Welcome Back Snowbirds!

Welcome Back Snowbirds!

Helpful Advice Ahead

Compiled By Megan McMurray / Published Oct 2015

Welcome Back Snowbirds!


As the snowbirds return to Florida, FLCAJ sought out several community association service providers to find out what sage 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!

Avoiding the Unauthorized Practice of Law

By Ben Solomon, Esq.

Boards frequently ask their managers to handle many important tasks for their associations. CAMs need to be careful that the same does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law (UPL). Recently, the Supreme Court of Florida issued an Opinion regarding the types of conduct that would be UPL if performed by CAMs who should not: participate in drafting amendments, be substantially involved in the preparation/execution of contracts, or participate in any activity that requires statutory or case law analysis to reach a legal conclusion. Other areas that could constitute UPL include determining the number of days to be provided in a statutory notice (such as an election package) and identifying, through review of title instruments, owners to receive pre-lien letters. Potential repercussions may include: denial of an application for licensure, revocation or suspension of license, imposition of an administrative fine of up to $5,000 for each separate offense, issuance of a reprimand, probation, and potentially be found guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree. Association boards and their CAMs should be mindful of the activities discussed in the Opinion that could constitute UPL if performed by CAMs.

For more information, visit www.algpl.com.

Back to School for Florida’s Snowbird Population—Catching Up on Legislative Changes

By Donna DiMaggio Berger

Since most new Florida laws take effect on July 1 or October 1 each year, it is important for our snowbird friends to catch up on the legislative changes, which have occurred during their absence. A new Section 718.128 of the Condominium Act was created, which now allows online voting for elections and other matters. This legislative change triggers the following action items:

  • The board needs to discuss how and when it will obtain written member consent to conduct online voting;
  • The manager needs to vet potential online voting systems with the board;
  • The association attorney should be consulted to discuss how voting materials related to online voting must be maintained for future inspection requests, the purposes for which online votes can be counted, the kind of notice which needs to be given for the board meeting at which the online voting resolution is passed, as well as any legal pitfalls associated with the online voting process; and
  • The members need to be advised that online voting is now a statutory  option and should attend any informational meetings hosted by the board.

For more information, visit www.bplegal.com/events.

Benefits of Bats

By Russell Halsted

Bats of all kinds are protected in Florida, because they are essential to our ecosystem. According to Florida-based Friends of Bats President Dan Bozone, “Without bats, life would be unbearable for residents and tourists alike. Each bat can consume its own body weight in small flying insects (especially mosquitoes) in a single evening. Imagine if hundreds of millions of mosquitoes were not being eaten by bats … daily.”

Beneficial, but be aware of the facts:

  • Even a few bats entering or leaving your building means a colony is living in there.
  • Bat droppings can lead to serious respiratory infections.
  • Structural integrity of your building can be compromised.
  • During maternity season (4/15–8/14 each year), bats cannot be interfered with in any way. Once maternity season is over, it’s time for removal and prevention.

For more information, call (888) 758-2287 or visit www.FriendsofBats.com.

Changes in the Laws

By Michael Chapnick

Snowbirds, a lot has happened while you have been gone. Our Florida Legislature had a very active session and has adopted a number of changes to the laws effecting community associations. Some of the more interesting changes are:

  • Drones may not be used to gather information about someone without their permission;
  • Community associations are now authorized to conduct membership votes and elections by the use of an Internet-based voting system, provided that member consent is obtained, and the other statutory requirements are met; and,
  • Under certain circumstances, the tenants of a unit in foreclosure may be able to remain in the unit for an additional 30 days after receiving a notice of termination.

For more information, visit www.srhl-law.com.

Defining the Scope of Your Project

By Donald Kipnis

Whether your high-rise property needs major repairs or it is time for certification, it’s important to start the scope of work analysis and costs prior to or at the time of notification with the right construction consulting management team. Taking this crucial approach can save millions on a complex project. Working with the board and property management team if needed, DSS Condo ensures a top quality outcome for every project. Some key areas of focus are:

  • Definition of Project Scope
  • Scheduling Analysis and Control
  • 40–Year Certification Management
  • Liability Mitigation and Insurance Evaluation
  • Bid Analysis and Preparation
  • Contract Negotiation

Many times the boards and property management companies rely solely on the engineers approach, which can lead to more costs as the engineer doesn’t look at the whole picture. DSS Condo gets the job done right from the start so there is no reason to go back later.

