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  • 12/01/2018 4:09 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    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.


  • 12/01/2018 4:06 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    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:

    • How’s your internet connection?  In many regions, business customers can choose from multiple internet service providers (ISPs) offering different technologies.  You likely receive advertisements from IPSs on a regular basis detailing technologies and promotions.  When you’re ready to explore your options, it’s a good idea to talk with business owners in your area to gauge reliability, customer service, and price before locking in a deal with a new ISP.  Your needs may have changed since you last shopped around.  Are you doing more work in your field now, with a need for a reliable mobile internet option that can handle more than your cell phone can provide?  Are you still on DSL when you should be on a fiber option?
    • Consider moving to the cloud.  The cloud is a way to run computer programs without the software being installed on your computer.  While using the cloud requires a reliable and fast internet connection, the advantage is that you can access the cloud on almost any device connected to the internet.  In theory, you also have unlimited storage potential.  This is important when you are dealing with large file sizes, like photographs used in violations letters.
    • How does your marketing website present your company?  If you still have scrolling banners, flashing “under construction” signs, or a visitor counter on your company’s website, it’s time to upgrade.  Contemporary websites are responsive, meaning they look great on mobile devices or monitors.  Some also have plugins that facilitate instant communication, so your potential customers can reach you immediately.  Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to give your website a makeover.  Web hosting companies offer one-stop shopping for domains, website building, and all the tools you need to produce a beautiful website on your own.  If you want to take it to the next level, you can hire a full-service website design agency to produce your new website, bells and whistles included.

    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.

  • 12/01/2018 4:03 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    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 mary@architecturalsigns.com or visit the website at http://ArchitecturalSigns.com.

  • 12/01/2018 3:58 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    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.

  • 12/01/2018 3:55 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    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.

  • 10/01/2018 1:50 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    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?

    • Water is a utility like electric and gas.  People should not expect to get their water for “free.”
    • Recovery of costs – Communities on a master meter get one large water bill every month. After sub-metering, the Association is able to recover most of the water expense (minus irrigation and shared use) directly from the users.  The money is collected and then used to pay the water utility, which is still billing the Association from the read on the master meter.
    • Fairness – With sub-metering, everyone pays for the water they actually use.  
    • Sustainability – When individual homes pay for the water they use, there is much more incentive to fix a leaking toilet or broken irrigation head.  A toilet that runs 2 gals/minute for a month wastes more water than 10 or more families of four during the same period.  
    • Conserving our water resources – it’s no secret – when people pay for something, they’re more conscious of its use.  In many communities, total water consumption at the master meter decreases by 20% or more simply because users are more conscientious.

    Can any community sub-meter?

    The short answer is no, for two main reasons:

    1. Many condo and high rise buildings recirculate hot water, in others, the units are plumbed together and share a common water heater, or utility risers are grouped so that one unit’s kitchen may be on one riser, but the same unit’s bathrooms may be on another.  Each dwelling unit would require multiple meters to collect the total consumption, or as in the case of shared supply lines, cost prohibitive changes would make sub-metering too expensive and invasive.

    If an Association is considering sub-metering, the first step is a thorough evaluation by a qualified contractor.

    1. The governing documents may prohibit it.  Although the docs can be changed, that is typically a time consuming and expensive process.

    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:

    • The most obvious arguments against sub-metering are when governing docs or structural design make the process cost-prohibitive.
    • There have recently been special assessments or large increases in regular assessment amounts imposed, and asking owners to pay for water in addition to the new increases can be construed as draconian.
    • Fixed or low income population.

    What advice would you give Boards and CMs?

    • The Community Manager and Board of Directors should look at the decision of whether to sub-meter a particular community very differently from the one focused on choosing which contractor should mow the grounds or clear the snow.  There should be several scheduled open forums allowing free give and take between residents, owners, and the Board.
    • Waive the first month’s water bills.  We always advise our new client associations to send the first one or two water bills with “DO NOT PAY.  THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN YOUR WATER BILL FOR THE PERIOD.”  That allows people to get their budgets and minds around the changes.

    Conclusion:

    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.

  • 10/01/2018 1:48 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Joel Perri, Park It Right

    Being asked to write about the latest in technology in the parking industry had me thinking.  The reality is parking enforcement tech is never designed with the multi-family and apartment communities in mind.  There is a constant flow of ideas to improve the parking enforcement industry with a majority of the focus on municipalities and other government-based agencies.

