By John Ganoe, CAE, CAMICB
Even for those deeply entrenched in the credentialing world, there's a certain degree of confusion around some of the terminology used to describe specific paths professionals take to further their careers and skill sets. The field of community association management is no different so it's important to educate managers, homeowners, and other community association professionals about the different options the profession has to offer and the value they hold.
According to the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), “credentialing" is an umbrella term used to refer to concepts such as professional certification, certificate programs, accreditation, licensure, and regulation.
ICE defines certification, licensure, assessment-based certificate, and accreditation in the following ways:
• A certification program is designed to test the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a particular job, and, upon successfully passing a certification exam, to represent a declaration of a particular individual's professional competence, such as a community manager who has achieved the Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA®). In some professions, certification is a requirement for employment or practice.
• Similarly, licensure tests an individual's competence but is a mandatory process by which the government grants time-limited permission for that licensed individual to practice his or her profession, such as a real estate salesperson or real estate broker.
• In contrast to certification and licensure, an assessment-based certificate program is an educational or training program that is used to teach learning objectives and assess whether those objectives were achieved by the student.
• Accreditation is the process by which a credentialing or educational program is evaluated against defined standards and is awarded recognition if it is in compliance with those standards. The Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA®) is such a program. ICE currently offers accreditation to professional certification programs through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
Community association professionals may also choose to bolster their careers and expand their level of expertise in certain areas. This is where specialty designations come into play. A “designation" is recognition of professional knowledge and expertise in a given subject matter or job skill. To earn designations, membership is required in a professional organization and usually requires work experience. Certain specialty designations are offered through the Community Associations Institute (CAI) including, the Association Management Specialist (AMS), Large Scale Manager (LSM), Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM), Community Insurance and Risk Management Specialist (CIRMS) and Reserve Specialist (RS). This allows a community association professional to drill down into a specialized aspect of the business. In some cases, for example the PCAM and AMS designations, passing the CMCA examination is a prerequisite to applying for these designations.
I've experienced a wide disparity in the background and quality of the managers with whom I've worked," said Ron Perl, Esq., a Partner at Hill Wallack LLP, who leads the firm's community association practice group. “A manager who holds the CMCA assures me they have an important foundation in place – the ongoing education and knowledge necessary to successfully manage millions of dollars worth of other people's property and a serious commitment to high ethical standards."
Stephen Castle, CMCA, AMS, PCAM agrees all committed community association managers should hold the CMCA certification. “The CMCA certification demonstrates to employees and new managers a commitment to professionalism," said Castle. “Further, CMCAs show their support for established national and international standards of knowledge and professional conduct for community association managers.”
The CMCA Goes Global
As CAMICB grew to be the premiere certification body in the United States for community association managers, it also gained international recognition for its established body of knowledge and strict ethical standards. Over the past two decades, the CMCA certification program crossed borders and oceans in Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Mexico South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates. This global expansion secured a high level of professionalism for association management and common interest communities worldwide. In 2017, CAMICB launched the international CMCA examination.
The Institute for Credentialing Excellence, or ICE, is a professional membership association that provides education, networking, and other resources for organizations and individuals who work in and serve the credentialing industry. ICE is a leading developer of standards for both certification and certificate programs and it is both a provider of and a clearing house for information on trends in certification, test development and delivery, assessment-based certificate programs, and other information relevant to the credentialing community.
By Emily Walsh, SOLitude Lake Management
Community lakes and stormwater ponds can be used to attract native wildlife, facilitate recreation and enhance the beauty of a HOA property, but, over the course of many years, these aquatic resources may experience sedimentation, nutrient loading and other water quality problems. If a waterbody is not properly managed, it will eventually fill in with muck and other organic materials until depths are significantly reduced. To help restore volume, reduce the possibility of flooding during rainstorms, and improve overall water quality, it’s important to consider hydro-raking as a proactive management tool.