For more information, visit www.dsscondo.com.

Financing Association Improvements

By Karen Shawdee 

Are your facilities and your association prepared for the winter season? If you are looking to make repairs, undergo a major renovation, or considering an upgrade to your facilities, it’s important that your board members and management company have an understanding of the options available for financing these improvements. Speak with your banker about the pros and cons of obtaining a loan versus dipping in to your cash reserves. Ask about financing vehicles, repayment terms, and even interest-only payment options. 

Another thing to review on a routine basis is FDIC insurance for your association’s funds. Despite insurance limits, there are ways to receive unlimited FDIC coverage through Insured Cash Sweep (ICS) accounts and the CDARs (CD) program. These accounts offer a simple and easy way to insure your funds while earning interest at no cost to the association.  

For more information, visit www.iberiabank.com

Florida Building Code 5th Edition (2014)—Effective as of June 30, 2015

By Scott Harvey-Lewis

While you were gone this summer, a new Florida Building Code (FBC) went into effect. This new edition of the code not only applies to new construction, but it also governs existing buildings undergoing repair, alterations, or additions. Any construction documents submitted for a permit after June 30, 2015, must comply with the provisions of the FBC 2014. Revisions and additions to this new edition include significant changes that affect common capital improvement projects such as re-roofing, window and door replacement, and re-waterproofing of recreation decks. Therefore, any building-related work planned for the upcoming season needs to be checked and validated under the provisions of the new Code if not already permitted. A registered design professional (registered architect (RA) or a licensed engineer (PE)) should be consulted if more information is needed on the requirements of the FBC 5th Edition.

For more information, visit www.falconengineering.com.

Get Involved in Your Community—You Get What You Give

By Marc Rodriguez, LCAM, CMCA, AMS

In community living, you get what you put in. Below are some suggestions for making the best of your time.

Participate in the community

  • Attend the annual association meeting. 
  • Participate in planning social functions to help further promote a sense of community. 
  • Find your passion and participate in committees that address that passion. 

Keep up-to-date on association affairs

  • Review your association’s governing documents to stay current on what your responsibilities are. 
  • Read the association newsletters and visit the community website.
  • Review the annual budget and notices.
  • If an amendment to one of the governing documents is proposed, educate yourself by reading and understanding the governing documents and the reason for the proposed change.

Cast your vote in board of director elections and on community association matters

  • Gain an understanding of what the board does and what their responsibilities are. 
  • Annually you will be invited to attend a membership meeting to vote on association matters, including the election of board members.

For more information, please visit www.associaonline.com

Hurricane Season: Stay Informed and Prepared

By Matthew Malerba

Did you know 30 hurricanes have made landfall in Florida in October? It is important to stay informed and prepared until the end. Should a hurricane head our way, be sure to: remove all furniture and satellite dishes from your balconies and patios, remove/secure all outside items that might become missiles during a storm, and place towels on window sills and on the bottom of all sliding glass doors. Plan for a safe destination inland or completely out of the anticipated hurricane strike zone, and be sure to purchase supplies you may need just in case, such as water, non-perishable food, vitamins, food for infants, batteries, paper goods, non-electric can opener, plastic storage containers, toiletries, personal hygiene items, disinfectants, absorbent towels, a first-aid kit, and some games and books for entertainment.

For more information, visit www.akam.com.

In Case of a Storm, Protect Your Unit

By Lisa D’Addio

Welcome snowbirds! You are possibly returning while the hurricane season drags into the fall. Most likely, your condominium association has taken proactive steps to maintain your building in the event of a serious storm. There are a few things you can do to protect the inside of your unit. 

  • Create an exit strategy in case of evacuation.
  • Inventory and video the contents of your property. 
  • Assemble a watertight container with your valuables, documents, passports, licenses, medications, and emergency contact information. 
  • Prepare a Hurricane Box with plenty of water, pre-packaged/canned foods, portable sterno stove, batteries, battery operated radio, flashlights, and first-aid/survival items necessary to last for up to a week.
  • Have cash available so you do not have to rely on ATM machines. 
  • Finally, talk to your insurance agent and make sure your insurance is up to date!

For more information, call (954) 540-2692 or visit www.trcww.com.