    The tech is limited to the larger budgets of a government or tax funded parking enforcement program.  This is due to the extremely high cost of technology-based enforcement such as License Plate Recognition (LPR) systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars with little real return on the investment.  Cloud Based Parking Permits is the most user friendly for a multi-family community.  Most other tech pertains to meters, gates, sensor parking and other components used for parking compliance and enforcement.  

    The latest tech introduced was the Barnacle which is an electronic windshield boot that looks like a large folding orange rectangle.  It is attached to the windshield via two large suction cups that attach to the windshield with 1000 pounds per square inch of force.  The booted person calls in to pay to release the boot.   The Barnacle is then returned to a small building located on the property.  

    Parking enforcement and compliance companies focus is on the government sector which leaves few options for private communities such as HOA and apartments.  Most enforcement is still conducted mainly by towing companies that may use a digital camera, warning stickers, and email with a few using cloud-based enforcement programs.  

    Trying to solve parking with technology will not accomplish the goal.  The technology available is only designed to support the actual act of walking the property and physically looking at each vehicle to ensure their compliance with the property parking rules.  The real goal of any community is to gain compliance with as little impact as possible.  Unfortunately, the enforcement action always creates a reaction.  These reactions are what the technology has been designed to refute or verify.

    There are two driving factors creating the huge parking problem multi-family communities are now facing.  The first reality is that our society has empowered people to feel entitled to do as they please regardless of its effect on others and often without consequences.  The second contributing factor is high property values have increased the need for people to live together in units and communities not designed to handle the additional vehicles.  These realities have dramatically affected parking in a negative way for most multi-family communities.  

    When a community begins enforcement there becomes a real need for the capability to ensure that enforcement action is valid and proper.  If the vehicle was in violation of no permit parking, proof is going to need to be readily available to refute the automatic claim that “my permit was in the car.”  If they were enforced for parking in the fire lane, they will state “I was only there for a minute” even though they call an hour later.  

    It is these areas where parking technology is designed to provide verification of violation when an action is taken.  We use an automated phone service that records all incoming calls allowing our company to forward any conversation to the management company or board.  Our field agents wear body cameras for use during any interaction with a violator or just a passerby.  These are to refute the false allegations heard daily by management companies and HOA boards about the conduct of parking enforcement employees.

    Cloud based parking enforcement management programs allow for GPS location of any violation.  Pictures with time and date stamp allow for instant verification.  Notifications to the management company and board members are often provided if desired, when an enforcement action is taken.  An email notification with pictures and reason for enforcement is automatically sent to the appropriate designated parties.  This ensures that the enforcement action is known with supporting documentation that the management company will need when the phone calls start.

    Parking Enforcement tech is just a support tool for the foot patrols of the enforcement agent.  Parking enforcement begins by getting out of the vehicle and walking a property to ensure all vehicles are in compliance with the property parking rules.  Most companies don’t bother to take the time to put in the foot work needed to ensure people are complying with parking rules.  

    Joel Perri developed Park It Right, after 40 years in the towing industry, to provide a much softer approach to parking enforcement.  Taking into consideration all the problems facing multi-family communities, he developed a Remote Release Vehicle Boot and Boot Return Station receiving our Patent in April of 2017.  We took into account the Colorado sun, the problems electronics encounter in the elements and the boot had to be inexpensive.  Our No Tow Solution boot was designed without the bells and whistles but is extremely effective for multi-family communities.

  • 10/01/2018 1:46 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Justin Bayer, CAI-RMC Editorial Committee

    Every industry eventually has to get smarter.  Some take longer than others, to be sure, but eventually there comes a time when ignoring the future of technology and advancement can only be done to the detriment of a successful business.

    Change isn’t easy, and more often than not, change does not come without cost.  In a day and age where our iPhones and Androids rarely leave our hands, companies like Rainbird, Hunter, and Rachio (to name a few) are revolutionizing the way irrigation is managed.  They are doing this by keeping up with the curve of technological advancements, and these developments in irrigation controller tech have distinct advantages.

    Easier User Interfaces:

    Something that immediately stands out about the use of Smart Controllers is the way in which an irrigation system for an HOA, commercial business, individual home, or multi-family complex can now be accessed from your fingertips.  Let’s face it, in the past (and even present) irrigation controllers don’t exactly have a reputation for being user-friendly.  Setting up timers and running water to various zones for specific amounts of times can be learned with proper training or research, but as with all technology, there are ways to make this easier.  Technological advancement doesn’t always lead to an easier user experience; the more options there are means as a user you need to know more about the controller, more about how to set it up, and more about what different functions can provide to make for a more efficient experience.