If you own or manage an association with lakes and ponds, you’ve likely heard of hydro-raking as a unique strategy utilized by aquatic professionals to remove aquatic vegetation and “bottom sludge.” A hydro-rake is essentially a floating barge supporting a mounted backhoe and rake attachment that can remove up to 500 pounds of lake and pond muck, plant material and organic debris in a single scoop.
The hydro-rake has the ability to target certain areas of nuisance and/or invasive aquatic vegetation, while conserving other areas in their natural state. This is crucial in the eyes of aquatic management, which is geared towards retaining and restoring balance within the waterbody’s ecosystem. Maintaining an equilibrium of native vegetation enhances the potential for increased species richness and ecosystem resilience – the ability to maintain balance despite challenges posed by nutrient loading, water stratification and other factors that can affect water quality. In addition to proactively managing vegetation, hydro-raking can help reduce or prolong the need for dredging, which is often the costliest project a homeowners association will ever face.
While the hydro-rake is not a suitable management strategy in every situation, it can be extremely effective when used to control several types of vegetation often found in waterbodies used for recreation, community fishing, the collection of stormwater runoff, or simply the enjoyment of their aesthetic beauty:
Emergent vegetation such as cattails, common reedand maidencane are common plants that can plague waterbodies; however, removal can be achieved by utilizing the hydro-rake as a stand-alone management option or as a complement to other management approaches. Emergent plants are fantastic candidates for the hydro-rake because they are usually found along the edge of the waterbody, where they can be easily accessed by the rake attachment. During the removal process, the hydro-rake will extract the plant in its entirety, as well as its attached rhizome (root) structure lain beneath the water’s surface. Because the hydro-rake works from the water rather than land, desirable ornamental and buffer plant species along the shoreline are not impacted.
FLOATING LEAF SPECIES
The hydro-rake is effective when removing common floating leaf vegetation such as water lily and watershield. These plant species are ideal for hydro-rake management, due to their leaf structure and attached root systems underneath. As with common reed and cattail removal, the hydro-rake can remove the plants, as well as the root structures. Open water is then restored, thus enhancing the ability of native aquatic flora and fauna to repopulate the area. Other common floating-leaf species, such as water hyacinth, water chestnut, and water lotus are additional candidates for hydro-raking service
Submersed species such as curly-leaf pondweed, big leaf pondweed and tape grass can be effectively managed through hydro-raking. These prescribed programs can provide sufficient plant reduction, especially when combined with herbicide management options. As with any management strategy, it’s important to always consider the biology of the targeted plant before beginning a hydro-raking project. Some submersed plants, such as such as milfoil and fanwort spread heavily through fragmentation and may require alternate management strategies to ensure fragmentation and repopulation do not occur.
Hydro-raking is a management tool used in a wide array of aquatic restoration projects ranging from inlets, outlets, littoral zones, coves, private shorelines, and more. Aquatic vegetation removal projects can be performed any time of year, but the best time is when the nutrients are in the vegetative structure; this is relative to the associated region, weather conditions, and plant biology. When considering this service, the first step is to contact your local lake and pond management professional to conduct a site visit. During this time, they will identify nuisance plant species and management areas, and consider a strategy that aligns with your association’s long-term waterbody goals.
As with any form of proactive management, hydro-raking can help improve the health, longevity and beauty of your community’s lake or stormwater pond for years to come, but is most effective when used in conjunction with other preventative management methods, including aeration, buffer management, nutrient remediation and other strategies that prevent the premature aging, or filling in with sediment, of the waterbody.
Emily Walsh is an experienced Environmental Scientist with SOLitude Lake Management, an environmental firm providing sustainable lake, pond, wetland and fisheries management solutions. Learn more about this topic at www.solitudelakemanagement.com/knowledge.
