FCAP Community—January 2023

FCAP Community

Published January 2023

     Florida Community Association Professionals’ (FCAP) training is offered on two levels. Level one consists of courses meeting Florida’s continuing education requirements for CAMs, and level two is the Florida Advanced CAM Studies (FACS) course. For further information about the more than 38 online continuing education classes available or to pursue the Certified Florida Community Association Manager (CFCAM) designation, please visit www.fcapgroup.com/membership/education-training/.

Marcy L. Kravit

The Pros and Cons of Installing Artificial Turf in Your Association

By Marcy L. Kravit, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, CFCAM, CSM
Director of Community Association Management Hotwire Communications
FCAP Program Coordinator

     Associations and homeowners are seeking ways to cut costs. Upon purchasing a property, every member of the association agrees to pay the assessments to maintain the common areas and buys into a set of documents to maintain the property.

     Service providers’ costs of materials, supplies, hourly wages for their employees, and insurance premiums have increased. The annual inflation rate was 7.7 percent for the 12 months that ended October 2022 after rising 8.2 percent previously, according to the U.S. Department of Labor data published November 10, 2022. This year’s budget season was challenging.

     Associations impose standards for single-family homes’ lawn care and the common areas. A majority of associations, both condominium and homeowners, focus a large amount of their assessments on their landscape budget to maintain curb appeal. Many associations and homeowners have turned to artificial turf as a means of replacing their existing lawns with a similar green surface that does not require irrigation or maintenance. 

     Consider how much green space you wish to convert to artificial turf and what it will require to look its best. Landscape contractors spend a considerable amount of time mowing the grass, and associations pay a considerable amount of money on irrigation, maintenance, sod replacement, and repairs. 

     Some municipalities may not allow for artificial turf. Check with your municipality and your CC&Rs before consideration. Many associations may still require a natural grass lawn. 

     Grass lawns cool the air by absorbing carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen, and collecting dust and dirt. They filter storm water runoff; facilitate groundwater recharge; and reduce erosion, glare, heat island effect, and noise. 

     Artificial turf is not a living plant material and is made of plastic and rubber. Artificial turf doesn’t offer the benefits of plants in a subtropical environment, such as abating the urban heat island effect. 

     Artificial turf does not provide the cooling effect of a living lawn and becomes quite warm on a hot sunny day. 

     Soil health is another factor. Instead of increasing the life of your soil, it compacts soil and creates an uninhabitable environment for the living organisms in your soil, rendering it unable to grow other plant materials until that soil has been brought back to life. 

     Artificial turf quality has dramatically improved over the years, and it is at the point where some have a hard time telling the difference between it and natural grass. Not all turf is created equal. 

     While some artificial turf systems are designed with a permeable base layer, the 90 percent required compaction does not permit water absorption into the subgrade. This can cause runoff onto adjacent properties or into the streets/sewers instead of being absorbed into the ground as turf grass enables. 

     As a result, artificial turf is considered a non-living, impervious material that does not emphasize the natural beauty of Florida-friendly landscaping and establishing and maintaining a living plant healthy ecosystem. 

     The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program does not consider artificial turf to be a Florida-friendly product. Synthetic turf surfaces have substantially higher surface temperatures than natural turf grasses, thereby destroying beneficial microbes in the soil. On clear, warm days, artificial turf may get superheated to temperatures from 120 to 180 degrees F.

     For family homes with children or dogs who are often in the yard, artificial turf can be a preference; but for others, it can cost thousands to remove or can reduce the sale value of the home if buyers are not willing to absorb the cost. 

There are no uniform guarantees when it comes to the longevity of an artificial turf, but manufacturers generally offer 8 to 15 years, depending on certain factors such as the wear and tear. 

     Association policies vary. Some are flexible, and some may not allow the installation of artificial turf even in backyards. It is always advised to check with your municipality and your association attorney. 

     While artificial turf may be more appropriate for other environments, it may not make as much sustainability sense in the humid environment of Florida. 

     Some municipalities may permit artificial turf only in the rear yard, between the back of a structure and the property line. 

Summary of Pros:

  • Water savings
  • Drought-conscious landscaping
  • Maintenance savings
  • Safe for pets and kids and reduces the number of pests and insects
  • May be considered for playground surfacing
  • May be used for golf amenities and putting greens
  • No lawn mowers, no grass clippings, and no noise
  • Some are made from recycled materials
  • It can last up to 20–25 years
  • It stays green all year long
  • Does not release toxic chemicals
  • Mitigates concerns for allergies
  • Does not require fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides
  • No grass pollens
  • Does not get muddy
  • No irrigation repairs
  • Decrease in labor costs and landscape budget

Summary of Cons:

  • Upfront costs
  • Is not biodegradable and will end up in a landfill
  • Artificial turf does not flame up and can melt if something such as a hot charcoal falls on it
  • Absorbs more heat than natural grass and gets hot
  • Not all artificial turf is created equal, and some have better warranties than others

Items to Consider:

  • How has the turf been produced, and has it been properly tested?
  • Is your turf provider using the proper installation techniques?
  • Is your installer properly licensed, and do they outsource to subcontractors?

     Associations can adopt reasonable rules for the appearance, design, and maintenance standard requirements of the turf. 