    That being said, the companies developing intuitive technology around irrigation are creating avenues which make understanding their products infinitely easier for the “average person.”  This isn’t an insult to those who are not irrigation techs, this is just saying that functionality and user interface through a smartphone application developed in-house by these companies can be easier to digest than reading a 100-page manual on an irrigation controller.  No offense to Rainbird and Hunter, but that’s some pretty dry reading. 

    By making the options within the applications simple and concise, and the access to these applications more readily available than ever (you can check your Facebook, change your irrigation settings, and order yourself some take-out all from your couch!) understanding your irrigation system and making the proper changes is now more understandable and accessible than ever.    

    So you can access your irrigation controller from your phone, what other advantages are there?

    Sustainability: 

    Water is a hot topic, and rightfully so.  The effects of over-usage of water is noticeable in everyday life, with many advocates pressing for more efficient water-management.  Irrigation is important to the consumption of water, and this topic comes up often at Board meetings and walks with members of communities.  The water bills are too high, how can we lower them?  

    Smart Controllers have the capability to connect to Wi-Fi (which is how you access the controller from your phone) and take into account weather in order to make changes in the irrigation schedule for days when irrigation may be completely unnecessary.  So not only are you able to access and make changes to your controller from anywhere you have cell-phone service or wireless internet, but there are systems available which can make the changes for you.  If you’re managing a large portion of common area for an HOA and your system waters everything during a rainy day, you’ve not only wasted countless gallons of water, you’ve also wasted you or your Association’s own money.  Utilize the advanced technology enough times and the controller has paid for itself, not to mention that water is no longer being needlessly wasted. 

    Smart Controllers are not for everyone.  A lot of people struggle with new technology, and with change.  There is a learning curve to every advancement, and if running irrigation through an application is not for you, that’s okay.  Companies like Rainbird and Hunter have additional options for rain sensors that monitor the weather to turn-off controllers during rain storms which are physically connected to the controllers, or through Wi-Fi.  The point is there are options to make positive change, and the companies on the cutting-edge of irrigation technology will continue to create systems that make managing an irrigation controller easier, but most importantly, more sustainable.

  • 10/01/2018 1:45 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Clint Larson, 303tech 

    What is the cloud even about?

    The “cloud,” as it was originally described, was meant to define the space between the owner of the data, and where the data was physically stored. Many were skeptical of the viability and longevity of this emerging technology.  Almost 20 years later, there are “clouds” almost everywhere: iCloud, Google Drive, Drobox, OneDrive, SharePoint, AWS, and several others.  Now, cloud services are becoming common place and even sought after by business of all shapes and sizes for several good reasons.

    Why should the data be moved to the cloud?

    Security, Reliability, and Expandability.  Companies like Microsoft are spending more than $1Billion dollars per year in security and security related areas, every single year.  The very best datacenters (the physical location for the data) have redundancies built in at every possible point.  Multiple locations in the United States, multiple internet connections, multiple power sources, routers, firewalls, and especially multiple servers.  All this redundancy so the data can be accessed at anytime from anywhere on any device.  When more space is needed, it can just be added.  No need to purchase additional servers or buy more hard drives.  The storage systems are almost limitless. 

    Are all clouds created the same?

    No, these clouds are not created the same, there is no water cycle here.  There are many different options and tons of ways to connect and develop these options.  People have used the analogy of a tool in a tool box.  When you first start looking at cloud services and options, it is like going into a lumber store for the first time.  Hammers and nails and boards, Oh My!  It can be overwhelming, intimidating, and even daunting to figure out what pieces and parts are needed to build the proper cloud solution.  Choosing a great technical partner is essential in finding and deploying the proper cloud service that will provide a long-term solution.

    How does this relate to the community or Management Company?

    For Home Owner Associations and Management Companies alike, the data that is generated and the records that are created are the second most important asset to the association, the first being the physical property itself.  Just like the physical property, the digital assets need to be protected and maintained as well. When you look at the total cost of ownership of the other options available, the numbers just don’t add up.  Cloud services can provide better security, reliability, and expandability than owning and managing any physical device.  In the proper cloud solution, the Association’s data can exist on several different servers, across several different data centers, around the United States.  This ensures that the Association’s next biggest asset is being protected and maintained properly at all times.

    How to get started with the cloud.

    First you need to get the right cloud and choosing a great technical partner is essential.  Choosing a cloud provider is a marriage of sorts, and there needs to be confidence that it’s a relationship that the community can live with for the foreseeable future.  Secondly understand that it is more about the people than the process.  Adoption to the cloud can be challenging for some people.  Simplification and proper training will go a long way to help organizations use and get the benefit of cloud services.  Getting over the psychological barriers of not “owning” the data.  It is not true.  Owning a physical server in a building does not allow any more “ownership” of the data then storing it in the cloud.  Hackers and viruses can more easily breach the security on a small business than one that is spending more than a billion dollars a year keeping the data secure.

