Welcome Back, Snowbirds! Here’s Some Advice

Welcome Back, Snowbirds! Here’s Some Advice

Published October 2017

Editor’s Note: As the snowbirds return to Florida, FLCAJ sought out several community association service providers to find out what advice they have for the returning residents. The counsel touches on many important topics, so read, learn, make changes to community operations, and enjoy your stay in the Sunshine State!

Absolute’s Checklist for Restoring Old Patio Furniture

By Tammy Leeman

Welcome back, snowbirds. Is your property a candidate for patio furniture restoration? Condominiums, country clubs, and HOAs with old and worn patio furniture should consider a powder coating restoration process instead of taking on the greater expense of furniture replacement. If the finish on the frames is still in great condition, then simply re-strapping or re-slinging is also an option. You can completely update the look of your furniture and save your property a lot of money at the same time! Communities can select from a large array of metal finishes, fabrics, and color schemes. This selection includes hundreds of colors, patterns, and fabrics for slings, straps, and cushions, which allow a community to select something they feel will fit with their already established décor, effectively creating an overall coordinated and polished look. The flexibility of powder coating makes it a great choice for any metal restoration project.

For more information on Absolute Patio Furniture Restoration, call (954) 917-2715, email tammy@absolutepowdercoat.com, or visit www.absolutepowdercoat.com.

‘Tis Still the Season

By David Cohen, LCAM and Vice President

While Hurricane Matthew made landfall last year, we were fortunate that the damage was minimal. In a way, it was more of a fire drill, as no storms more than threatened us in the past 11-plus years—and then there was Hurricane Harvey.

We have all watched in horror as people have lost their lives, while tens of thousands of others have lost their homes, businesses, and belongings. The vast majority were impacted not by the hurricane wind force itself but by the accompanying torrential rains and flooding. As a South Florida homeowner, it is important that you keep in mind that hurricane season does not end until November 30th, and late season storms are always a possibility. Please be sure you know your evacuation routes and have taken precautions to secure your pers-onal belongings, important papers, and any medications needed; and if the order comes to evacuate, do so promptly and carefully.

For more information on AKAM On-Site Inc., call (954) 843-2526, email dcohen@akam.com, or visit www.akam.com. 

4 Options for Capital Improvement Project Funding

By Lisa Elkan, VP and Association Financial Partner

As association complexes age, the need to undertake capital improvement projects becomes more prevalent. How may an association pay for a large capital improvement project?

  • The cheapest and easiest way for an association to pay for the project is to simply write a check.
  • If the association has the luxury of being able to wait to complete the project, they may wait/stage the project over several years.
  • If you think owners will be upset when the annual assessment is raised, imagine how they’ll feel when you are required to pass a special assessment.
  • Pass a special assessment combined with an association loan. When an association takes out an association loan in conjunction with a special assessment, the owners will now have the ability to pay the special assessment over a longer period of time, while the association is able to complete the project right away.

For more information on Alliance Association Bank, call (888) 734-4567 or visit www.allianceassociationbank.com.

Protect Yourself—Don’t Invite Them In!

By Connie Lorenz, President

It’s that time again where we find our communities scrambling to catch up with the agenda of our summer meetings as our residents start to return. We find that a lot of our communities gather their asphalt maintenance bids during the summer and then make decisions in October when the board reconvenes. An easy way to sort through your bids and narrow it down is to make sure you are working with a contractor who is registered and lives in the state of Florida. Our winter months are the perfect opportunity for out-of-state contractors to set up shop in our state to work as “gypsies” during their winters. This is also the perfect time for communities to be taken advantage of as they are no longer protected by our state laws. If the contractor has a website from another state with an out-of-state phone number and a PO Box in Florida, beware! We can’t protect you if you invite them in!

For more information on Asphalt Restoration Technology Systems, call (800) 254-4732 or visit www.asphaltnews.com.