     Here is a sampling of items to consider, just to name a few…

  • An architectural review committee form and landscape plan, which shows the area of artificial turf, area of living material, and separation between these areas
  • Man-made product materials such as polypropylene, polyethylene, and/or other materials, which are used to replicate the appearance of natural grass
  • Underlying material (gravel, drain-field rock, sand setting, fabric, etc.) included in the design per the manufacturer’s specifications to meet the minimum rate of permeability
  • Impervious installations
  • Height of the pile fibers
  • Permeable backing
  • Flame retardant material
  • Installed by a general contractor
  • No visible seams
  • Permitting
  • A drainage system underneath the turf to prevent excessive runoff or pooling
  • Not within a lake maintenance easement or drainage easement
  • Minimum eight-year “no-fade” warranty requirement
  • Lead free
  • Seamless (visually) change from one panel to the next and seams joined in a tight, secure manner.
  • Prohibition of using an existing irrigation system for non-active use turf
  • Maintenance requirements—routine cleaning, brushing, debris removal, repair, and replacement. Such maintenance activities shall ensure that artificial turf continues to function as designed and permitted.
  • Turf standard—maintained in a green fadeless condition and free of weeds, debris, tears, holes, and impressions.

     It is highly recommended that you contact an artificial turf design consultant and the association attorney when considering the option to allow for artificial turf and when adopting reasonable rules and guidelines. 

     You may want to consider forming a landscape committee to volunteer in assisting with the process involved with choosing an artificial turf contractor. Committee members would be tasked and responsible for the following:

  • Research artificial turf companies
  • Interview potential artificial turf companies
  • Plan a budget
  • Have experience in the bid process and submit requests for proposals to qualified artificial turf contractors
  • Review and compare bids when received
  • Provide the manager and board updates
  • Make recommendations in selecting an artificial turf contractor
  • Make recommendations to adopt artificial turf guidelines
  • Have a passion for landscaping and educating the community and have overall interest in the curb appeal of the community

     The committee member does not have to be a professional landscaping expert. They just need to have the time, be willing to be a team player, work closely with the manager and board, and promote the best interests of the community when considering the pros of and cons of installing artificial turf.

Betsy Barbieux

Because You Asked
By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, CMCA

     One of my board members who is not the president wants to call a special meeting regarding an ongoing issue with a “garage/shed” addition to his home on the busiest bend in the road. The board has voted it down in the past because of safety concerns, but this board member is pushing for a special meeting to be called because he has amended his “plan.” Can any board member call a special meeting only to vote yea or nay to his own revised plan?
– Beth

     Chapter 617, the not-for-profit statute, says that the president or chair of the board may call meetings of the board unless the documents specify otherwise. Otherwise, history-culture-written policies will dictate the calling of a special board meeting. If a board member other than the president or the chair calls a meeting and posts the appropriate 48-hour notice and agenda, and none of the other board members show up, there is no meeting for lack of a quorum. 
– Betsy

     I am onboarding a new association, and they are preparing for their annual meeting. The board has asked if they need to do a “resolution” if their assessments stay the same? They had done one in past years as dues were increased. I told them I did not think so as assessments were remaining the same but wanted to ask a professional. Thanks again for all your support. 
– Cathy

     Since the budget is voted on by the board, and the assessment amount is set during that budget meeting, there’s no need for any additional motion or resolution regarding the assessment. The anticipated budget expenses determine the assessments due from owners, which is documented in the budget meeting minutes.
– Betsy

     My board just received a reserve study that shows the reserves are significantly underfunded. Raising the assessment enough to fully fund those reserves will double/triple the monthly assessment amount. The board has scheduled a membership vote to reduce the funding of the reserves and will use the limited proxy with the statutory statement. Can that limited proxy have more than one topic/question on it for the owners to vote on? Is there any statement that needs to appear on the budget that the reserve funds are not fully funded?
– Colette

     Until 2025, a reserve study is not required unless your documents say otherwise. Until then, reserve studies and reserve schedules DO need to be tweaked, with updated life expectancies and costs to replace. Yes, proxies can have more than one yes/no question/topic on it. The members’ limited proxy to waive/reduce the funding of the reserves must have the statutory statement on the situation but not the budget.
– Betsy

     We’re an HOA, and the board has engaged a CPA to perform an audit. However, I couldn’t find in any of the monthly minutes where the board voted to contract with the accountant. Do they need a meeting to vote on the CPA?
– Hal  

     Since the audit is budgeted for, I do not have any of my boards vote on the CPA to use. They use the same one every year. Audits are extremely expensive, and the owners can vote to reduce the reporting requirements. That vote should be done on a limited proxy and should be done before the end of the year.
– Betsy

     In all my years of being a CAM I have never had such a bad HOA annual meeting as I did last week. There is a control issue going on between some board members and other owners. I would call it a coup. There was proxy harvesting that got the current board reelected. This was met with a lot of complaints from the people who were trying to overthrow them. I don’t think the current board has done anything wrong, but the owners now blame me for not doing something about the process. I have tried to explain that I work at the pleasure of the board. I’ve even tried to quit but feel bad because it will cost them a lot more to hire another manager. 
     So, I guess my question is, do I continue to let them think I do nothing and get yelled at and deal with nasty emails and telephone calls, or try again to explain that I can’t do anything more than the board wants me to do? 
– Cheryl

     Yes, you work at the pleasure of the board. However, explaining yourself to people who do not want to listen or learn is pointless and will only frustrate you more. Protecting the board is one thing, but not when it turns into harassment and abuse to you. There is a point where it crosses the line over to a hostile work environment. Finding another manager or management company is their problem, not yours.
– Betsy