Category Archives: advocacy

What do community associations look like in China?

Shanghai urban skyline, China

Picture this: A place where community associations aren’t legally able to have their own bank accounts, property management companies can retain ownership of common areas and rent them out without homeowners’ consent, and developers interfere with board elections because they are opposed to the formation of community associations. While this might seem improbable, situations like these occur frequently in China.

In the U.S., the community association housing model has become commonplace. According to the latest figures from the Foundation for Community Association Research, there are roughly 344,500 common-interest communities across the country. CAI has chapters throughout the world, including Canada, the Middle East, and South Africa, and relationships with housing officials in Australia, Spain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom. But how prevalent are community associations elsewhere in the world?

They’re a recent development in China, emerging shortly after housing reforms in the 1990s. Previously, urban housing was mainly provided by danwei, or place of employment. Danwei were organized by occupation and were both a physical space where people lived and a system whereby the government could regulate residents’ decisions and actions. With economic and political reform, this system largely became obsolete, leading to significant housing changes.

In response to property rights violations by developers and property management companies, community associations began to emerge. Developers have been faulted for failing to give homeowners their deeds and using them as collateral for loans, understating the area of the home, or not providing promised amenities. Unlike in the U.S., where community associations are usually formed by developers and membership occurs upon purchase of a home, associations in China are a grassroots effort spearheaded by residents to preserve their rights.

From a cultural and political perspective, community associations are novel in the single-party authoritarian regime that is the People’s Republic of China. In a 2008 dissertation by Feng Wang, at the time a Doctorate of Philosophy candidate at the University of Southern California, local governments often looked down upon associations as “an unstable social force that interrupts the establishment of a harmonious society.”

In China, a community association needs to form a preparatory group before it can officially establish—a difficult process. Residents need a representative from their developer and management company. Without their participation, local governments easily strike down the burgeoning association. The group also must meet a voting threshold for approval, and appeal to the management company or developer for a list of residents’ names and contact information to generate participation. Causing further complications, the initial vote is determined by property percentage. This gives developers an opportunity to vote to block its formation if they still own unsold units.

Despite the difficulty in forming and managing community associations, some have achieved commendable success in the country. In 1998 (before some important reforms), residents in one housing complex in China staged a coup and successfully disbanded their HOA after discovering that their management company had falsified a neighborhood mandate giving them permission to form the group. New leadership was voted in, and an HOA with community approved leadership was formed. The group was even able to successfully negotiate lower fees with the management company.

The residential conflict commonly reported in the media in community associations across the U.S. seems trivial compared to the conflict between developers, property managers, and homeowners in China. One might even wonder at the seeming lack of internal disputes among Chinese residents. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Wang, 92 percent of homeowners rate conflict among themselves as a serious issue, but only 25 percent of community associations focus efforts on addressing these issues. It is precisely because of the focus on exterior challenges, rather than internal conflict, that many community associations in China have flourished despite an unfavorable environment.

Through transparency, inclusion, and mobilization of homeowners in China, associations have made huge gains for the rights of residents. Whether in China or the U.S., community associations cannot lose sight of their goals: to elevate residents’ standard of living and protect property values.

Read more about homeowners association in China in the following:

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Why are common-interest communities so uncommon in the U.K.?

Big Ben, London

Community association living is widely popular in many areas of the world. In the U.S., for example, there are 70 million people living in 344,500 common-interest communities, one in eight live in a condominium in Canada, and three million Australians live in strata communities. Condominiums have taken off in Europe too, especially in France and Germany. However, one country remains a laggard in this trend: The United Kingdom. Despite legislation introduced in 2004 to jump-start condominiums— or commonholds as they are referred in the U.K—less than 20 have been developed.

The commonhold system was introduced to phase out the most popular form of housing in the UK: leasehold. In a leasehold arrangement, the buyer rents a flat from the freeholder, or landlord, for a specified number of years. The freeholder is responsible for managing and maintaining the common areas of the building, such as hallways, roofs, and facades. The lease is typically long-term—often as many as 120 years—but begins to decrease in value as the lease nears its end. Many individuals have taken issue with the leasehold system. Complaints range from burdensome fees imposed by landlords to the costliness of extending a lease and the fundamental nature of a leasehold as a wasting asset.

With all the complaints surrounding leaseholds, one might wonder why there’s a lack of enthusiasm for commonholds? In theory, self-management of commonholds removes conflict with the landlord, and ownership alleviates the ticking time bomb worry of a lease. The Law Commission, an entity responsible for reforming laws in the U.K., has a few ideas as to why commonholds remain so sparse.