Reserve Study Basics

By Will Simons, RS

      The months of September and October are the heart of budget season for most Florida associations. As part of the budgeting process, you may be obtaining a reserve study for the first time or conducting an update to a prior one. To ensure that it’s an accurate reflection of the association’s financial picture, make sure that all projects you’ve done since your last update are correctly documented in the information you provide to your reserve specialist, and that all component life expectancies and replacement costs used in the analysis are based on the most recent figures. This is especially true for those associations that are deciding to do it themselves. Using outdated or inaccurate information could result in a flawed funding plan and therefore a bad budget. As we move into 2018, make sure that you continue to keep good records, ensuring that next year’s budget process will be as smooth as possible!

For more information on Association Reserves, call (800) 403-9011 or (800) 706-4560, or please visit www.reservestudy.com.

Be Proactive, Rather Than Reactive

By Kenneth S. Direktor

The 2017 legislative session produced amendments, which have changed the landscape for board members of condominium associations. If you’re a board member returning for the season, you should consider some important resolutions to ensure compliance in the following areas of your operation:

  • There are new requirements for addressing conflicts of interest. Adopt a set of guidelines to address any association contract that gives rise to a conflict of interest.
  • There will be heightened scrutiny of the handling of election ballots. Adopt a protocol for noticing elections, handling ballots, using online voting, and managing the voting process. This will reduce the risk of challenges and will protect the board and management from claims and, in egregious situations, from criminal charges.
  • The proper maintenance of your official records and a system for handling unit owner requests for access will protect the board and management from adverse claims and, again, in egregious situations, from criminal charges. Consider digitizing your records for easier storage and retrieval. Consider a detailed rule for handling and regulating unit owner requests.
  • If you have more than 150 units, you have less than a year to develop a website that complies with the new statute.

You can easily avoid problems by being proactive rather than reactive.

For more information on Becker & Poliakoff, email kdirektor@bplegal.com, call (561) 655-5444, or visit www.bplegal.com.

The Perfect Cart Solution

By Megan Heus

Allow us to introduce the perfect cart solution for condominium community living. The Bemis Retail Solutions engineered polymer cart is the best, most efficient cart to provide your residents. These specially-designed carts will never rust or fade, allowing for an attractive look at your condominium community. They are made of long-lasting, durable engineered resin and will not bend or break. These stylish carts are quiet on all floor surfaces so as to not disturb other community residents.

For more information on Bemis Retail Solutions, call (920) 467-8803 or visit www.bemisretailsolutions.com.

What Should You Check?

By Mariann Gerwig, CAM, Director of Finance and Operations

So, you now get to enjoy the winter in Florida, away from the cold and snow! But, what are some of the things you should check around the building to make sure that proper maintenance is preserving your beautiful home and your investment?

  • Check the exterior of the building for any signs of concrete deterioration. It is strongly suggested that you have a structural engineer inspect the building every few years. This only gets worse if left unchecked.
  • Review how long it has been since the building has been painted. Exterior painting by a reputable contractor using the right products can protect your building.
  • Make sure that you do not see cracks anywhere on the exterior that could allow moisture to seep in.
  • Sliding glass doors and shutters need to be maintained regularly to make sure they work properly.

For more information on Carousel Development & Restoration Inc., call (561) 272-3700 or visit www.cdri.net.

Welcome Back, “Snowbirds”!

By Beth Miller

Editor’s Note: As this issue was being published, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida.

The solar eclipse came and went as an entertaining diversion, but hurricane season is still here. Now is the time to review and update your disaster recovery plans. Whether it is photographing the interior and exterior of your residence for insurance purposes, getting your hurricane shutters and generator “tuned up,” or making evacuation plans for yourself and your pets, it is important to know what you will do, where you will go, and how your family will know how to reach you.

Your property management company should also have a plan for the community that includes what happens before, during, and after the storm, and clearly outlines what measures will be taken to protect community assets as well as how access control will be handled.  Remember, failure to plan is planning to fail!

For more information on Castle Group, call (844) 815-5321 or visit www.castlegroup.com.

