Sunday, May 26, 2013

What are the real reasons for certain association rules?

My husband returned from a recent meeting at a condominium and told me that he was required by a condominium employee to go back and re-park his car "head-in" to the guest parking spot he was occupying. When my better half inquired why parking head-in was preferable to head out, the guard told him "I don't make the rules, I only enforce them."
Since it is easier for most people to pull out into traffic when leaving as opposed to backing out into traffic, we were unable to come up with a reason for this particular rule. When confronted with certain rules that, on their surface make no sense, many people want an explanation and, if given a reasonable one, will gladly comply.
Hopefully, there are perfectly logical reasons for the majority of rules that associations promulgate and enforce. I often wonder if it wouldn't be best for a board or manager to list what those reasons are so people can have an "Aha" moment. Let's look at the most typical association rules and try to divine the reasonable goals that are being sought. 
  • Restrictions on guest occupancy. Possible reason:  safety and security is enhanced by knowing who is residing in the community at any given moment.
  • Restrictions on commercial vehicles. Possible reasons:  aesthetic concerns; size of parking spaces.
  • Restrictions on exterior paint colors. Possible reason: aesthetic concerns.
  • Prohibitions against exterior signage of any sort. Possible reasons:  aesthetic concerns; concerns that residents may be misled by quality of vendors; concerns about message of sign being defamatory or disturbing.
  • Restrictions on leasing. Possible reasons:  high percentage of rentals may make community unappealing to lenders; same safety and security concerns with guests/visitors.
  • Restrictions on elevator use. Possible reasons: certain activities associated with a move or a unit renovation may result in damage to the elevator and/or unavailability to other residents for a prolonged period of time; harsh or abnormal use is likely to result in expensive repairs.
  • Pet restrictions.  Possible reasons:  pets create certain issues connected with their maintenance including noise, waste, and possible injury to others.
  • Head-in parking.  Possible reason:  ???
What rules have you seen that made you scratch your head and wonder: Why?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Association restrictions a welcome relief from ineffective city ordinances?

Last Christmas I took my young niece and nephew to visit a house in western Broward County that is very celebrated for its holiday display. As promised, the house was ablaze with lights, the grounds were filled with toys and other scenes designed to entrance young visitors and even an outdoor movie screen had been set up to play Disney Christmas movies.
Not surprisingly, my niece and nephew were delighted and my husband and I also saw the charm although we both looked at the narrow cul de sac packed with cars and trash on an empty lot and overflowing to the neighbors' surrounding homes and said simultaneously: "nice but not to live next door to this."
It turns out I did know someone who lives in this cul de sac and they lamented about having to deal with the issues not just for the Twelve Days of Christmas but starting in September and running through January. While it is easy to paint anyone who is not fully supportive of a 5-month holiday celebration that draws tens of thousands of visitors steps from your front door as "anti Christmas and anti kids" the reality can be quite different. Try getting an ambulance through during one of the more active nights and you might just need Santa's sleigh to take you to the hospital. On a less serious note, plastic displays that look lovely at night can look cheap and unappealing in the unforgiving light of day and particularly to that new homebuyer inspecting a property in mid October when a holiday display is not an expected sight.
According to one report, the homeowners previously lived in a community association but when their increasingly lavish display became incompatible with the association lifestyle the decision was made to move to a home outside the parameters of a mandatory association.
While many people critique association rules and regulations, the folks on that Plantation cul de sac who have been unable to obtain help from their city officials might just embrace them come September!

Read the Sun Sentinel story here:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What individual owner behaviors pose a safety and security risk for your community?