By Nate LePage, Asphalt Coatings
This year was marked by two regulations that made most of us tied to property management a bit more anxious: ADA Compliance and Trip Hazards. Sometimes, these two may even have occurred together as a raised or separated curb tied to an ADA parking stall created a nightmare scenario for a property manager. To make matters worse, repairing these troubled locations was often mandated from the lender who wanted them fixed ASAP.
And, by ASAP, they meant yesterday!
By shedding light on the process to identify whether these repairs are necessary, we can then look at a few tips on how to move forward and get problem areas up to code as quickly as possible.
But, before we dive in to that….let’s look at a bit of history which will also provide us with some helpful information as we move forward. Don’t worry, we will skip all the boring parts!
The Americans with Disabilities Act – or ADA, for short – was signed in to law in 1990. Designed to level the playing field, its goal was to provide those with disabilities equal access to all of life’s daily activities (work, play, shopping, etc.). This piece of legislation established the parameters we adhere to today. For example, the 2% grade limit on an ADA parking stall, the 8% slope on a ramp, and the ¼” trip hazard benchmark all came from this law. In keeping up with the times, their website – www.ada.gov – includes tons of information on the regulations and guidelines. A quick word of caution: the website also allows complaints to be filed online fairly easily. Yikes!
Speaking of complaints, let’s move on to the process of identifying potential areas that need to be repaired. If we are vigilant and stay on top of these, they can be addressed before they become a “911” issue.
The most common areas of concern are sidewalks, ADA ramps, and the cracks between the curb & gutter/sidewalks. With the crazy freeze-thaw weather we get here in Colorado, it’s very easy for water to get in, freeze and expand, and press things out of alignment. The result is one sidewalk stone or panel will be higher than the one next to it. As we learned from the ADA, any raised surface greater than ¼” qualifies as a trip hazard. Similarly, a very, very hot day in August can cause sidewalks to ‘heave’ and can result in the same dangerous trip hazard.
So, what’s the magic formula for keeping ADA compliance and trip hazards at bay?
Walking the property on a weekly basis and utilizing on-site facilities maintenance personnel are great ways to be proactive and identify areas for repair. Getting familiar with your property will help you recognize when an area has changed; plus, it’s a great chance to get a break from being in the office and catch some fresh air. Installing handrails on any access ramps within the property can also minimize accidents. Handrails prevent wheelchairs from straying off a ramp and provide a way for someone to break a fall should they slip or trip. Additionally, pavement markings help those with disabilities identify spaces reserved for them and can keep them from areas that may prove more difficult. Utilizing truncated domes at crosswalks are also very helpful (and often mandated by municipalities).
Once a damaged area has been recognized for repair, there are a few options to get the location back up to code. If available, consulting with the onsite maintenance team’s capabilities can save some budget money by keeping the repair in-house. If outside service is needed, starting with previous contractors or the ‘preferred vendor list’ at your company can save time locating a reputable contractor. When reaching out for the first time, many property managers will seek to receive at least 3 quotes or proposals before making a decision. A word of caution: Don’t always choose the lowest bid! When it comes to code compliance, choose wisely and make sure you select a contractor with a proven track record.
In summary, the best way to keep peace of mind regarding ADA compliance and trip hazards is through routine maintenance. If you have any questions or just need some help in general, it’s advised to reach out to a reputable, local, and honest contractor for help. Their expertise can ease anxieties and provide guidance on how to move forward.
Asphalt Coatings has helped property managers with their parking lots for over 30 years. When not helping customers with their parking lots, you’ll find Nate out enjoying the Colorado mountain country. If you have any questions regarding parking maintenance, you can email Nate at email@example.com
By Nicole Stone, LMI Landscapes Inc.
We drive in and out of our communities several times a day, oftentimes not even noticing our surroundings. However, have you driven by and noticed that some communities have beautiful flowers, wonderful blooming shrubs, gorgeous trees, and a crisp, enchanting curb appeal? Those communities are the ones that draw and encourage new buyers to move into the community. Landscaping simply adds to an inviting backdrop by having a pleasing, attractive, and creative scene which encourages new buyers, along with increasing property values in your community. Therefore, it’s not a bad idea to encourage your neighbors to spruce up their landscaping as well!