Phases On Hiring An Engineer for Concrete Restoration Repairs

By Lou Daniello, President

  • Phase 1—The engineer performs a survey of the condition of the building.
  • Phase 2—The survey engineer prepares a bid package for qualified contractors and invites them to bid on it. After the three best contractors are chosen by the engineer and association board or manager, then they should be interviewed separately.
  • Phase 3—The engineer prepares the necessary documents for the contractor to apply to the building department for the required permit. 
  • Phase 4—The engineer makes inspections, usually twice per week, for the following:
    1. Mark off areas that need repair for the contractor.
    2. After excavation, inspect conditions of the steel and forming and authorizing concrete placement.
    3. Inspect repairs and approve the contractor’s application for payment. 
  • Phase 5—The engineer makes final inspection of the entire project and issues a Letter of Completion signed and sealed for the building department to close out the permit.

The engineer’s contract with the association or owner should spell out the fee for each of the phases. 

For more information on Daniello Companies, call (888) 370-4333 or visit www.concreterepairing.net.

Make Sure Your Security Is Up-To-Date

By Brie Peterson

Welcome back! As you unpack and relax in the warmer weather, here are a few tips to ensure your home and community security is up-to-date.

First, check the landscape around your residence and areas of the community. You can use the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design guidelines for examples on eliminating hiding spaces and break-in opportunities for criminals.

Secondly, evaluate your home or unit security system. This includes burglar alarms and home automation systems to see that they are working properly.

Finally, assess the security system at your community’s gate or entrance. If it is gated, you will want to know that the verification system is working effectively and can continue to do so with the potential increase in traffic entering the community. Also, all communities will want to look at their surveillance systems to see that footage is recording accurately.

For more information on Envera Systems, call (855) 380-1274 or visit www.EnveraSystems.com.

Summary of House Bill 653, Impacting Condominiums—Debit Cards

By Kathleen Karpovich, SVP

On July 1, 2017, Florida Statute 718.111(15) was put into effect:

  • An association and its officers, directors, employees, and agents may not use a debit card issued in the name of the association or billed directly to the association for the payment of any association expense.
  • The use of a debit card issued in the name of the association or billed directly to the association for any expense that is not a lawful obligation of the association may be prosecuted as credit card fraud pursuant to s. 817.61. 

As snowbirds return to Florida for another season, many board members may have in their wallets (or condominium unit) debit cards with the associations’ names being the current card holders.  Due to the above noted statute, this is no longer an option for accessing funds.  Associations once considered this a great tool to access funds for immediate repairs and emergencies.  It was also an easy way to manage the day-to-day general maintenance expenses. Soon, this statute will also apply to homeowners associations.

Many associations are now seeking other solutions to utilize funds and are deploying the option of bank credit card programs. Most bank credit cards don’t require personal guarantees and offer the ability to control the access of charges, distribution of the credit card, usage limits, the ability to dispute charges, and

better accounting reconciliation.  This may be a positive choice. It’s important to review your bylaws, existing Florida statutes, and the responsibility of the various cash back points rewards programs. Being aware of the current laws is the best way to be prepared for the arrival of snowbirds!

For more information on Florida Community Bank, call (239) 552-1759 or visit www.floridacommunitybank.net.

Damages to Your Association Property? You May Not have to Pay! 

By Alan Garfinkel, Esq.

Step 1: Investigate—Before you proceed with having repairs done at your own expense, consider if there may be other entities responsible. What may seem like a simple water stain or cracking may be a defect stemming from a much larger issue. Most defects, like icebergs, are hidden and not visible.

Step 2: Negotiate—Your lawyer has an opportunity to get creative and find a resolution, which may consist of having the folks responsible pay for your repairs, repay your association money, or both.

Step 3: Proceed on a Contingency Basis—Some law firms, like ours, will hire all the engineers and handle the entire case on contingency, meaning your association doesn’t pay a dime unless we win.

For more information on Garfinkel Whynot Association Law, email agarfinkel@loveGWLaw.com or call (800) 393- 1528 or (800) 393- 1- Law.

