.


    Lower the Bar


    • Have your assessments been set higher in recent years to get the association caught up on reserve funding?  Are you now caught up?  If so, it might be possible to lower assessments, or at least keep them at a steady level.
    • Does your association consistently end up with a healthy surplus of operating funds at the end of each year?  If so, you may be setting your assessments too high for the actual needs of the association.  
    • Has your association recently gone out to bid for recurring or continuing services, such as landscape maintenance, management, accounting, or legal?  Are there savings that may be gained by negotiating new contracts for such services that could lead to the ability to decrease assessments?
    • If assessments are lowered, consider how that might impact, from a political perspective, any future increases that may be necessary in the future.  


    Decisions about the rate of assessments, especially when an assessment increase is contemplated, are not always easy decisions for a board to make.  While it might be tempting for board members, who are also owners who pay assessments, to forgo an assessment increase, or even lower assessments, in the end, the decision must be made based on the good of the entire association.  As with any decision, the board needs to make sure it is making the decision in an informed and reasonable manner.


    Trisha K. Harris is a senior associate with the law firm of White Bear Ankele Tanaka & Waldron.  White Bear Ankele Tanaka & Waldron serves the needs of residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects throughout the State of Colorado, and provides advice and counsel to project developers, property owners, and residents on a wide range of issues.  WBA also represents homeowner and commercial associations, as well as metropolitan districts that are responsible for covenant enforcement and design review, operations, and maintenance of common and other public areas, together with required collection activities. 

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