Speaking of curb appeal, landscaping can add a powerful kick-start to your neighborhood. Many communities have started focusing on improvements toward the exterior, with the understanding of just how important that “first impression landscape” is to prospective buyers. Keeping up with the exterior aesthetics, like landscape, can have a serious financial impact; According to the National Association of Realtors, exterior landscaping can add an estimated 7–15% value to the property by simply maintaining the existing turf, plant material, and trees.
The Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association did research and compiled the following statistics:
A third professional entity have also conducted studies, as The Natural Resources Defense Council researchers have found that landscaping can add an estimated 7% percent to an average purchase. This also helps increase selling opportunities. Landscape in today’s environment has become more vibrant, with increases in colorful, accenting plantings throughout the front entrances of communities.
Taking a gander throughout the Front Range will inevitably show that there are several new communities being developed, and this is unlikely to slow down soon. These new developments are implementing unique landscape and decor in a variety of ways including the repositioning of existing structures, the creation of walking paths, seating areas, as well as plenty of parks and open spaces. This plethora of redevelopment is a perfect opportunity for older communities to renovate their existing landscape as well, by creating a fresh new look that will tie into the incoming communities and vibrant landscapes.
This is an exciting time because your community has many options regarding freshening up the community with options that have not been available before. From hiring a professional firm to create a completely different look, to refreshing the existing landscape, your community will need to decide which direction is best suited for your needs. It is easy to see when you drive around and take notice of all the upgrades taking place in older communities, from the exterior to the landscaping. These properties are well on their way to creating a new fresh look by reconfiguring the existing structure and reworking the existing landscape back drops to better suit the future and move away from the past.
LMI Landscapes Inc. has been successfully servicing the green industry in Dallas, Austin, and Denver since 1987. We are comprised of three divisions; Construction and Irrigation Installation, Maintenance, Enhancements, and Irrigation, and Snow Removal Services.
By Ann Baker, Denver Water
How recent Denver Water rule changes implemented to accommodate development are resulting in reduced water use and better customer service for homeowners.
New operating rules, implemented earlier this year, will help residents in densely built neighborhoods spot inefficient water use quickly, while alleviating headaches for contractors and confusion for homeowners.
“Development has changed, and we had to figure out a way to change with them,” said Mike Aragon, director of Customer Relations. “Dense development didn’t fit with our rules.”
In the past, one single-family house was built on one lot, facing the street. One water tap and one meter were attached to that house. As land prices soared, developers started bunching two, three, and even four single-family homes on one lot. But when houses are sandwiched together, there isn’t space for multiple taps and meters.
So, developers would install one large tap with one meter to feed all the homes on a single lot, letting the homeowner’s association divvy up the cost of water later on. That created problems — for homeowners and Denver Water.
A household of one person uses a lot less than a family of five, but if those two homes shared a meter, they’d split the monthly costs equally. In those cases, residents wouldn’t know how much water they’re using and whether they’re being efficient, meaning no one has much incentive to cut back. And many times, because the HOA redistributed water bills, the homeowners didn’t receive Denver Water’s messaging about drought, summer watering rules, construction, rebates, and more.
Starting in 2015, Denver Water assembled a continuous improvement team to study different ways to fix those problems. Employees found that allowing developers to install a manifold tap and service line would allow each house in dense developments to have its own meter, and therefore its own bill.
More than 30 developments are now using manifold taps, but Denver Water expects hundreds each year will fit these dense-development parameters, especially in the Lowry, Highlands and Stapleton neighborhoods. The ones that are active are seeing impressive results. Not only do they maintain the structural integrity of the mains, but those individually metered houses use 38 percent less than their shared-metered counterparts, Aragon said.
