By Paul Queen / Published September 2016
There is not a simple list that board members can consult to determine what they should be focusing on each month. It depends so much on housing type (single family, townhome or condominium), community amenities, and responsibilities spelled out in the association documents, but there are seasonal issues and operating cycles that dictate changing attention.
AUTUMN—In the fall, boards begin preparing for the annual meeting. A successful annual meeting requires planning in advance and clear communication to the members. Most frequently, the president will act as the chairperson of the meeting, but board members vote in their role as homeowners. The chair would then go through the agenda and act on every agenda item.
The annual meeting focuses on nominating and electing members of the board of directors to replace those whose terms are expiring. Formal approval of last year’s annual meeting minutes is on the agenda. The meeting must also be conducted according to the association governing documents (particularly the notification procedure) and cover any topics the documents require. If other votes are held, they are most typically amendments to the documents or reducing the number of funds set aside for reserves. In reviewing the agenda of annual meetings of communities that Sentry Management supports, these other items are commonly covered:
• Treasurer’s report or review of financial items
• Committee reports, on a wide range of topics, including security, assessments, strategic planning, capital funding, and special projects
WINTER—Most board member elections occur late in the year,so when there are new members, it is important to get them up to speed quickly. Sentry Division Manager Valerie Hoover in Ft. Myers says, “It is always helpful to have the entire board, at their first meeting with new members, review the existing policies and procedures. It is the chance to determine if the incoming board wants to conduct business differently. It serves the additional purpose of showing the new members how the routine board deliberations and ongoing decision-making are handled,” and because of the requirements of Florida law, this is the time new board members can attend a certification course. It is also good practice to provide the new board member with either any online access (if it exists) to documents and financials or provide the past six months of minutes of the board meetings. Finally, it is good to exchange the contact information for all members to establish good communication.
SPRING—In late spring it is time to start storm preparedness activities. It is a good idea to make sure insurance is current and re-check coverage. The emergency operating plan, in the case of significant damage, should be reviewed and modified, if needed. The plan should have alternative contact information for the entire board and how to communicate, after a disaster, among the board and with homeowners. The plan should identify who will act to get cleanup and repairs started, where records can be accessed, and copies of all contracts and vendor contact numbers. Residents, in the case of an actual hurricane warning, should know when gates will be locked open as well as when amenities will be closed and power shut off. Finally, if damage occurs, what are helpful contact numbers for homeowners, how cleanup will be organized, and where will storm debris be placed. In areas prone to flooding, make sure insurance is in effect, publish evacuation routes, and note when the power will be shut off.
“Spring is the time to do a detailed inspection of the roof, irrigation systems, and the pool,” says Pam Flack, the Central Florida Sales Manager in Sentry’s Orlando office.
• During the roof inspection, look for broken or missing shingles and inspect the attic for water stains. Repair damaged or missing shingles and leaks before further damage can be done. Pay special attention to any roof openings and flashings. Performing maintenance on your roof as needed will extend the life of the surface.
• For irrigation systems, check for broken sprinkler heads, blowouts, stopped up heads, and proper water coverage. Change, if needed, the days and time for watering based on seasonal needs. Also, check the meters on the property to make sure they are in proper working order.
• For pools, check for leaks on all circulation plumbing and valves. Clean and replace damaged filter components if needed. Chlorine dispensers, ozone generators, and the vacuum should be checked for proper operation. Late spring is a good time to inspect carefully, and repair if necessary, heaters and solar systems. Heaters should be started up every month to make sure burners are free from debris and are continuing to operate properly. Finally, this is the time of year to heavy clean tile and power wash/repair/resurface pool decks.
• Inventory all association-owned items and check serial numbers. Note condition and missing items. The inventory will determine items needed for purchase or repair for the continuing operation of amenities, especially pools, exercise facilities, and meeting areas.
SUMMER—In late summer, the boards begin serious budget planning. According to Judith Duncan, Director of Association Development for Sentry Management, “Budgeting for a condominium, homeowners, or community association involves not one, but two budgets—each covering a specific range of expenditures. Recurring predictable expenses (like utilities, contracted services, and taxes) is one budget category and the other relates to capital items, like major projects and long-term plans. The recurring expenses can be fairly easy to determine. Calls to utilities, service providers, and insurance agents asking if there are any proposed increases they foresee will help in determining what might need increasing in the next budget year. Maintenance will be based on the age of the buildings or structures, past performance, and current condition, which can be fairly accurately estimated. Unless the association has just completed major renovations or replaced major structural components, costs to maintain generally do not go down, so it is prudent to have some room for unexpected repairs. Repairs and general maintenance, unless they extend the life of the component substantially, should not be considered a reserve expense.”