If you live on a farm with the nearest neighbor miles down the road, the following behaviors may impact you and your family but they are not likely to hurt anyone else. However, choose the same behavioral path with the nearest neighbor separated by only some drywall or a fence and the result can be much more harmful.
  • Smoking: The biggest issues right now with smoking in multifamily buildings concern secondhand smoke and its detrimental impact on health. While that behavior certainly falls within the category of personal conduct impacting others, another possible impact is burning down the building if you fall asleep while smoking. More than one celebrity has died with a lit nicotine product in hand; no need to add innocent condominium and cooperative owners to that list.
  • Candles:  Most people love the smell of scented candles as an enhancement to a home's ambiance. However, that beautiful scent can soon turn to the smell of acrid smoke if the candle lights nearby objects on fire. Burning candles requires some form of vigilance and people who live next to candle aficionados hope that vigilance is utilized.
  • Questionable taste in guests: Tell people who they can and can't have in their homes as guests and you are certain to encounter a vigorous debate if not an outright fight. However, some guests and occupants do create safety and security problems for the entire community particularly when those guests and occupants engage in domestic violence. Registered sex offenders and sexual predators also do not make the most welcome guests in shared ownership communities for all the obvious reasons.
  • Poor screening of renters:  It has always amazed me that some people care very little about screening the people who will be living in their home. Perhaps in some cases, it is naiveté and in others perhaps the property was intended to be a rental so the owner lacks an emotional connection to it. In any event, owners who fail to find out who is moving into their properties put their neighbors at risk for reasons outlined in the questionable guest category above.
  • Poor screening of workers:  It might not cross some people's minds to find out who is cleaning their home, cutting their lawn, working on their roof, serving as a caretaker for an ailing parent, etc. If these folks are working on your isolated farm, that is one thing. If they are working in a community and they are intent on mischief or wrongdoing, that lack of foresight and screening also becomes your neighbors' problem.
  • Reckless driving: Driving an ATV on  country back-roads might result in no harm other than some frightened critters. However, in a crowded community, reckless driving on HOA roads or in the condominium association's parking garage or parking lot can result in injury or death.
  • Noise/Nuisance:  Some might argue that cranking up the decibel levels with little to no soundproofing to shield your neighbors can result in hearing loss. If nothing else, the noises you make at odd hours could certainly result in your neighbors losing sleep.
  • Not addressing water leaks: You know better than anyone if there is water entering your unit on a steady basis. If you contend it is your association's responsibility to repair that leak, you still have a responsibility to mitigate your damages (and that of your neighbors) by stopping the water entry if possible. Allowing water to sit in your unit can create mold which can spread quickly throughout a multifamily building.
  • Pest infestation:  If you know you have bugs in your property, do something about it. If you live in a single family home in an HOA and find out you have termites, failing to address that problem can spread to your neighbors' homes. If you live in a multifamily building and have refused to allow the association to perform routine pest prevention in your unit, you are putting your neighbors' homes at risk when the pests in your place decide to check out the neighboring digs. 
  • Dogs and Choice of Breeds:  I remember the case years ago about the woman killed by a particularly aggressive dog breed, the Presa Canario, in her building. This is not an indictment of certain breeds but some dogs do need more exercise and places to roam and have more aggressive personalities. Those breeds are not the best choice when you are living in a multifamily building where you share space in the corridors and elevators with others. Some may not even be the best choice when you live in an HOA and share common park space and other green areas. Leash laws should naturally be obeyed at all times no matter how much you love Sparky.                                         

Many of the more insidious problems in shared ownership communities involve people forgetting what it takes to be a good neighbor. If none of the behaviors above concern you, perhaps that farm is the place you ought to be!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Speedier Bank Foreclosures in Florida thanks to recent legislation!

Another important victory for Florida community associations occurred during the 2013 Florida Legislative Session! HB 87 - Mortgage Foreclosures by Representative Kathleen Passidomo (R - Naples) has passed the Legislature by a 36 to 13 vote! The third time must be the charm as this year finally saw the passage of this much-needed relief after failing two years in a row.
 Far too many associations have been held in limbo waiting for banks to foreclose on delinquent properties in their communities. HB 87 will give associations a new tool in the form of an Order to Show Cause to force banks to proceed expeditiously with their foreclosure actions unless they can produce a compelling reason they cannot do so. Of course, if an association is already renting out property to which it took title and does not wish to speed up the bank's foreclosure, it should not avail itself of this new Order to Show Cause tool. However, for the vast majority of associations who cannot rent out delinquent properties in their community either because they have not taken title to those properties or those properties are not in rent-able condition, this bill will provide an ability to speed up the bank's foreclosure action.

The highlights of this bill include:
  • Reduces the time period within which a lender can seek a deficiency judgment from the current 5 years to 1 year.
  • Requires that the lender's complaint disclose certain facts and confirm the availability of certain documentation supporting the lender's right to foreclose in order to ensure that the foreclosure can be successfully prosecuted.
  • Makes it harder for parties seeking to set aside or challenge a final judgment of foreclosure in order to safeguard the quality or character of the title to the property.
  • In the case of an owner-occupied residential property, the amount of a deficiency judgment may not exceed the difference between the judgment amount (or in the case of a short sale, the outstanding debt) and the fair market value of the property on the date of sale.
  • A condominium association, cooperative association or homeowner's association may request an order to show cause for the entry of a final judgment in the bank's foreclosure action in chambers and without a hearing.
  • The order to show cause shall set the date and time for a hearing to show cause and that hearing date may not occur sooner than the later of 20 days after service of the order to show cause or 45 days after service of the initial complaint.
  • The order to show cause shall state that the court may enter an order of final judgment of foreclosure at the hearing and order the clerk of the court to conduct a foreclosure sale.
  • The court may enter a default against the lender if it fails to appear at the hearing to show cause, fails to file defenses by a motion or by a verified or sworn answer or files an answer which does not contest the foreclosure.
  • Allows for the granting of attorney's fees for the order to show cause if the mortgage provides for reasonable attorney's fees and the requested fees do not exceed 3% of the principal amount owed at the time of filing the complaint.
  • The provisions of this bill apply to "all mortgages encumbering real property and all promissory notes secured by a mortgage, whether executed before, on, or after the effective date of this act." However, the order to show cause provisions "apply to causes of action pending on the effective date of this act."
  • HB 87 takes effect upon becoming law which means that the date when the Governor signs it or lets it pass into law without his signature is the effective date of the foregoing provisions.
The mortgage defense attorneys and their clients have already mounted an effort to urge the Governor to veto this bill. We have been waiting a long time to give associations a greater say in the mortgage foreclosure actions that have been pending, in some cases, for years. We are in the homestretch with relief on the way. If you would like to send a message to the Governor about this bill you may email him at: