Winter is coming: Prepare your home and community now

Winter doesn’t officially start until Dec. 21, but it’s already making its presence known in many areas across the country.

The cold and wet conditions of the season can wreak havoc on unprepared community associations and homeowners. Whether you’re waiting for Old Man Winter to make its first appearance or you’re already cleaning up from a pre-season storm, you should take steps to winterize your home and community now.

Follow the simple checklists below and tackle the most time-sensitive tasks:

Indoor winterizing

  • Examine doors and replace weather-stripping as needed
  • Examine window caulking and reseal where needed
  • Examine and repair vents where needed
  • Clean chimneys and flues
  • Remove items near heat vents
  • Place nonskid runners or door mats outside to help keep water, sand, and salt out of the house

Outdoor winterizing

  • Cut back tree branches and shrubs that hide signs or block light
  • Examine outdoor handrails and tighten if needed
  • Turn off electrical breakers for outdoor equipment
  • Close hose bibs
  • Clean out gutters and downspouts
  • Clear yard drains
  • Spray outdoor locks and hinges with lubricant
  • Stake driveway and walkway edges that may be difficult to find under deep snow

You and your community also should assemble, stockpile, or refresh the following supplies:

  • Batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • Ice melt and deicer
  • Sand
  • Snow shovels
  • Generator fuel
  • Antifreeze

For more information and resources about community association living, visit www.caionline.org.

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Hanging the stockings with care: Developing a holiday decoration policy that doesn’t turn into a lump of coal

With their celebrations, gifts, and good wishes, the holidays are a time to be thankful and festive. Often that means decorating your home, office, and even car. But in some community associations, a resident’s seemingly innocent act of holiday cheer can be interpreted as a malicious disregard for association rules.

How can your association avoid a dispute over holiday decorating? By considering both your residents’ rights to celebrate and your association’s ability to institute architectural guidelines that protect and enhance its aesthetic characteristics. Developing a policy doesn’t have to be a complicated or controversial process.

“Rather than adopt a rule under pressure, why not take the time to think it through before the need arises?” attorney Lucia Anna “Pia” Trigiani writes in her book, Reinventing the Rules: A Step-by-Step Guide for Being Reasonable. “Anticipating your association’s future needs and establishing rules for them now puts you in a proactive rather than reactive position.”

The rulemaking process should involve the entire community:

Committees. The responsibility of researching and drafting the initial policy may fall on the architectural or rules committee, which should poll the board as well as residents to discover their preferences.

Professionals. Consult with your community manager and attorney. These experts might know of other associations that have dealt with the same problem, and they also can help make sure your policy is consistent with your association’s governing documents as well as state and local laws.

Residents. After the committee has drafted the initial policy and the board has reviewed it, it’s time to go back to your residents for feedback. Distribute copies of the proposed language for everyone to review. If applicable, incorporate resident concerns and suggestions into the final policy.

As for how your association handles decorations on common areas, amenities, or community buildings, you might consider the following:

  • If your decorations include religious symbols, make sure that every religion is represented, so as not to alienate or upset anyone.
  • You don’t need to overdo the tinsel and plastic figurines. Sometimes less is more. It’s hard to pull off loads of decorations tastefully.
  • If your decorating plan includes draping outdoor trees with lights, be sure the lights don’t shine in anyone’s windows. Consult with your residents before you start stringing.

Whatever your community decides, don’t lose sight of what’s really important: celebrating the holiday season. This time of year offers great opportunities for your residents to get to know one another and become involved in association operations. It may seem like a lot of work for a bunch of lights and some tinsel, but developing and communicating a reasonable decorations policy can help avoid disputes and keep everyone in the holiday spirit.

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3 ‘Subtle’ Holiday Staging Tips

Want to give your listing a little holiday flair–without going overboard?  Elyza Brillantes, design program manager at Havenly, offers some of the following tips: 1. Infuse greenery. Greenery is always a must for staging your home so the space feels fresh. “For the holidays, seasonal greenery like evergreen boughs can be a lovely way to […]

What to know before you buy in a community association

People choose to live in community associations for numerous reasons. Many owners value the inherent benefits of community associations, which are designed to manage common areas of the property, manage the property interests of owners, provide services for owners, and develop a sense of community through social activities and amenities. Yet community association living isn’t for everyone.

Do your due diligence by learning all you can about a community before you buy or rent a home in it.

First, ask your real estate agent to see copies of the governing documents, including the bylaws or Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (sometimes referred to as CC&Rs).

Next, take the time to talk to people who live in the community. Find out how they feel not only about the neighborhood, but also about how the community is governed and managed. Ask to talk to the president of the association, members of the elected board, or the professional who manages the community.

Don’t forget to check out the common areas. Are the amenities—pools, tennis courts, and playgrounds—well-maintained? Is there ample parking?

You should be able to answer the following questions before you buy or rent:

  • How much are the assessments? When are payments due? How much are they likely to increase? What do they cover? What don’t they cover?
  • Does the community have a viable reserve fund for major projects in the future?
  • Are there renting restrictions?
  • Do the architectural guidelines suit your preferences?
  • What are the rules with respect to pets, flags, outside antennas, satellite dishes, clotheslines, fences, patios, and home-based businesses?

While assessments, rules, and regulations are important, don’t overlook other fundamental questions: Is it the right kind of community for you and your family? Does it fit your lifestyle and sense of community? Does it provide the amenities you want? Is it a good investment? The more you know in advance, the more likely you’ll enjoy your new home and community association.

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