Welcome to the Board

Welcome to the Board

Published February 2023

Photo by iStockphoto.com/Seiya Tabuchi

     Editor’s Note: The role of a board member is essential to community association living. The role can be satisfying when the community is thriving and residents are mostly content. But serving on the board is a serious responsibility, and there are many areas to be occupied with. With that in mind, a variety of professionals have provided sound counsel in their areas of expertise to assist board members in carrying out their responsibilities well. Thank you for your service, board members!

Get Ahead of Everything
By Ana Rivero

     First and foremost, congratulations on being elected to your board! You’ll be given opportunities to learn, grow, and develop your skills in unexpected ways. The time and energy you’ll devote over the next year will be appreciated, though sometimes it may not feel that way.

     In the coming year communities throughout Florida will be facing unprecedented changes to operations, reserves, and maintenance. Our best advice is to get ahead of everything you can. New registration procedures are in place in some counties, along with inspection and reserve requirement changes throughout Florida. Knowing what needs to be done can help you set yourself and your community up for success.

     Be sure to consult with the association’s attorney and CPA regarding these changes and how they will impact your budget.

     For more information on Allied Property Group, call 305-232-1579 or 239-241-6499 or visit www.alliedpropertygroup.net.

Improve the Aesthetic Appeal of Your Neighborhood
By Alumina Products

     Welcome, new board members, and thank you for your service!

     Alumina Products has a unique way of improving the aesthetic appeal of your neighborhood while giving your residents the ability to individualize their own property, by offering custom mailboxes and decorative street sign options that provide an old-world charm. 

     Our modular mailbox system is built so that all homes will have the same style. Alumina Products’ collection of custom mailboxes includes all of the supporting accessories, mounting brackets, metal bases, various accents, and decorative scrolling.

     The decorative street signs that are provided match the same style, look, and feel of all of our mailbox options to provide a uniform look throughout your neighborhood. 

     Alumina Products Inc. has been combining modern technology with traditional casting methods to provide quality aluminum and metal mailboxes, street signs, and frames since 1998 throughout Southwest Florida and the United States. 

     For more information, contact Alumina Products, Inc., by email at sales@aluminaproducts.com, call 727-934-9781, or visit www.aluminaproducts.com.

Maintain What You Have
By Connie Lorenz

     From 2021 through 2022, I am positive that most boards have tossed their budgets out the window! The asphalt industry has seen short-ages in aggregate and trucking, fuel prices that are all over the place, looming diesel and DEF shortages (an additive supplement for diesel), labor shortages, and because of the two hurricanes, a hotel price increase that was triple what it normally was for our off-season work! I am tired of the craziness and just want a little peace and quiet! While we can’t fix everything going on in life, we can help you maintain what you have. If you are limited on funds or not sure what direction to go regarding your pavement, maybe it is best to just maintain what you have until the market calms down a bit. Why would you want to rip up your pavement in your community and then worry about whether you could put it back? Sometimes the best move is to be still and watch. Your pavement has been around for many years; it’s not going to go away overnight! Keep it safe for your pedestrians by securing any areas of concern and close any open areas of pavement that might cause additional damage. When the market shows some stability, hopefully then we will see some price decreases and revisit our projects. 

     For more information on Asphalt Restoration Technology Systems, call 800-254-4PDC (4732) or visit www.asphaltnews.com.

Surround Yourself with a Supportive Team of Experts
By Will Simons, RS, EBP

     Welcome to the board! We hope you enjoy the challenge of responsibility and decision-making that comes with helping to run your community association. While they may not always show it, your fellow residents will surely appreciate your efforts on their behalf. In our experience, one of the best things a new board of directors can do is to surround themselves with a supportive team of experts who can help provide guidance and insight, making your experience easier and more valuable to your association. Think of these individuals as your community’s “All-Star Team,” who can draw on a wealth of experience and expertise in helping you with your new role. A reliable property manager, accountant, and attorney are three of the most important positions to fill for any association. Of course, when it comes time to bring in a reserve specialist to help you with your reserve study and annual budget, we hope you’ll keep us in mind! Good luck!