Dollars and Sense

By Gina Hough

Service agreements are the lifeblood of any service organization, but if the right service provider is chosen, their service can be extremely beneficial to the customer’s bottom line as well. Customers invest thousands of dollars having expensive and complex equipment installed in their facilities, which are critical to the protection and productivity of their business, and service agreements should be designed to proactively protect their investment through programs that are designed to support their unique situation and save them money.

The service provider should have a clear understanding of the customer’s needs so they can effectively develop a service plan that provides them with the level of service they require. Many service agreements will cover testing and inspection, operator coaching/training, emergency onsite response, repair and replacement services, and software/firmware support. The service provider should make the appropriate recommendations to the customer based on the customer’s current situation, the age of the equipment, and long-term plans of the customer. Some questions to consider: Does the service provider have replacement parts in their vehicles, and can they purchase the equipment for build-outs or scheduled work? Do they have access to the manufacturers’ technical support services? Do they have the training and certifications to ensure the equipment is being serviced and repaired as per the manufacturer guidelines? Equipment that is properly maintained will reduce system downtime, minimize risk, save the customer money, and increase customer satisfaction. 

For more information on GNM Hough Inc., call (954) 797-6886 or visit www.gnmhough.com.

Embrace the Digital Revolution

By Jonathan Goldstein, Senior Associate Attorney

Snowbirds, rejoice: Associations have entered an era of email and internet notice, electronic voting, and internet record keeping. Each are beneficial to distant owners who opt in.

By July 1, 2018, non-timeshare associations with 150 or more units must launch websites for posting notices and specified categories of records. For the association and members only, the website must include governing documents, amendments, rules, leases, agreements, bid summaries (for one year), the latest current and proposed financial reports, the latest current and proposed budgets, conflict of interest documentation, director certifications, and the notice and agenda of any member or board meeting (including related documents).

With a board resolution, associations can vote online.

To participate, owners must consent in writing. If the association emails notices, owners can consent and opt in. Any email address for not-ice becomes accessible; however, other personal information is protected without consent to its disclosure.

For more information on Haber Slade P.A., visit www.haberslade.com or email jgoldstein@dhaberlaw.com.

New Website Requirements for Condominium Associations

By Molly A. Maggiano

On June 26, 2017, Governor Scott signed into law Chapter 2017-188, Laws of Florida, which amended numerous provisions of Florida’s Condominium Act. Among the changes is the addition of subsection (g) to Section 718.111(12), requiring condominium associations with 150 or more units to operate and maintain an independent, association-owned website or web portal for purposes of posting digital copies of specified association documents. The website or portal must be accessible through the internet and have a protected section accessible only to unit owners and employees of the association. In order to ensure that your association is in compliance with this new requirement by the mandated deadline of July 1, 2018, please consult your association counsel or review the full text of F.S. 718.111(12)(g) for  website specifications and a detailed list of the documents that must be posted.

For more information on Henderson Franklin Starnes & Holt P.A., visit www.henlaw.com or email molly.maggiano@henlaw.com or call (239) 344-1213. 

Associations Focus on Restoring ‘Living Shorelines’

By Brian and Stuart Fischer

Homeowners shouldn’t take waterfront properties for granted. These shorelines require maintenance as do other association properties. Shorelines inevitably erode, creating threats to the environment, wildlife, and residents. Fluctuating water levels result in collapsed/unstable land. This condition fosters growth of toxic algae blooms and higher levels of pollution from fertilizers.

These “living shorelines” can be restored with the help of a long-lasting, eco-friendly, erosion-control technology called Dredgesox™. This product enhances shoreline safety and the environment by removing sediment from waterways and reclaiming shorelines. It halts erosion and follows Best Management Practices. It involves filling a huge sock with rich organic sediment and lining the shoreline with it. Once sodded and fully rooted, it becomes permanent and not susceptible to further erosion. Other vegetation can also be planted through the mesh. The result is a stable shoreline. The reclaimed land serves as a filter, preventing chemical run-off and minimizing algae growth, which chokes waterways and can cause fish kills.