And now Denver Water has a direct relationship with those customers, which means we won’t have to rely on HOAs to pass on important messages.
“This is also incredibly important as we prepare for future droughts,” said Jeff Tejral, Denver Water’s manager of water efficiency and reuse. “If most of our customers are not receiving a bill from us, we cannot expect to provide a signal to reduce use.”
This article was provided by TAP: News to Hydrate Your Mind. TAP is produced by the Public Affairs division of Denver Water. Water is the No. 1 issue in Colorado, if not the entire West, and Denver Water employees are the water experts. TAP is a resource which, among its other core principles, helps educate the 1.4 million people we serve and the communities in which we operate about water issues, including conservation, infrastructure, business and environmental concerns.
By Coley Stevenson, CINC Systems
In our industry, we improve – constantly. Upgrades to properties, like seasonal landscaping, improve the beauty of our surroundings. But one upgrade that is often deferred far too long is a technology upgrade. It’s easy to put off technology upgrades. After all, if your current tech is working fine, why replace it? Just like replacing a roof on the community clubhouse can expose hidden leaks, delving into a technology upgrade job can reveal problems you didn’t know you had. It’s essential to review your technology needs on a regular basis.
Technology changes frequently. If you’re using what was cutting-edge just a few years ago, you may be cheating yourself out of speed and processing power – especially on computers and mobile devices. Basic operational planning measures, like a needs analysis, will help you determine what you need now, and what you should plan to replace (and when). Here are a few areas to consider:
Of special concern is the rapid growth of ransomware attacks. Anyone with a computer on the internet is a potential victim. This type of malware attack can paralyze a business; your systems become “locked” and held hostage until a ransom is paid. Notable examples of ransomware victims include the City of Atlanta, LabCorp, and FedEx, though ransomware attacks can happen to businesses of any size. Current antivirus protection is your best defense, along with keeping your equipment up-to-date.
Regardless of the technology upgrades you choose, make sure that you understand the scope of the project. Of course, you want to minimize disruption and downtime, so plan for a time when your business is slower. Make sure you include adequate time for testing and training. With proper planning, technology upgrades can positively impact your business goals.
Your best bet? Consult a trusted local technology expert for assistance. And make a backup. ALWAYS make a backup.
About the Author
CINC Systems is the first cloud-based association management software. CINC enables Community Association Management Companies access to tools that streamline business activities – from accounting to daily management – via the Internet from any location 24x7. For more information, visit cincsystems.com.
By Mary Harris, Architectural Signs
The Denver-Metro housing market is more unique than we’ve ever seen it; Some home values are increasing annually by 10% or more, while others moving at a steady 6% or less. Why? You might say location, and that would be true, but what other factors play a roll in this hot market? Consider the overall appearance of the neighborhood.
According to the Community Associations Institute, the number of community or homeowner associations has grown from 10,000 in 1970 to 342,000 in 2016. That’s a lot of competition. Now more than ever, it is imperative that your community signage leaves a lasting positive visual impression, conveying a sense of pride in the community.
Is the signage in your neighborhood antiquated and tired? Are street signs faded, leaning, broken, or beat up by the landscaper’s weed whacker? Are the flower beds over grown and covering your neighborhood entrance monument rendering them un-readable? All of these things can have an negative impact on the perception of property values.
Once you’ve determined that your neighborhood signage needs attention, where do you start? How do you improve your signage without draining your reserves and how do you determine where to focus your attention?
First, walk your neighborhood and determine what signs need repaired or replaced. If you have a trusted sign vendor, ask them to join you. A professional sign vendor will help guide you and essentially help you work within your budget. Once you have a list of sign “issues,” you can prioritize based on need and budget.
Addressing the needed safety issues should be priority number one! Stop signs, illegible street signs, and cross walk signs need to be maintained in pristine condition. Communities can suffer large financial losses due to lawsuits because of negligence in sign maintenance. The Department of Transportation requires that street signs and stop signs are constructed with high intensity reflective material. This adds night time visibility and safety.