     For more information about Association Reserves, visit www.ReserveStudy.com, call 954-210-7925, or email wsimons@reservestudy.com.

Review Your Current Service Agreements
By Brad Higdon

     Welcome, board of directors! As a new year is upon us, it is my suggestion to all boards of directors, new and returning, to review your facilities’ current service agreements. Here are some of the items you will want to pay particular attention to.

  • Annual Costs and Extras—Review the previous year’s invoices and additional services for the overall costs of your contract and services. Is your price guaranteed each year, or can your price increase automatically?
  • Cancellation Clause—How easy would it be for the association to terminate mid-contract? And at what cost?
  • Automatic Renewal—Does your contract have an automatic renewal clause? If so, how are you notified prior to the renewal? Be sure they have your most current contact information for notification purposes.
  • Contract Equipment List and/or Services—Verify that the assets or services listed on your service contract are accurate and your vendor is providing services as contracted. Many facilities upgrade equipment and community assets; however, these changes may not be reflected in their service agreement. You may leave yourself responsible for the cost of repairs on these changes when you think you’re covered.

     Please contact Bass United Fire & Security Systems or your current vendor to review these items.

     For more information about Bass United Fire & Security Systems, call 954-785-7800 or visit www.bassunited.com.

Now What?
By Sara K. Wilson, Esq.

     So, you’ve been elected or appointed to the board of your association. Now what? First, it is necessary to become familiar with the association’s governing documents (declaration, articles of incorporation, and bylaws) and any written rules and policies. Board members are charged with upholding these documents and policies to the best of their ability as they oversee the operation of the community or condominium. Board members also have a fiduciary responsibility to the owners, and as a director you will be involved with creating the operating budget for the association. Issues you can likely expect to arise during your term include funding reserves, dealing with vendors and insurance, architectural questions, maintenance of and improvements on the common areas or common elements, and enforcement of the governing documents and rules. You will not have to face these issues alone, however, since in most communities and condominiums you will have a management company that will supervise the day-to-day operations of the association. Additionally, the association’s attorney and accountant will assist the board in complying with applicable Florida statutes and tax codes. Board membership will require much work, dedication, and patience, but it is a position that is crucial for the vitality of your community or condominium. 

     For more information about Becker, visit beckerlawyers.com.

Benefits of a Bulk Telecom Agreement
By Paul Mirabella

     Congratulations on being elected to the board! One of the many things you may take on over the next year is reviewing your community’s current telecommunications contract, or even considering if a bulk contract is the right next move for your community! If you go down that path, below are some benefits of a bulk telecom agreement.

  • Lower and consistent pricing
       A huge advantage of a bulk agreement is that it offers a lower cost, up to 50 percent less, than what a homeowner would pay for the same services individually, without the surprise price increases.
  • Fiber infrastructure with faster internet speeds
       As part of bulk agreements, communities often get a full fiber infrastructure built out. Fiber internet brings faster, more reliable symmetrical internet speeds. This means download and upload speeds are the same, and this provides the ideal experience for customers!
  • Superior Customer Service
       A great benefit of working with a bulk broadband provider is they typically offer a white-glove customer service experience that comes along with the partnership. 

     To learn more about Blue Stream Fiber and our bulk offerings, please call us at 866-960-2855 or visit www.BlueStreamFiber.com/bulk.

Committed to Communities
By Laura McCracken

     Welcome to the board! We hope you enjoy the challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead. We know you are committed to serving your community. Similarly, Breezeline is committed to providing TV, internet, and voice services to communities like yours. We stand alone as a strong, nimble, local partner who will work hand in hand with community associations to develop a customized suite of services that meets your property’s unique needs. A relentless focus on innovation and growth has led to the development of state-of-the-art fiber networks built to support your property well into the future. Through a superior product offering your residents will be kept connected and entertained, with features such as ultra-fast gigabit internet service, unlimited voice service, and the ultimate TV viewing experience with TiVo®. Your community can also count on Breezeline’s dedication to exemplary service with personalized local support in English and Spanish for the best experience possible.

