How to handle pest problems

Last month, a Florida woman was awarded a $5 million settlement from her homeowners association and community management company for not warning residents about a snake problem in the community. When stepping out onto her back patio in July 2015, a water moccasin bit her toe. The woman was lucky to live, but her leg had to be amputated below the knee as a result of the venomous snake’s bite.

According to a University of Florida study, running into a water moccasin, also known as cottonmouths, is 8.6 times higher in the community than in the Everglades, which are nearby. Especially during the rainy season, snakes are known to seek drier ground, which sometimes includes residents’ property. The Florida community now posts signs warning residents about venomous snakes.

It’s not uncommon for conflict with wildlife in community associations. So, how can association boards protect themselves from incidents like this?

“As with any potential common area hazard, the board and management should pay attention to complaints or reports of a potential problem,” says Kelly G. Richardson, cofounder and managing partner of Richardson Ober in Pasadena, Calif., a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL), and a CAI past president. “The key is to respond reasonably to known issues.”

In this particular instance, a simple warning to residents could have been enough.

Richardson also recommends contacting an appropriate service provider to investigate potential problems and recommend solutions. Associations should rely on that expert advice when implementing solutions. For example, a pest control expert might be able to identify architectural or landscaping features that contribute to or allow pest problems to grow.

Associations also should review their rules, explains Richardson. If residents are feeding animals or birds outside, that, in turn, could attract more wildlife and pests. A rule prohibiting residents from feeding animals or birds might help.

Lastly, Richardson stresses that associations have ample liability insurance. “If the injury is bad enough, even the most careful association could have a hard time opposing the sympathy factor from a severely harmed plaintiff,” he adds.

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Hot Home Trend: Bringing Back the Brass

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine We’ve seen brass fixtures gradually coming back over the last few years, and the trend is only getting bigger. Golden brass tones can warm up some of your décor. However, after being inundated with silver finishes–like chrome and stainless steel–over the last few years, some still consider brass as […]

Why Scoop the Poop?

Americans adore their pets. More than 43 million dogs and 36 million cats live in U.S. households—and many of them belong to the 68 million Americans who live in homeowners associations, condominiums, cooperatives, and common-interest communities. Besides being a nuisance, uncollected pet waste is a serious problem. Remember these facts:

1. Under the Clean Water Act, community associations could be fined by the Environmental Protection Agency if pet waste goes uncollected. If fined by the EPA, a community association could face a potential special assessment that would be levied against all residents—not just pet owners.

2. The appearance and quality of the common areas are known to affect home sales—not just whether and for how much they sell, but how quickly.

3. The more residents complain about pet waste, the more time board members and community managers must spend on enforcement rather than serving the association.

4. Uncollected pet waste can spread disease and attract rodents who feed on pet waste.

Read more about pet problems and solutions in Pet Policies: How Community Associations Maintain Peace & Harmony.

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Sea, Sand, and Sustainability

In the May/June issue of Common Ground, CAI profiled Seabrook Island, S.C., a 2,400-acre coastal barrier island tucked away 20 miles south of Charleston, S.C. A maritime forest, marshes, and miles of beach make Seabrook Island a wildlife haven. The community’s residents have acted to preserve the area’s delicate habitat and promote sustainability.

The 1,800 residents who occupy the 2,594 properties of Seabrook Island Property Owners Association don’t take for granted the miles of pristine beach on the Atlantic Ocean and North Edisto River. They delight in watching bottlenose dolphins from the shore and spotting bald eagles soaring overhead.

They take advantage of this wildlife haven by exploring the community’s 14-acre lake, miles of biking and hiking trails, and more than 500 acres of common property.

That’s why the association embarked on an effort to protect and preserve the area’s natural beauty and create a plan to prolong the island’s sustainability. That’s also how it recently became the first in the state to be designated a Certified Sustainable Community by environmental education nonprofit Audubon International.

Download a PDF of the entire article “Sea, Sand, and Sustainability” and—for a limited time only—access the entire May/June issue of Common Ground through the magazine’s digital edition.

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Make the Front Porch a Selling Point

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine The front porch is making a comeback. And more builders are adding them back into new home designs. The front porch was once a mainstay in home designs in the early 1900s. But over the years it has gotten swapped out for those street-facing garages. Also, homeowners sought more […]

Fly Old Glory Fly

On June 14, 1777, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress at Philadelphia adopted a resolution that “the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.” Though the American flag has changed a few times over the years, we’ve stuck to the Stars and Stripes format since. It’s why we celebrate Flag Day today.

The U.S. flag has profound meaning for many Americans, which is why CAI applauded the 2006 enactment of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, giving residents the right to fly an American flag despite any community association rules or restrictions that prevent doing such. CAI believes, however, that associations should be able to determine the appropriate size, placement, and installation of flags. A few tips for flying Old Glory, based on the U.S. Flag Code, are included in the graphic at left. 

Every community association has different rules for displaying flags, whether they be the American flag, a garden flag, or a flag with a resident’s favorite football team. These rules are conceived and enforced to promote uniformity within community associations and avoid the potential proliferation of all flags, banners, and emblems.