The next area of focus should be on the community entrance signage. Can visitors easily find the neighborhood? Does the signage convey the message that the community would like to emulate? When you look at it, does it scream 1960? Keep in mind that monuments are built to last for decades, but the style can make the community look outdated. If you have an entrance sign (aka. monument sign) that was built decades ago, you may want to consider refurbishment.
Monument refurbishment is a cost effect way to modernize and revitalize the neighborhood. Consider the photos featured in this article. The existing monument was non-illuminated and a little dated. The original background was replaced with a stucco finish and halo lit, LED channel letters were added in a high contrast color. Now the monument sign is visible day and night, guiding residents and visitors alike to the neighborhood. The cost of a refurbishment verses a full blown replacement can save a community thousands of dollars.
A community message board is something that would be considered a community amenity. Either a box that houses paper posted notices or an LED electronic message board can lend to a sense of community and a perceived added value to the community as a whole. Posted near an entrance, pool, or club house, this offers residents neighborhood information and a place to communicate.
Pool, tennis court, and amenity signage should be updated for community liability purposes. It is imperative that regulations are posted in a clear manner and in compliance to ADA regulations. Outdated information or rules can have a negative financial impact for a neighborhood, leaving the community vulnerable to legal action.
If you take the time to address the signage in your community, keeping it all up to date, in compliance, and modernized, your community can and will benefit. Property values will increase, as well as the community's overall satisfaction.
Mary Harris, Managing Member of Architectural Signs, has been a professional in the sign industry for more than 30 years. Architectural Signs offers custom dimensional signage locally and nationwide. Contact Mary with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at http://ArchitecturalSigns.com.
By Jason Moore, Shaker Painting, Inc.
It goes without saying that a new paint job can make your community look sharp and clean. However, it is more than simply a fresh coat of paint. There are a number of benefits to painting your community that go beyond a color refresh. It can bring a community together and help fight crime!
One of the most important reasons to keep up with regular painting is that it seals and protects buildings from the weather. Paint not only waterproofs your surfaces to repel rain and snow, but it also protects from the intense Colorado sun which can cause materials to become brittle and fail. Caulking cracks and sealing gaps around windows, doors, or other areas will improve insulation as well. This helps reduce utility costs and improves the longevity of the substrates on the exterior of your building.
When should you paint? Different building materials require different maintenance intervals. For instance, wooden decks (or any horizontal surface for that matter) take quite a beating from snow, ice, rain, and of course, hail. Because of this regular exposure to the elements, wooden decks typically require staining or painting every 2-3 years to protect the wood from warping, rotting, and cracking.
Painted metal surfaces in your community (like metal railings) also require painting at a more regular interval, usually every 3-4 years. Metal surfaces are more susceptible to extreme temperature swings (especially in Colorado) which cause paint to fail at a higher rate than a more insulated surface.
It is recommended that most other substrates like siding, trim, brick (if already painted), or stucco be painted every 5-7 years to protect the building materials and keep the community’s appearance up to standards.
A well-kept exterior is vital for increasing values and community pride. When homeowners take pride in their property, they share a common goal: keep things looking nice! When people share a goal, they work together. When they work together, standards and norms are set in the community. This positive ripple effect can also work in the opposite way as explained by the Broken Windows Theory.
The Broken Windows Theory states that visible signs of crime (say, a broken window) create an environment that encourages more crime (more broken windows, graffiti). This can lead to further disorder including serious crimes (like arson and theft).
When applied to communities, this means that visible signs of building damage (rotted siding, etc) can create an environment (community standards or lack-thereof) that encourages further damage or lack of maintenance within the community. It projects a message of “we don’t care and we’re not watching.” In short, a community with a clean and welcoming appearance will attract quality homeowners who will assist with and expect to maintain their home's appearance with regular maintenance.
