Monday, March 26, 2018

Summer Shut-Down Considerations for Seasonal Communities

If your community is a seasonal one that tends to thin out over the summer months, what rules or policies do you have in place to ensure that your association continues to operate smoothly and transparently over the summer months?

The less crowded summer months in some communities provide an optimal time to pursue important projects related to maintenance, capital improvements and updating your documents. In addition, there are concerns that need to be addressed given the fact that our 6-month hurricane season typically coincides with an increase in the number of absentee owners in your community.

Some of the items your board should consider as the summer approaches include:


1.      Rules Related to Absentee Owners.  These rules may require owners who leave their units vacant for many consecutive weeks or months to:

  • Keep their AC on at a certain level to avoid conditions which would encourage mold growth.
  • Shut off water to the unit to avoid leaks.
  • Engage a caretaker to check on the unit at regular intervals to ensure that the unit's condition is maintained and to afford access to the association for pest control and other services/inspections as needed.
  • Engage a caretaker to close up the unit in the advance of a storm which should include removing all items from the balcony or patio, putting up shutters or other storm protection and returning the unit to its pre-storm condition in a reasonable period of time after the storm passes.
  • Provide updated contact information which the association may use in case of an emergency.
2.      Capital Improvement Projects.  Large projects which impact the common areas, limited common elements and/or the units can be very difficult in a fully occupied building.  The summer months can provide an ideal time to undertake some of these projects when fewer residents are around. Painting, roof replacement, concrete restoration, pool deck renovations, ELSS and other Life Safety installations and lobby/corridor renovations are all projects which naturally involve varying degrees of impact to the quality of life for owners while they are underway. You can stage these projects with your contractors to take into account which units are vacant and when.

3.      Summer Projects.  The summer months often provide an optimal time for long-delayed projects such as a document rewrite. You can establish a Committee of residents who can work with your association attorney to discuss desired changes and the summer months afford you enough time to allow for review of several iterations of the language in order to prepare for a membership vote in the fall or winter months.

4.      Maintain Routines.   Even though the summer months may be quiet in your community, you must maintain a schedule of meetings and steady communication to your members. This is particularly important to ensure that the year-round residents continue to benefit from a fully functioning association. This means that monthly board meetings can and should continue. Out of town board members can attend by speaker phone or Skype.  While your summer meetings may briefer and content for your newsletter may be lighter during these months, maintaining consistent communication is what counts.


If all or some of your board members are gone for the summer, it is important that the Directors delineate duties amongst themselves and not overload the one or two board members who may be full-time residents. Even though summer months meant a break from responsibility for many of us when we were students, being a board member is a year-round job so take the proper steps needed to continue to serve your community even during the summer.

Monday, March 12, 2018

When construction occurs next door, your Board needs to get involved early!

It's likely that at some point during your community's lifespan, new construction will occur nearby and the impact on your residents will vary both short and long-term depending on the steps your Board takes early in the process. Sometimes new construction is welcomed enthusiastically by the members of an established community but more often than not, nearby construction strikes dread in the hearts and minds of many residents and board members who fear noise, disruption, debris, impaired views and incidental damage.


Communities facing the prospect of new construction next door should not go "on the attack" but should engage experienced counsel to help them navigate the construction process, set realistic expectations for their residents, reach agreement on protective measures to be provided by the contractor/developer, and receive compensation where appropriate.  If handled properly, the new construction can do much to enhance your community's value. If mishandled, you could wind up with new construction that encroaches on your land, damages your landscaping and exterior amenities, adversely impacts drainage, and, in severe cases, causes structural cracks in your buildings.

Naturally, the individuals or corporate entity driving the new construction want your community's support to sail through the governmental approval process. Boards who feel that their concerns and issues have been properly addressed by the developer next door will be much more likely to provide that support.

There are many factors to discuss and consider with the developer including the intensity of the proposed use, traffic, compatibility issues, construction management, easement agreements, rezoning, and other material issues.  Municipal Land Developer Codes usually require public participation so starting a dialogue early in the process affords your Board with an opportunity for your community and the developer to speak with a unified voice and to address major issues and concerns before being heard in a public hearing.  The developer will certainly want to address your concerns in private rather than face them at a public hearing.


Some common issues that should be addressed include:

  • Debris
  • Nuisance
  • Structural impact
  • Encroachments (both on their side and yours)
  • View Impairment
  • Buffering and noise mitigation measures
  • Trademark Infringement (depending on the name of the new community, shopping center, etc.)
  • Security
These kinds of negotiations may take six months to well over a year and will include your counsel attending and speaking at multiple Board meetings, Developer Town Halls, Municipal Public Hearings, researching City Zoning and Land Use, reviewing Mas6ter Plan Design guidelines, clarifying construction issues/timelines and negotiating the design to take into account view-lines, setbacks, traffic, loading, etc.


If you serve on an association board, you well know that directors are sometimes held responsible by some community members for issues completely outside your control. Don't let neighboring construction become another boiling point in your community.


If you currently have construction proposed or underway near your community and you wish to learn how to best protect your community's rights, please email me at dberger@beckerlawyers.com or call 954-364-6031.