By Hugo V. Alvarez / Published November 2018
I am a schoolteacher’s son. I am married to a schoolteacher, and I have two school-aged children who just started another year of elementary school this month. So, I have seen and understand all of the work and effort that schoolteachers and parents put in throughout the course of a school year. But everyone works a little extra at the start of the school year as everyone gets accustomed to new traffic patterns, teachers, and daily rituals.
School is where most of us learned many valuable life lessons. We apply many of those life lessons in our life today. Here are some valuable lessons I learned as a student, as a parent, and from witnessing my mom and wife get ready for the school year. These lessons can easily be applied to any association.
I recall going to my mom’s classroom and helping her set it up. The same holds true with respect to my wife and her classroom. Both my mom and wife each spent hours setting up their lesson plans for the coming school year, too.
As a parent with two school-aged children, I see the lesson plan as a vital piece of information. It allows us to understand the teacher’s expectations for the coming school year with specific benchmarks to hit throughout the course of the year.
In a similar manner, each community association must have a plan by forming its budget committees well in advance of the time the budget must be adopted. This can help in preparing for the process with a more organized and detailed method that will ensure that you are not adopting a budget that will result in the need for special assessments midway through the year or otherwise need revision due to deficiencies.
A document and rules review committee can help your community identify areas in your documents where they no longer match reality. Once you are able to find these areas, then you can discuss with your association attorneys how to update your documents to bring them up to the existing population’s expectations and the new laws that may be helpful for your community.
Adequate planning also helps everyone avoid disasters. Take last year, for instance. When faced with the daunting task of having to rebuild following the Hurricane Irma-related devastation, many communities were caught without a disaster recovery plan for repairs or financing. But when an association has a plan, much like schoolteachers do at the start of the school year, that plan is the best path to avoid disasters, such as the financial difficulties many experienced after Hurricane Irma. Evacuation procedures, securing of the building and association property, emergency contacts, obtaining financing up front or ensuring reserves or contingency accounts are in order, and other related items will help guide an association when most needed.
No one likes a bully. We are all taught at an early age to stand up to bullies. However, too often in today’s litigious world, we are afraid of the legal costs associated with standing up to bullies. Perhaps it is someone violating the pet ordinance or renting a unit in violation of your rules and regulations. These are actionable offenses. Much like you did not tolerate a bully in the playground, don’t tolerate a bully in your community, either. Stand up for your rights and your owners’ rights by standing up to those bullies. No one wants to go directly to litigation, so ensuring that you have grievance committees and fining procedures in place and in line with the law can help curb violations in the building. In cases that cannot be controlled with this type of deterrence, litigation can be a necessary expense. Budgeting for it and considering it as part of your plan can help chart a peaceful future for your community. If you don’t stand up to those bullies, then you may just get pushed around—and you may waive the capacity to enforce your rules and regulations in the future.
In speaking to my wife and mom, they both told me that the best students were generally the students that always stayed curious. The desire to keep learning something new is a powerful one. It is also one way to ensure continued growth. Our education does not stay still or static; neither should your education, especially in your role as a community leader or property manager. Make sure you are staying on top of all of the legal trends that impact your community, and make sure you are always ahead of the learning curve. Take advantage of the numerous free continuing education seminars that are offered by leading law firms, such as Becker to ensure that you are well versed on the latest legal developments impacting your community. You don’t want to be that community relying on pagers to communicate in a world that is run by smartphones because you never took the time to learn how to use a smartphone. Worse, in today’s changing legal landscape for community associations, falling behind in learning can lead to costly and unnecessary mistakes in handling association business and finances.
You have the opportunity to shape your community any way you’d like. But to make it the best possible community, you will need to engage in planning, learning, and standing up to bullies. Those are three hallmarks of not only a school year but also of a successful community. Feel free to contact us if you wish to discuss the school year that just began or an issue impacting your community.
Hugo V. Alvarez
Hugo V. Alvarez has successfully worked on a large volume of cases with significant financial exposure. Fortune 500 companies, prominent real estate developers, municipalities, insurance companies, hotels, financial institutions, condominium/homeowners associations, and general contractors have all sought his legal advice and deep local community ties to help get issues resolved. Hugo has been published in the Miami-Daily Business Review, has appeared on CNN and Spanish TV, and is often quoted in leading business periodicals such as the South Florida Business Journal on local legal topics. For more information, contact him at HALVAREZ@beckerlawyers.com or call (305) 262-4433.