For more information on Lake & Wetland Management, call (855) 888-LAKE or visit www.lakeandwetland.com.

Make the Transition Easier for Everyone

By Doug Harrier, PCAM and Vice President

Summer is ending, which means our snowbird residents will be returning to their Florida homes! There are some things your community can do to help make this transition easier for everyone.

  • Send an eblast to remind returning residents to forward their mail and update their mailing address with the association.
  • Repost important notices about your community rules. This will help returning residents remember what they need to know, particularly if any procedures have changed during the year.
  • Prepare for an increased number of ARC applications and correspondence. If you’re ready for this, then you will be able to serve your residents better.
  • Host a welcome home dinner party. This is a great time to welcome your snowbirds back and catch them up on what has been happening while they’ve been away.

Taking the time to make this extra effort will be appreciated by your returning residents!

For more information on Leland Management, call (888) 465-0346 or visit www.LelandManagement.com.

Presumption about Consumption

By Teresa Smetzer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in a single condominium residence, leaky faucets can waste up to 10,000 gallons of water annually. In commercial spaces, this loss can ascend to more than 1,000 gallons of water per week! So, the question is, can we monitor this consumption while promoting conservation? The answer is quite simply, yes, by installing submeters. Inefficiencies such as leaks or consumption abnormalities are actually quite easy to spot; yet building owners/operators must first understand how the building presently consumes water. Submetering systems provide tracking data in real time and current data models illustrate that post installation, a consumption reduction of up to 35 percent annually is possible. Mapping consumption over time helps achieve your reduction objectives without wasted effort.

For more information on National Exemption Service, call (800) 572-7060 or visit www.submeter.com.

Roads Need Sunscreen, Too!

By Chris Evers

If you’re one of the millions of winter-only residents of the Sunshine State, you might be curious why our pavements deteriorate differently than what you are used to up north. One of the most torturous environments for roads is what we call the freeze-thaw cycle. Since most of Florida doesn’t experience this, which is why people winter here, our roads mostly need protection from the sun and water. What asphalt in Florida goes through is similar to what your unprotected skin goes through after a long day at the beach. In the case of roads, extreme oxidation causes premature cracking and the loss of fine aggregate. In the same way that applying sunscreen helps protect your skin, applying a maltene-based asphalt rejuvenator before oxidation takes place protects your roads. Just as all sunscreens are not created equal, neither are road preservation products…so when you’re applying that sunscreen to your skin this winter, give a thought to your roads and how best to protect them!

For more information on Pavement Technology Inc, visit www.pavetechinc.com/getscienceasp.

Reserve Budget Disclosures

By Matt Kuisle, PE, RS, PRA

When mailing and approving your 2018 budget, don’t forget these required disclosures on your reserve schedule:

  • Description of the Reserve Items—Condominiums must include roof replacement, building painting, pavement resurfacing, and any other item costing more than $10,000.
  • Useful Life—The total years of serviceable life of each item when new.
  • Remaining Useful Life—The number of remaining years of serviceable life that each item can expect to achieve in its current application.
  • Starting Reserve Balance(s)—Be sure to include the estimated or projected fund balance at the beginning of the budget year (i.e., January 1,2018). Balance should be listed for each individual item in your schedule unless you have pooled reserves. In that case, the balance should be listed for the group or pool, not the individual item.
  • Reserve Contribution(s)—Funding requirement for each item. Should be listed for the total group if you have pooled reserves.

For more information on Reserve Advisors, call (800) 980-9881 or visit www.reserveadvisors.com.