In the long run, keeping up with painting maintenance costs much less on average than if exterior materials are allowed to fail. Without proper maintenance, wood and siding rots, cracks, and fails at a significantly higher rate. Replacing these materials can get quite costly and become a financial and safety risk for the community. Regular painting maintenance at the proper intervals will save the community money, and allow you to spend your money wisely on other things homeowners are concerned about.
Maintaining an orderly appearance in your community not only can attract better homeowners, but also increases your neighborhood’s curb appeal. Having desirable curb appeal increases home values within your community, which everyone can agree on. As the real estate market in Colorado continues its upward trend, having a properly maintained home is something any realtor will tell you is important to maintaining and increasing home values.
In conclusion, painting within your community regularly is an important aspect of routine maintenance. It will improve the longevity of your buildings, save homeowners money on their utility bills, and significantly save the community's money in the long run. It will also keep the neighborhood safe and looking attractive, maintain curb appeal, and might just make those board meetings run smoother!
Shaker Painting Inc. is a locally owned and operated paint contractor in the Denver Metro and Front Range area. Shaker has a reputation for quality, professionalism, reliability, and thoughtfulness that has kept them in business since its founding in 1999. Find out how they’re more than a fresh coat at shakerpainting.com.
By Damien Bielli, Vial Fotheringham, LLP
The summer has wound down, kids are back in school, and associations head full-steam toward year-end. As fall and winter quickly descend, associations begin a period of increased holiday decorating and all the joyful, wonderful, and sometimes painful experiences that brings.
Generally, associations are permitted to create rules and regulations governing holiday decorations. Each association must look to its governing documents for the authority to promulgate rules and regulations of any kind, including the limitation or prohibition of decorations. The Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) provides that an association’s Declaration must contain any restriction on the use or occupancy of any unit. C.R.S. § 38-33.3-205(1)(L). The authority of the association to restrict exterior improvements, even temporary ones, can usually be found within the portion of the Declaration containing the architectural restrictions/limitations of units. Alternatively, many associations also rely on catch-all language governing the appearance of the exterior of the home (i.e. unsightly, clean, neat, and attractive). It is through its authority in the Declaration that an association may choose to limit, expand, or restrict altogether, holiday decorations.
In most communities, the Declaration provides the association the authority to regulate the exterior appearance of a single-family home, condo, or townhome unit. Within that authority generally rests the power of the association to regulate or outright ban any non-conforming exterior alteration or unsightly item, including lights and decorations. This is more easily regulated in condominiums than townhomes or single-family homes as most area in condominium communities is considered common elements and under the exclusive control of the association.
Generally, associations can temporarily permit a variance to these rules by allowing holiday decorations during certain periods of time. Usually, that variance is a period of time before and after a holiday when decorations may be put up and must be taken down. This should be memorialized in a policy with clear and concise rules and guidelines for decorations and the time limitations those decorations may be kept, bearing in mind that the holiday decoration policy will extend to all holidays throughout the year.
Complications may arise with an overly general approach rather than a well thought-out and specific holiday decoration policy. Decorations can become so grand that they create a nuisance to neighbors. We have all seen private displays which rival the biggest and best commercial designs. We have also witnessed displays that draw public attention and increase traffic in a neighborhood from the viewing public. An association which has a detailed and comprehensive decoration policy can limit these potential problems.
In addition, the FHA plays a role in an association’s holiday decoration policy. First, any decorations on common area used by the association should be non-religious. General holiday decorations including wreaths and ribbons are the safest, but even Santa Claus and reindeer are acceptable. The FHA is focused on preventing discrimination and an association that appears to favor one religious holiday over another could be viewed as discriminating and face legal consequences. Second, rules which permit decorations around certain religious holidays and not others could be viewed as discriminatory. For example, if decorations are only permitted from the 24th of December to the 26thth of December, this would likely exclude several religious holidays which may subject the association to liability.
