Category Archives: Community Safety

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.

The post Winter is coming: Prepare your home and community now appeared first on Ungated: Community Associations Institute Blog.

Doggy DNA Testing Forcing Residents to Pick up after Their Pets

People love their pets. Regardless if you live in a community association, there is nothing worse than waking up to a pile of pet poop in your front yard. But the problem isn’t that the pets are out of control, it’s that residents don’t take accountability for their pets.

With a surge of residents disregarding signs and choosing not to follow mandated rules, communities now are turning to “doggy DNA” testing.

Dog owners provide the community association with a DNA sample of their pet, typically a cheek swab, which is then sent to a lab where it is registered. If the dog goes in the neighborhood and it isn’t disposed of, the community association can send the sample to the lab for testing. If there is a match, the pet owner is fined.

CAI’s Chief Executive Officer Tom Skiba, CAE, recently spoke to the Capital Gazette about this problem.

A “very small minority” of community associations have started taking these steps in the past five years to curb poop problems, especially as DNA testing has become more cost-effective and accessible, says Skiba.

“It’s not about not liking pets, it’s not about the dogs. It’s about pet owners acting disrespectfully to their neighbors,” explains Skiba. “The boards have already tried all that they can, and they have an obligation to address this for an aesthetic and health reasons. They finally will run out of options, and this DNA testing is the last technologically enabled high-tech option you can find.”

Community associations typically won’t dish out funds for DNA testing methods unless they’ve tried everything else, including putting up notices, posting pet rules on a website, mentioning it in board meetings, and more.

Should community associations have to take these extreme measures to solve this pet problem?

Think about it, and make sure to carry an extra bag with you on your walk.

The post Doggy DNA Testing Forcing Residents to Pick up after Their Pets appeared first on Ungated: Community Associations Institute Blog.

Are Our Rules Reasonable?

Rules and regulations help community associations maintain property values and protect a quality of life. These standards are typically described in detail in an association’s governing documents, which all homeowners should have an opportunity to review before purchasing a home in a common-interest community.

Association rules and regulations should be reasonable. When board members—along with their community manager, attorney, and other expert advisors—are reviewing association rules or considering establishing new rules, they should follow these guidelines:

  • Develop rules only if they’re necessary
  • Base rules on the proper authority—either governing documents or local/state/federal law
  • Consider how rules will be enforced, taking extra care to be sure they’re enforced uniformly
  • Implement rules that encourage understanding and compliance
  • Write rules that tell owners what they should do instead of what they shouldn’t, and explain why that rule is necessary

The post Are Our Rules Reasonable? appeared first on Ungated: Community Associations Institute Blog.

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.

The post How to handle pest problems appeared first on Ungated: Community Associations Institute Blog.

Pool’s Open

Swim season is here. While your residents are excited about getting wet, it means more stress for you and your staff, especially if you don’t have good pool rules.

For everybody’s health and safety, community association board members and managers need to make sure their pool rules are comprehensive, covering everything from guests, children, swimwear, slides, diving boards, and even smoking and cellphones. It’s not enough to simply post the rules around the pool. Reminders need to be sent, and new residents should be briefed. “Since new people are constantly moving in and out of the neighborhood, there are always new residents to educate,” says Dwayne Lowry, CMCA, AMS, general manager of New Territory Residential Community Association in Sugar Land, Texas.

Whether you’ve got new or long-time residents, the rules need to be enforced to be effective. “People simply aren’t allowed into the pool, or they can be removed from the pool by the pool management company and their facility usage can be suspended,” says Lowry, explaining what happens to New Territory’s pool rule breakers.

New Territory, for the comfort and health of all, bans smoking at its pools. In addition, cellphones must be kept at least 6 feet from the water. “People tend to do rash things to save a phone, and that would pose safety concerns for the guards,” says Lowry.

And, for everyone’s enjoyment of the amenity, proper swimming attire is required. New Territory bans cut-offs, inappropriate suits, and loose clothing. It also implements a 10-minute safety break, observed each hour, at each of its pools. According to the rules, everyone must be out of the water.

While community associations are responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of the people who use common area facilities, like pools, they’re also responsible for writing rules that aren’t discriminatory. The federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 forces associations to examine all rules regarding the use of the common facilities to ensure they do not discriminate against individuals protected by the act, including discrimination based on handicap and familial status.

No rules are foolproof, but covering the basics and tailoring the details will make the summer at the pool easier for you, your staff, and your residents.

Right by the Rules

When writing rules, associations should follow three basic principles:

1. The board must have sufficient rule-making authority in its governing documents. Rules must be duly adopted at a board meeting and, once passed, they must be published and distributed to association members before they are enforced.

2. The rule must be reasonable, and it must relate to a legitimate purpose. It should be a good response to the problem being addressed.

3. The rule must be uniformly enforced.

For more information about pools and how you and your community can swim safely this summer check out The Ultimate Guide to Pool Maintenance, available for purchase at CAI Press.

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