New Condominium and HOA Laws Now in Effect

By Laura M. Manning-Hudson

The 2017 legislative session proved to be a momentous one for Florida’s community associations. These important changes occurred:

  • Estoppel certificates must substantially comply with information now required by statute.
  • Any officer, director, or manager who knowingly solicits, offers to accept, or accepts any thing or service of value or kickback is subject to civil and, if applicable, criminal penalties.
  • Forgery of a ballot envelope or voting certificate used in a condominium association election is punishable as a third-degree felony.
  • Condominium board members may not serve more than four consecutive two-year terms. The only exceptions to this term limit are for candidates who achieve a 2/3 “super majority” of the total voting interests or when there are not enough eligible candidates to fill the vacancies on the board at the time of the vacancy.

In light of these and many other significant legislative changes, Florida community associations and their directors and members would be well advised to consult with highly experienced legal counsel.

More information on the South Florida law firm of Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel, P.A. is available at www.srhl-law.com or by calling (800) 737-1390.

Association Financial Review Checklist

Kathy Naughton, CMCA, AMS

  • The 2018 budget should be reviewed and finalized.
  • Does the association have a reserve study on hand to ensure the budget is on target?
  • Did the association commission an update of the reserve study, or does the updated expense need to be included in the 2018 budget?
  • If the association does not have a reserve study on board, perhaps it is time to consider budgeting for one for accurate future projections.
  • What are any out-of-the-ordinary expenses anticipated for the season?
  • Is the cash currently liquid and available for covering the expenses?
  • If the cash is not available, does the association have a line of credit in place to cover the shortfall?
  • If so, is the repayment plan in place?
  • Review all bank accounts and decide how to best secure all monies over the $250,000 FDIC limit.
  • Review any CD or CDARS renewal dates and decide on the best investment products based upon the need for liquidity.
  • If major projects are on the horizon, perhaps putting a CD balance due for renewal into a money market should be considered.
  • Engage your professionals in helping you through the financial planning for the year. Your bankers, CPAs, attorneys, reserve professionals, etc., are all here to assist.

For more information on Stonegate Bank, email knaughton@stonegatebank.com or call (954) 203-1285.

Getting Your Building System Up and Running

By Scott A. O’Connor

Welcome back, snowbirds! The annual migration back to Florida has started. In keeping with snowbird tradition, many seasonal residents close their units for the summer and leave them unattended. This dormancy can often lead to multiple problems with building systems over time.

Often plumbing can become damaged if unused for extended periods. Traps in sinks and tubs can dry out, causing seals to fail. Toilets can also experience damage if not used for long periods of time. To minimize the risk of potential damage to plumbing, be proactive—close sink and tub drains, and keep the lid down on toilets, which will prevent the evaporation of water in the trap and in the bowl.

How is your roof? Summer is the harshest time of the year for roofs; frequent ponding of rain water and hot sun can damage the roof. Protect your real estate and have a roof inspection/moisture survey at the end of the summer by a qualified engineer.

For more information on TRC Worldwide Engineering Restoration and Inspection LLC, call (954) 484-7777 ext. 218 or visit www.trcww.com.

Check Out Your Unsightly Iron Stains

By Michael Trussell

Welcome back, snowbirds! Are you noticing more rusty iron stains on your buildings, or are the same ugly stains still there from last year? The rusty stains are caused by the high levels of iron in your well that is used to irrigate the property.

For more information on preventing the iron stains on your property, please visit usarustbusters.com or call (866) 460-7878.

As the Weather Cools Down, Welcome Back, Snowbirds

By Charis Bryan

As the weather cools down, we see a return of the snowbirds. Now is the time to take a look at some specific areas that may be of concern.

  • Clean mold and algae on homes, enclosures, drive-ways, and sidewalks.
  • Check timers for irrigations systems.
  • Look into water restrictions for winter months.
  • Trim back overhanging tree branches (much easier when there are fewer leaves).
  • Re-strap your pool furniture.
  • For communities with dumpsters, you may want to look at scheduling extra pickups with the increase in residents.

The return of our winter residents makes us to think about events in the communities. It may be time to look at securing dates and getting permits for community garage sales and start planning out the holiday decorations. If your community is planning on any events, notices should be placed on the community bulletin boards.

For more information on Vista Community Association Management, call (407) 682-3443 or visit www.Vista-cam.com.