Insurance Premium Financing: A Solution for Condominium and Homeowners Associations

By City National Bank

Community associations are often faced with a challenge when they receive the annual renewal of the association’s master insurance policy. Unlike personal insurance policies where the premiums can be paid over monthly installments, this premium is tens of thousands of dollars, and many associations do not have that large of a reserve to cover the premium in full.

The solution is insurance premium financing, which coming from a bank or finance company allows associations to finance the large premium over the course of the year, typically allowing the association to pay the premium over 11 months. This improves the association’s cash flow and maintains its liquidity levels, while at the same time making sure the insurance carrier is paid in full as required. 

While interest rates vary, typical insurance premium financing rates are between two and six percent. Look for a vendor with an in-depth understanding of the factors affecting community associations. Keep in mind that these premiums, while financed, will still need to be paid off within the year. 

For more information, visit www.citynational.com.

Is Your Patio Furniture a Candidate for Restoration?

By Tammy Leeman

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 update the look of your furniture and save your property a lot of money!

The restoration process involves completely stripping off the old, dull finish by sandblasting with aluminum oxide. The metal surface is then pretreated with a five stage chemical pretreatment process. This properly prepares the patio furniture for the powder coating application. The powder is sprayed onto the metal surface of the furniture that is then baked in an industrial oven to cure the powder to a beautiful, long-lasting, final finish. Once the powder coating process is completed, the new straps or sling materials are installed along with any protective foot glides to protect flooring.

For more information, call (954) 917-2715 or visit www.absolutepowdercoat.com.

Move Delinquencies to the Front Burner

By Mitch Drimmer

Snowbirds, we are glad you are back for another season in Florida. No doubt a lot of issues were placed on the back burner while you were gone, and there are problems that need your attention as soon as possible. Ask your manager or treasurer to give you a review of your delinquencies and aging, and let’s see how much money is past due. I would not be surprised if it’s a lot more than you expected. Yes, our nation has experienced a great economic recovery, but in every community association, there will always be those who just cannot understand their obligations. It’s time you consider a new strategy and utilize the services of a performance-based collection agency to get those fees in. Call me anytime for a no cost and no obligation review of your outstanding balances and delinquencies. Welcome home.

For more information, visit www.snapcollections.com.

Online Voting Requires Due Diligence

By John Bodin

Florida HOAs and co-ops may now legally accept online ballots in any election if a unit owner consents in writing to vote over the Internet. This is welcome news for many associations, but any move toward online voting should be done with caution. Make sure your election services provider:

  • Is experienced in ‘hybrid’ balloting—your membership will include many voters who’ll prefer a paper ballot for years to come.
  • Features a secure, encrypted, online balloting system that ensures identity authentication, a secret and anonymous ballot, usability testing, and offers the voter a ballot receipt…it’s the law!
  • Offers complete third-party authority services. While there are cheap, do-it-yourself online voting tools available, these systems offer no voter assurance that ‘insider tampering’ has not compromised an election. 

We look forward to the opportunity to move your association’s elections into
the 21st Century!

For more information, please visit www.electiontrust.com

Pool Winterization–Florida Style!

By Alvaro Mendoza

Up north, pool winterization means draining, covering, or otherwise hibernating your pool until spring. In Florida, it means completely the opposite, like preparing
for the heaviest bather loads, keeping the pool temperature 15 F above where nature wants it, and modernizing your systems. Here are
some details:

  • Ready for peak season? Work with your maintenance staff to see what challenges they are having. The most challenging are pumping, filtration, heating, and treatment systems. Deficiencies can be seen in person and on the log sheets.
  • Heating affordably? Make sure the heater has received PM services, check if a pool cover is right for you (66 percent savings), and keep pools at a reasonable temp.
  • Modernizing: Help make decisions to modernize with saline, UV, energy-efficient pumping systems, water-saving filters, and interactive remote control of the entire pump room.

For more information, visit www.ceswaterquality.com. 

Research Your Contractors

By Connie Lorenz

Welcome Home! You might have noticed that it has been quite “wet” while you were gone! The floods and heavy rains wreaked havoc on roadways and parking lots. Community roadways are full of pot holes as it hasn’t been dry enough to even attempt to correct these problem areas! 