Some potential issues affect homeowners. When changing from a leasehold to a commonhold, the law requires unanimous consent from every inhabitant 21 years or older, the freeholder, and every lender with a mortgage. Naturally, getting this many people informed, let alone on board with such a big change, is difficult. In addition, the commonhold association, the U.K. equivalent of a community association board, is a company under the current law. As such, leaseholders could face criminal penalties for violating the law. This standard is much too risky for any homeowner. Regulations also might be too stringent in some areas and overly flexible in others. For example, maintenance obligations are unchangeable regardless of age and price of the building, but on the other hand, fire insurance is the only type of insurance buildings are required to have, whereas other types of buildings require flooding and theft insurance.

Overall, commonhold’s failure to launch might simply be due to lack of a financial incentive for developers and a gap in public awareness over this type of housing. These types of large-scale transitions can be difficult and require public backing. However, the U.K.’s housing reform endeavors are an admirable effort to jump-start conversation between potential homebuyers, legislators, commonhold owners, and developers.

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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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CAI Honors Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Mark Sanford

 Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) were honored today with CAI’s 2018 Hero of Associations Award for their leadership and support for the millions of residents living in community associations. In recognizing the two congressional leaders for their work on behalf of community association homeowners and residents, CAI effectively designated Nelson as the organization’s senator of the year and Sanford as representative of the year.

The presentation was held at CAI’s 2018 Advocacy Summit, where more than 100 community association leaders met with congressional representatives to discuss regulations and laws that impact Americans who reside in community associations.

CAI honored Sen. Nelson for his work to ensure that residents living in homeowners associations and condominiums have the ability to protect private contracts and self-govern their neighborhoods. With nearly 10 million residents in 50,000 community associations, Florida has more community associations than any other state in the U.S.

Rep. Sanford was recognized for his work to provide residents in homeowners and condominium associations with access to federal funds in the wake of a presidentially declared natural disaster. Sanford witnessed first-hand the inequity of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s allocation of federal funds in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017. As a result, he introduced the Disaster Assistance Equity Act of 2017 to help homeowners associations qualify for funding for disaster recovery. If it becomes law, this legislation will help community associations in all states impacted by any presidentially declared natural disaster, including hurricanes, floods, wildfires, mudslides, and other calamities.

The post CAI Honors Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Mark Sanford appeared first on Ungated: Community Associations Institute Blog.

Goodbye to a True Community Association Supporter, Thank You Skip Daum

For those of you who hadn’t heard yet, Community Associations Institute’s, California Legislative Action Committee (CAI-CLAC) is officially announcing the retirement of its long term lobbyist Skip Daum of Capitol Communications Group on September 30th.

Skip had a well-deserved reputation for success when he and Capitol Communications Group began working for CAI-CLAC 24 years ago. He had interned for two lobbyists in Sacramento after 10 years in the US Air Force as an instructor navigator.  He has served us well since.

Skip has been the voice of CAI-CLAC at the Capitol. He is the one that identified legislative threats and possibilities for the community association industry. He would then act as expert, co-strategist and advisor every year as the Committee discussed issues, legislation and goals. With Skip at our side, CAI-CLAC has seen many successes. Just in the last legislative session we achieved many of our goals including:

  • AB 1448 (LOPEZ) – PERSONAL ENERGY CONSERVATION – CLOTHESLINES

Due to Skip’s and CLAC’s efforts, community associations may restrict the use of clotheslines in front and side yards, and balconies. Associations may also prohibit drying clothes and towels on balconies, railings, awnings, and other parts of structures. Those rights would have been lost otherwise.

  • AB 596 (DALY) – DISCLOSURE OF FHA AND VA CERTIFICATION

Because of CLAC’s and Skip’s work, condominium projects will be required to add only two additional pages to their annual budget report, instead of sending separate notice every time it is reasonable to expect a status change.

  • AB 349 (GONZALEZ) – ARTIFICIAL TURF

Through its efforts CLAC retained the community association’s ability to require owners to obtain approval to install artificial turf if the governing documents provide for it.

  • AB 786 (LEVINE) – FINES FOR FAILURE TO IRRIGATE IF RECYCLED WATER USED

CLAC sought and received amendments that allow community associations to insist owners who receive recycled water irrigate their landscape.

Darren Bevan, CAI-CLAC Chair had this to say about Skip’s retirement, “We’re grateful for Skip’s fine work during the nearly 25 years he represented CLAC. We will miss his humor and knowledge about community associations.”

During his time as our advocate, Skip says community association issues literally consumed 75% of his time thinking, writing, lobbying, public speaking, traveling and testifying on our behalf. His parting words of advice are “Preserve your commitment, continue to raise the awareness of CAI and CLAC among community association owners and the media, keep holding fundraisers, and (especially) grow your grassroots network — there’s strength in numbers.”

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Watch for information on Kahn, Soares and Conway, LLP (KSC) who has been engaged to handle CAI-CLAC’s continuing advocacy work.