When preparing the capital budget, a current reserve study is likely called for to give a starting point. A reserve study analyzes repair and replacement needs like roofing and painting that happen periodically and provides a funding plan for accumulating money to perform this work when it is needed. Judith Duncan continues, “In Florida, reserves can be reduced by a vote of a majority of the owners. I’ve heard it said many times by owners, ‘I’m not going to be here when the roof or parking lot is replaced, so why should I pay for it now?’ It’s because they are using their share of the component now, and that use should constitute reason to contribute to its future replacement.”
ALL YEAR—Maintenance in Florida is year-round due to the climate. So, on an ongoing basis, perform the following inspections:
• Check for depressions and heaving of paving materials and sidewalks as well as for cracks and deterioration. Look for damage to curbs, curb clearances, and pools of water.
• For condominiums, maintaining the façade is very important. Look for signs of leakage, like stains, cracks, or glass fractures. Common repairs include concrete, caulking, architectural coatings, stone/recast/brick repairs, or total re-cladding of the exterior.
• Check all storm drains for proper repair and no clogging.
• For communities with perimeter walls, check for cracks, leaning and bulging, and loose materials.
• Make sure gutters are not blocked. If rain water can’t make it through your gutters because of debris or leaves, it may cause backups and damage.
• Check any vents to be sure they have no obstructions. Common area dryers, heating exhaust, and radon vents help remove gasses from the building, so be sure they aren’t blocked or built up with lint.
• Check windows and doors to make sure they close securely. Make sure door handles and locks are working easily. Also, check for any gaps around the door. Significant airflow under or around doors or windows requires caulking or weather stripping.
• Check all landscape features for diseased or dead parts. Cut back trees that touch or endanger the building (it is common to give some trees what landscapers call “pre-season hurricane cuts”), and trim or remove vines that may intrude into openings in the building and cause damage. Look for tree roots undermining pavement and repair bare spots in the lawn, and treat for chinch bugs if needed.
• Inspect all exposed ornamental metal trim. Check for corrosion and cracks. For stairways, check looseness in all railings and balustrades and any pulling away from walls. Look for problems with treads that may cause falls.
Building systems, as well as operating items, are also routinely checked at intervals throughout the year. Monthly or quarterly:
• Check common area breaker panels. Test all exterior outlets and switches, particularly in public bathrooms and all wet areas, to make sure ground fault outlets are in place and working properly.
• Depending on the type of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning, inspect the furnaces, ducts, registers, and radiators. Check up and perform the annual service on common area air conditioning (and cooling towers in large condominium buildings). Look for any signs of deterioration or damage. Inspect the water supply and waste pipes for rust and leaks. If there is gas, have the local gas company test gas lines for leaks.
• A close inspection of the foundation can give you advanced warning. A crack in the foundation of any structure is an entry way for water, but it can also make you aware of structural shifts that may lead to other problems.
• Make sure the annual pool, spa, and elevator inspections are conducted and the up-to-date permits are prominently displayed. In common areas, fire extinguishers are needed, so make sure they are in working order and not expired. Condominiums have special requirements for fire protection. Check hose cabinets to be in compliance with local fire inspector requirement. Make sure proper warning signs are installed.
• Check to see if first-aid kits are well stocked and available in association offices or common areas.
• Update communications, including the community website and bulletin boards. Remove old notices; make sure board and committee member names and contact information is current.
Paul David Queen
Director of Marketing for Sentry Management
Sentry Management exclusively focuses on managing communities, homeowner associations, and condominiums. With 15 Florida offices, Sentry is one of the largest and most respected community association management companies in the state. Sentry is an Accredited Management Organization (AMO®)—an assurance of integrity and expert financial systems. Contact us at (800) 932-6636 or www.sentrymgt.com. Paul David Queen is Director of Marketing for Sentry Management where he oversees the company’s online presence, PR, advertising, and collateral. He has two advanced degrees including a Master of Science and an MBA.