As budget season begins, keep in mind that out-of-state contractors will begin to offer their services at what may be a better price than your local contractor. Be aware that you are not protected if the business is not registered with the state! Recently, customers informed us that a contractor is using our properties, which have been rejuvenated with Pavement Dressing Conditioner (PDC) as their references and stating it’s their product! Beware! Not all rejuvenators are the same and some are even dangerous! Always refer to Sunbiz.org, the Better Business Bureau, and the Internet when researching your contractors! 

For more information, please 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 mostrecent figures. This is especially true for those associations who 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 2016, 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, please visit www.reservestudy.com

Roofing Issues Don’t Go Away

By Stella Amador

As you return back to life in Florida, you may find yourself with a laundry list of things to tackle, among them a leaky or old roof. Roofing issues don’t go away; they get worse. But there’s good news. Repairs don’t have to entail a new roof. Here are a couple of tips to getting the job done right:

  • Don’t wait. If a problem occurs and doesn’t get addressed quickly, it will get worse. Getting help quickly can save lots of money and aggravation.
  • If your roof has reached its inevitable end, you have options other than replacing it. A restoration may be a sensible solution.

For more information call (305) 306-7663 or visit www.floridaqualityroofing.com.

Safety Checklist for Returning to Florida

By Elizabeth Bessette

As a snowbird, there are several items to include on your checklist before making the trip to your winter residence. The guidelines established in Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) help residents deter crime by altering the area around the home. Examples include making sure hedges are trimmed around windows and ornamental rocks are removed; eliminating opportunities for burglars to hide around or break into the residence. Another consideration is the implementation of home automation using Z-Wave technology, which allows homeowners to control items such as locks, lights, thermostats, and cameras from their smartphone. Home automation is often connected to the home’s burglar alarm system and can provide alerts and updates when events occur within the home. Additionally, snowbirds should have mail forwarded to their winter address and notify utility companies to make arrangements during their Florida stay.  

For more information, please visit www.enverasystems.com

Thou Shall Not…Thou Shall…The Roofing Commandments

By Judi Monisera

After you unpack, step outside and take a deep breath, feel the Florida sunshine, gaze up into the sky… and look at your roof. When was your roof inspected last? Is damage lurking unseen? 

Your roof is a lot like the brakes on your car—designed to stop things. When it fails, everything else is at risk—including the safety of the occupants. Fortunately, you have options other than a costly roof replacement.

  • Don’t Waste Time. A hidden roof failure can quickly lead to damage to every part of the structure.
  • Don’t Waste Money. You  have options other than replacement. A roof restoration can extend the life of your roof at a fraction of the cost.
  • Don’t Waste Energy. An energy-efficient cool roof restoration will lower your utility bills and may qualify for energy saving rebates.
  • Do Contact a qualified roofing company who specializes in servicing community associations.

For more information, visit www.rhinoroofprotection.com.

Transitioning Seasonal Residents

By Doug Harrier, PCAM, AMS, CMCA 

For HOAs, the snowbirds’ return has the potential to cause some tense moments between the year-round and seasonal residents. It is important to remember that seasonal owners have not experienced the day-to-day community challenges that the year-round residents have. To help ease the transition for both permanent and seasonal residents:

Keep community websites up-to-date with the latest policies, documents, and current events or try posting in a common area of the community or sending out a seasonal community update. 

Remember that many snowbirds want to be engaged in the community while they are here. Take advantage of this time to get reacquainted with your part-time neighbors through community events or open home nights. Rally your events committee and ramp up the community social calendar. 

Ensure mailing addresses are up to date and important documents are not being sent to their winter homes.

Expect an increase in architectural review applications as well as attendance at the monthly board meetings.

Communication and preparation are key to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the community while respecting their fellow residents.

For more information, please visit www.lelandmanagement.com

Welcome Back to Floria–Your Lakes have Missed You!

By Adam Grayson

Things have been busy while you were gone. We have been in a drought and water levels are lower than normal, but now the seasonal rains have started and are mixing with the hot summer days, this is a recipefor algae and plant growth! Now that you’re back in town don’t be surprised if the plants and algae are continuing to grow. Keep in mind that your lake management company is hard at work keeping the balance in check through the use of EPA-approved herbicides, state-licensed aquatic technicians, and understanding Florida’s unique waterways and their biology. Things should start slowing down by the end of October, and we can truly enjoy the winter months!

For more information, please visit www.lakeandwetland.com.