An association needs to be reasonable and uniform in its application of permissions and restrictions of holiday decorations. Clear and concise rules which outline the time frame before and after a holiday, as well as reasonable limitations to size and scope of decorations, will aid the association in limiting conflict within the community.
Damien Bielli is a Partner for the Colorado branch of Vial Fotheringham LLP. His practice emphasis is in homeowner and condominium associations.
By Rick Minogue, Metron Sustainable Services
In the last 5 to 10 years, prices for the delivery of fresh water to residences and businesses across the United States has skyrocketed. The price for wastewater treatment, which is often connected by percentage or algorithm to fresh water consumption, has increased as well. In Colorado, most new dwelling units are required to have water meters installed during construction. However, that leaves structures and communities 10 years and older available as candidates for water sub-metering.
For Community Association Professionals and their Boards of Directors, here is a brief introduction to water sub-metering.
What is water sub-metering and how does it work?
Many older communities, including single family dwellings, condos, high rises, and townhomes, have one master meter on the water supply line serving all of the units. The water supply lines that feed each individual unit subdivide AFTER the master meter. The master meter shows the total amount of water delivered to the community, but there is no way to calculate how much was used by each individual home, the pool or clubhouse, irrigation, etc.
To sub-meter a community’s water use, a water meter is installed at each home where the fresh water supply line enters the home, usually on the inside. Meters can also be placed in the clubhouse and irrigation lines. In a home, the meter is placed before the water lines divide to hot and cold, before any hose connections, etc. Most modern meters are electronic, and read to a tablet, computer application, and/or a web portal. Some use internet, others use a cellular network. Some meters even have their own phone app, so that a resident can monitor his or her water consumption while texting, calling the kids, checking email, setting appointments, and other essential driving tasks. (JUST KIDDING!)
Once the meters are installed in the community, the management or sub-metering company takes a monthly consumption reading from each home on a designated day of the month via the web. Then, using utility billing software and the local water rates and tiers that have been pre-loaded into it, each home is billed for the amount of water used.
Why would a Community Association sub-meter?
Can any community sub-meter?
The short answer is no, for two main reasons:
If an Association is considering sub-metering, the first step is a thorough evaluation by a qualified contractor.
Can Associations make a profit on water?
Absolutely not. Marking up water effectively converts an Association into a sub-utility, with all the inspection and health monitoring requirements. Don’t even think about it.
Can Associations add the cost of administration of sub-metering to water consumption invoices?
Yes, and many do. Often, when the decision to sub-meter is implemented, the Association may also distribute the costs of wastewater management (which again is usually pegged to potable water consumption using a predetermined formula) with residents.
Are there arguments against sub-metering?
Yes. Let’s look at a few:
What advice would you give Boards and CMs?
Water sub-metering is growing exponentially across the entire United States. Some of our company’s fastest growing states – Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, might seem intuitively incongruous. Everywhere, city and utility managers have become more conscious of our water resources, and are pricing water more accurately as scarcity and aging delivery infrastructure is replaced and upgraded. At some point, most Community Associations in the Rocky Mountain Region will probably consider sub-metering as a way of getting control of escalating water costs.
There are many great sub-metering companies out there, and when reviewing proposals, be sure to ask about warranty, accuracy, auxiliary services (such as installation, billing and collection, data management, software platforms that can communicate properly with the management company’s software, etc.). Your association counsel should always be consulted before and during the process.
We are always here to help and to answer questions. Thank you for conserving our most precious natural resource.
Rick Minogue is Managing Director of Metron Sustainable Services, and VP of Operations at Transparent Technologies and Metron-Farnier. Rick Minogue agreed to run Frankfort, Germany-based Techem GmbH’s US water sub-metering start-up in 2014 . Later, he helped guide the sale of the company to Boulder-based investors, who renamed it Metron Sustainable Services. His background is in construction and real-estate.
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