Communities, Support Your Voice at the Capitol: Buck-A-Door

Maintaining the voice and protecting the interests of community associations in California is the job of the Community Associations Institute’s California Legislative Action Committee (CAI-CLAC). Advocacy, also called lobbying, is one of the main goals of CAI, and is the process of educating legislators. The California Legislative Action Committee (CLAC) executes the very necessary advocacy portion of CAI’s objectives.

CLAC acts specifically on behalf of the eight CAI Chapters in California. The decision-making body is made up of two delegates from each chapter, as well as at-large delegates appointed by the committee.

Each year, between two and three thousand bills are introduced into the state of California legislative houses (State Senate and Assembly). CAI-CLAC’s advocate digs through these bills to determine which bills might affect community associations in California. The advocate and our CAI-CLAC delgates then decide which bills need action and communicate CAI-CLAC’s position to the legislature.

The probability of a legislator reading every bill they vote on is low. Consequently, it is necessary to draw their attention to a specific bill, give them the community association perspective, and an education on the potential effects of the bill. This helps them understand how best to vote. It is often the only way our legislators will understand the community association industry’s perspective on any issue. This is what CLAC does for you.

There are other interests out there doing this as well. If a legislator goes to vote with only an opposing interest’s information at hand, communities don’t stand a chance. The only way we can continue to speak up on behalf of communities in California is with the support from the people who benefit – community associations in California.

Through the Buck-A-Door donation program, community associations contribute one dollar per residence in their community (or more) per year. These continued contributions are critical to allowing CAI-CLAC to work on behalf of California’s communities.

Answers to questions that may come up in your community:
CLAC is not a PAC.
• CLAC does not contribute to any political campaigns.
• CLAC is not politically motivated, but participates in the legislative process in order to educate legislators.
• The money collected goes to pay for the advocate, the administrator, printing, postage and other items needed for the day-to-day functioning of the committee.

To help your community understand the benefits of CAI-CLAC’s advocacy, we ask that you put time in each agenda for a discussion about the importance of donating and the importance of the legislative education being provided by CLAC.

The following resources are also available to help create awareness of CAI-CLAC’s efforts under the “Donate” tab on CLAC’s website:
Buck-A-Door Pledge Form – contains information on how to support CLAC via the Buck-a-Door program.
Board Resolution for CLAC Contributions – To support a board decision to add a Buck-a-Door donation to the annual budget. Click the link under donation and download the resolution.
What is CLAC? flyer – includes information about CLAC, its mission and goals.
12 Reasons to Donate to CLAC– contains information on what CLAC is and what it does.
CLAC Accomplishments – describes recent activities and successes CLAC has had impacting legislation for the benefit of California’s community associations.

Please ensure the work of CAI-CLAC by encouraging participation in the Buck-A-Door donation program.

To encourage you to spend some time with our resource-rich website and investigate the tools for the Buck-a-Door donation program, CLAC is holding a contest. Please share the opportunity with your association and community members.

To be eligible to win the $25 gift card, visit the CAI-CLAC website. Find the online donation page. Once you find it, write down the 5th word in the headline. We are counting “CAI-CLAC” as one word. Send that word to us in an email addressed to: PRchair@caiclac.com. Submissions with the correct information will be entered into a drawing for the $25 gift card.

Good luck!

All entries must be emailed no later than Friday, July 29, 2016. The gift card will be mailed or presented at a chapter meeting. All decisions regarding winners are the PR Chair’s. All decisions are final. Rules are subject to change. No cost or purchase necessary. An unknown number of people may participate. You must be over 18 to enter.


Visiting Your Legislators Made Easy

Visiting your legislator can be easy, but the first time you do anything can be a little intimidating – a little nerve racking. That’s only the first time. We all need to get that one over with as soon as possible because we need your help.

We need your legislators to hear your voice on community association issues. We want to make it as easy as possible for you, so we’ve provided a step by step process to visiting your legislators. First, get to know the issues.

On the CAI-CLAC Website
If you are a member be sure to sign up for CLAC-TRAC e-news on the website (www.caiclac.com) under the Get Involved tab. If you’re not a CAI member, the first step is to join. That’s under the same tab!

When the email comes to contact your legislator (a call to action), CAI-CLAC will send you the information you need about our position and issues with the bill you are calling about. All you need to do is click the link in the alert to send a letter to your legislator.