    Changing servers to cloud services or changing board members or management companies, the end goal is to keep the association data safe.  Emails and documents alike contain important and valuable information about the community and this needs to be protected.  Proper cloud services can eliminate many of the challenges and allow the community, the Board, and the Managers to be confident that the assets are being protected and secured.

    Clint Larson is the principle of 303tech and he is a Microsoft Certified Silver Cloud Solutions Provider for Small and Medium Business.  Clint is currently serving as the President of the IAMCP chapter for Colorado.  He has served the HOA community as a technical specialist and board member for more than 15 years.  To find out more please visit 303tech.com

  • 10/01/2018 1:42 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Adam Brown, Esq., Moeller Graf, P.C.

    Recent studies show that as of 2018, 95% of Americans own a cell phone of some kind, and 77% of Americans now own a smartphone. We are increasingly able to communicate instantaneously with almost anyone we know via email, messaging applications, voice calls, and even through video chat applications such as Skype and FaceTime. With the ability to conduct business through these means, Boards of Directors have the ability to streamline communication and share information quickly and seamlessly.

    This Article will briefly address both some of the practical benefits, as well as some of the potential pitfalls, of using technology to conduct community association business. 

    The first of these practical benefits is the ability to conduct meetings when one or more members of the Board are unable to attend a live, in-person meeting. Unless otherwise provided in the bylaws of the community, the Board of Directors may permit any director to participate in a regular or special meeting by, or conduct the meeting through the use of, any means of communication by which all directors participating may hear each other during the meeting. This may be just a simple telephone call, but could also include other telecommunication applications such as the ones mentioned above. 

    The second way that Boards often make use of technology to conduct business is by taking action outside of a meeting, through the use of email voting. In general, many communities have the necessary authority for this – although not all communities do. Under the Colorado Nonprofit Act, unless otherwise provided in the bylaws, any action to be taken at a directors’ meeting may be taken without a meeting if a notice stating the action to be taken and the time by which the director must respond is transmitted in writing to each member of the Board and each member of the Board, by the time stated in the notice either (a) votes for such action; or (b) votes against action, abstains from voting or fails to respond or vote and fails to demand that the action be taken at a meeting.

    The pitfalls of voting via email come in when trying to keep sufficient records of these communications. This raises the practical questions of how Boards should determine which e-mails to save, how to retain such e-mails, and other related issues.  The following are some practical ideas to help your Board avoid these pitfalls:

    First, it is always recommended that Board members set up a separate email account (other than his/her personal email account) to conduct Board business. The reason is that if a Board member is served with a subpoena for his or her e-mails, not only will the e-mails related to Board business be subject to it, but all other e-mails sent and received from that account could also be discoverable. A practical idea that many Boards utilize is to create Google or Yahoo accounts to tie email addresses to certain positions on the Board, e.g. hoasecretary@gmail.com – which can then be passed on to subsequent officers holding that position. 

    Second, Boards should keep in mind that under the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act, the Association is required to keep minutes of all meetings of the Board, including written communications among, and votes cast by, the Board members that are directly related to an action taken outside of a meeting (if permitted under the Bylaws and/or Colorado law). With this in mind, if your Board conducts voting via email, either the community manager or the Board secretary should be designated to save and file all such voting records of the Board, in order to comply with the statute and to be able to produce these records if requested by an owner. These voting records should also be filed with the minutes of the Board at the next live meeting.

    With the above issues in mind, it is typically recommended that actions and decisions outside of a meeting be kept to a minimum, and to limit these situations to urgent matters where the Board cannot call a special meeting or wait until the next Board meeting to discuss the issue.

    And, call me old-fashioned, but despite the convenience of technology, my experience strongly suggests that important community association issues are often addressed most positively in face-to-face meetings with your fellow Board members. 

    Adam Brown is an associate attorney with the law firm of Moeller Graf, P.C. in the Denver metro-area. Adam has practiced community association law exclusively since 2015. He has extensive experience advising associations in all areas of community association governance, including drafting and interpreting governing documents, reviewing and drafting contracts and real estate documents, and advising communities regarding compliance with applicable state and federal laws. Adam regularly attends Board meetings and homeowner meetings, and particularly enjoys mediating the high-conflict situations that sometimes arise in those settings through a practical, solutions-focused approach.

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