For more information about rules and regulations regarding flags, read Everyday Governance: The Community Association’s Guide to Flags, Rentals, Holiday Decorations, Hoops, and Other Headaches, available from CAI Press.

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The Value of Volunteering

We’ve known for decades that CAI homeowner volunteers, community managers, and business partners work hard every day to ensure the well-being of their community associations. Over the past two years, we’ve also discovered that CAI members are dedicated to bettering the world around them.

During our 2018 Annual Conference and Exposition, CAI partnered with Clean the World, a global social enterprise focused on improving health through water, sanitation, and hygiene to help those in need. CAI volunteers assembled more than 500 hygiene kits to donate to D.C.-area homeless veterans. That volunteer effort followed on the heels of the 2017 Annual Conference and Exposition, when CAI members bagged 10,000 pounds of pet food for the PAL Humane Society in Las Vegas.

These two instances of giving back occurred while CAI members were enjoying our events, and we’re confident our members exhibit the same volunteerism on their own time and within their local areas. Given the very nature of community associations, it should come as no surprise that CAI members are acutely aware of the value of volunteerism.

Chances are good they’d be ready to share the 10 following reasons why you should volunteer in your community association:

1. Safeguard your self-interests. Protect your property values and maintain the quality of life in your community.

2. Correct a problem. Has your car been towed, or do you think maintenance has been neglected?

3. Be sociable. Meet your neighbors and make friends.

4. Give back. Repay a little of what’s been done for you.

5. Advance your career. Build your personal resume by including community volunteer service on it.

6. Have fun. Association work isn’t drudgery. It’s fun accomplishing good things with your neighbors.

7. Get educated. Learn how it’s done—we’ll train you.

8. Express yourself. Help with creative projects like community beautification.

9. Earn recognition. If you would like a little attention or validation, your contributions will be recognized and celebrated.

10. Try some altruism. Improve society by helping others.

For more information about volunteering, check out CAI’s Volunteers: How Community Associations Thrive, available for purchase at CAI Press.


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Survey Says: Residents Satisfied with Their Community


For the seventh time in 13 years, Americans living in homeowners associations and condominiums say they’re overwhelmingly satisfied in their communities, according to the 2018 Homeowner Satisfaction Survey, conducted by Zogby Analytics for the Foundation for Community Association Research. Sixty-three percent of respondents say they are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their community association living experience, while 22 percent report a neutral response.

More than 60 percent of survey respondents say their association’s rules protect and enhance their property values, while 28 percent say they have a neutral effect. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed expressed that neighbors elected to the governing board “absolutely” or “for the most part” serve the best interests of their communities.

Other highlights include:

  • 73 percent say their community managers provide value and support to residents and their associations.
  • 81 percent say they are on friendly terms with their association board.
  • 80 percent say they prefer either no change or less government control within their association.
  • 60 percent say their association assessments are “just the right
    amount”—or “too little.

Read the complete report at

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Be a Neighbor

The following initially appeared as “In This Issue” in Common Ground‘s May/June 2018 issue.

Fred Rogers had a unique ability to address difficult topics, such as disability, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, and racial integration, in a thoughtful and compassionate way that related to children and adults in his show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

The iconic program, which ran from 1968 to 2001, emphasized uplifting philosophies, kindness, and courage. I wonder how he would address the polarizing times we live in today.

Research shows the partisan divide on political values has never been higher in the U.S., and an informal poll of CAI members indicates that animosity among residents in community associations may be increasing. See a few results from Member Pulse at right, then read “Divide and Conquer” in the issue for a discussion on the topic.

Partisan animosity in politics has never been higher. Have you noticed an increase in animosity among residents in your community?

To be sure, there are many reasons other than politics for animosity in communities, yet if it’s true that all politics is local, there are no governing bodies more local than community associations. Maybe common-interest communities are where any divide that exists can begin to be solved. Many associations work hard to bring their residents together and create harmony. There are many projects worth rallying around.

At Seabrook Island, S.C., its residents rallied around efforts to preserve the area’s delicate habitat. That’s how the community recently became the first in the state to be designated as a Certified Sustainable Community by Audubon International. Read all about Seabrook’s work in “Sea, Sand, and Sustainability.”

Residents of Venture Out in Mesa, Ariz., have dedicated themselves to comprehensive long-range planning. When Common Ground profiled the wagon-wheel shaped recreational vehicle community in the May/June 2016 issue, the community was benefiting from the fruits of its first long-range plan and about to embark on its second. Now, you can read in “Another Worthy Venture” how both plans came together. Inclusion, engagement, transparency, and constant communication were critical elements.

Have you noticed an increasing number of homeowners resistant to being governed by their community association in the polarizing times we live in now?

Those values would be important in nearly every situation, including when your high-rise is at the center of construction-defect and fraud litigation (“That Sinking Feeling”) and when your community is dealing with a board recall (“Total Recall”).

Fittingly, a new documentary called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” about Fred Rogers’ transcendent show will be released this summer. Maybe we can pick up some additional bridge-building, divide-conquering solutions there.

>>CAI members can access the May/June Common Ground and each of the articles mentioned above at

>>Nonmembers may download a PDF of “Sea, Sand, and Sustainability” and—for a limited time only—can access the entire May/June issue through the magazine’s digital edition.

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