Fortunately, it is all detailed for you if you want to get to know your legislator without a Call to Action. On the Get Involved tab at the top center of the home page:

  1. Click on the Contact Your Legislator subtab. There you can search to identify your representatives by inputting your home zip code. Click on SEARCH BY ADDRESS.
    a.   Add your home street address to the next page.
    b.   This should pull up a list of elected officials who represent you, the constituent. CAI-CLAC  serves you in California so click on your State Assembly and Senate representatives. Write down or copy their contact information.
  2.  Call your Assembly member or Senate member’s District Office, ask for the District Director.
    a. Explain who you are, who you represent (your association, management company, etc. and Community Associations Institute).
    b. If there are specific bills to discuss, name them by number, author, and topic.
    c. Ask to set a time on a Friday to meet with your Assembly member, if possible. Assembly members are usually in the District on Fridays, and are in Sacramento the rest of the week. Staff is just as good, because they research legislation and brief the Assembly member.
    d. If you cannot meet with anyone in a timely manner, ask to leave your comments and recommendation by phone or email.

Visiting Your Legislator
After you schedule your visit, go to caiclac.com again. Under the Get Involved tab go to What to Expect When Visiting Your Legislator subtab.
a. Read and do all 14 steps outlined, including the last paragraph.
b. Read the material on the tab, What to Take to Your Legislator’s Office.
c. Contact your local CAI Chapter, or go to the Resources tab and click on Visiting Your Legislator to gather the materials to take with you.

When you click directly on the Get Involved tab, instead of the sub tab, you will learn How to Respond to a Call to Action.
a. Read the information on this page.
b. Watch the full two minute, 49 second film of an actual call on a legislator.
c. In the last paragraph, click on “here” for what to bring on the visit. Bring two copies, for the legislator and a staff member. Staff will read material and brief the legislator.

If this is your first time visiting with a legislator, it is recommended that you ask an experienced member of your Chapter’s Legislative Support Committee to attend with you. Allow yourself a week to gather materials, talk to your chapter representatives, or to email Skip Daum at caiclac@aol.com. Many Chapters have folders, or binders you can use to put materials in.

To encourage you to spend some time with our resource-rich website CLAC is holding a contest. To be eligible to win the $25 VISA Gift Card, visit the CAI-CLAC website. There you will need to identify and watch the two advocacy videos (hint: we’ve already provided one to you). Once you watch the videos you will need to identify the percentage of legislators that say a constituent visit could help them reach a decision. Write this information (location of two advocacy videos and percentage of legislators) down in an email and send it to PRchair@caiclac.com. Submissions with the correct information will be entered into a drawing for a $25 VISA Gift Card.

All entries must be emailed no later than Friday, June 24, 2016. Gift card will be mailed or presented at a chapter meeting. All decisions regarding winners are the PR Chair’s. All decisions are final. Rules are subject to change.

Good luck!

Dick Pruess

Dick Pruess

A CAI-CLAC post with contributing content from Dick Pruess, an At-Large Delegate to CAI-CLAC from Pasadena and past CLAC Chair.


Grassroots Advocacy Campaign Needs Your Assistance

As part of its mission to build better communities, Community Associations Institute (CAI) educates legislators at the state and national level, and advocates for legislation that will benefit homeowners, managers, and common interest communities as a whole. The California Legislative Action Committee (sometimes called “CLAC”) has been an effective advocate in Sacramento for over 20 years. At its annual planning meeting in October 2015, the Legislative Action Committee introduced a grassroots advocacy campaign to enhance its statewide efforts.

California’s Assemblymembers and Senators care about their constituents’ views, including the views of you, the members of CAI’s eight California chapters. The grassroots advocacy campaign will assist you in educating your representatives. You will meet with them and their staff members in their district offices.

Each chapter, with the assistance of the chapter’s Liaison to the Legislative Action Committee and Legislative Support Committee, will identify chapter members’ state representatives and ask you to help by meeting with those representatives. They will assist you in introducing your Assemblymembers and Senators to CAI and legislative issues affecting community associations. The goal is for you to visit elected officials in their local offices three times a year, in the winter, mid-summer, and fall. The Legislative Action Committee also encourages you — all CAI members — to attend its annual Legislative Day at the Capitol, which will be April 17 and 18 in 2016.

The Legislative Action Committee website, caiclac.com, offers more resources to assist you with legislative visits. The resources include suggestions for written materials to provide and a video showing a typical district office visit. You can also identify your representatives using a link on the website.

CAI will specifically identify members who are represented by key legislators, including committee chairs and other influential leaders in the Assembly and Senate. It is especially important that these leaders have a dialog with their constituents about community association living and the impact of legislation.

Our elected representatives in Sacramento are eager to hear from us, and input from just one person can make a difference. If you are contacted by your chapter’s Liaison to the Legislative Action Committee and Legislative Support Committee, please step forward to assist with this important work. With your assistance, the Legislative Action Committee looks forward to making an even greater impact with this grassroots advocacy campaign.

John R. MacDowell Fiore Racobs & Powers

John R. MacDowell, Esq. is managing shareholder of Fiore, Racobs & Powers’ Orange County office and is a Delegate to CLAC from the Orange County Regional Chapter of CAI. He serves as Vice-Chair for CLAC.