     For more information about Breezeline, a subsidiary of Cogeco Communications Inc., call 888-674-4892 or visit breezeline.com/communities.

Stepping Up to Serve on the Board
By Ashley Dietz Gray

     Congratulations on joining your board of directors. Community association boards are quite different in form and function than corporate boards, school boards, etc. Why? 

  1. Your community board is a political organization.
  2. It’s run by unpaid volunteers.
  3. The shareholders are all highly invested.
  4. The shareholders will almost NEVER agree on a common set of goals and objectives.
  5. You can’t go home and leave it behind because your job is your home!

     No matter how successful you may have been in another career, you can never be fully prepared for your experience on a community association board. 

     Board members are responsible for the administration of the association. The association is responsible for the maintenance, management, and operation of the association property.

     Some of the duties of board members include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Establishing an annual budget
  • Conducting legal elections
  • Overseeing the maintenance of the common elements
  • Managing the finances
  • Participating in board meetings
  • Enforcing the rules and regulations
  • Working with others to achieve the goals of the association.

     Being on the board is a thankless job, but someone must do it. Thank you for stepping up! Hopefully, your neighbors will recognize that you are investing your time and energy for the benefit of your community. 

     For more information about Campbell Property Management, call 954-427-8770 or visit www.CampbellMGT.com.

Don’t Get Stuck between a Rock and a Hard Place
By Adam Snitzer, CFO

     Condominium finances present a special challenge. Association board members aren’t just managing their own money. They have a responsibility to ensure that the entire community’s money is spent wisely and put toward long-lasting investments. This is especially hard because most condominiums’ financial reserves are limited, and very few unit owners are enthusiastic about special assessments. 

     So, when it comes to large renovation projects, condominium association board members are caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they have a fiduciary and statutory responsibility to maintain the building and its amenities. On the other hand, they’re held accountable by dozens of unit owners for getting it all done without wasting a dime. 

     That’s where owners’ representative companies like DSS Condo come in. An owners’ representative’s services are among the best investments an association can make during a large renovation or restoration project. 

     With so many moving parts and complex processes that board members must manage, it’s virtually impossible not to make costly mistakes.

     That’s why at DSS Condo, our past clients have saved millions due to our tight fiscal management. We save our clients’ money in four distinct ways: success in negotiating with vendors, ability to identify alternate means and methods in the construction process, tight control of change orders, and strict verification of payment applications. An owners’ representative’s services really do pay for themselves.

     For more information about the owners’ representative/project management services provided by DSS Condo, call 305-985-3772 or visit www.dsscondo.com.

Start Planning Now
By Ed Williams, RRC

     If a new roof is in your plans for the near future, the time to start planning is now. Supply chain issues have affected every phase of the roofing industry. However, in the last few months we have seen some improvements. Delays for some materials that had been over a year a short time ago have come down to a few months. Prices remain volatile, and that is the reason that time is of the essence in getting your planning completed and contracts awarded. Please know that you can expect contractors to put an escalation clause in the contract. Their suppliers guaranteed that the price at the time of the order will be the price at the time of delivery. The contractor will likely put in a clause that states that you agree to pay the price billed at the time of delivery. A design professional can guide you through the process.

     For more about EWRRC, visit EdWilliamsRegisteredRoofConsultant.com or call 772-335-5832.

Good Practices for Electronic Communications
By Jonathan Goldstein

     Technology can be a blessing and a curse. Given the ubiquitous nature of electronic communications, the orientation of new directors should incorporate electronic communication polices. 

     Examples include the following:

  • Directors should avoid using their personal or business email addresses for association-related business. Directors should set up association-specific email addresses to avoid commingling email accounts. A Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes declaratory statement has interpreted records access to include personal emails of directors that involve association business.
  • Associations can establish, copy, and automatically forward emails to a centralized association email. When a record request is made or discovery is obtained in litigation, there would be a repository for all association emails. Rules can also direct owners to communicate via a specific association email address.
  • Directors should generally avoid using text, messaging, or chat applications for association business. Phone or application production can be more difficult. Directors do not want to submit their phone to forensic e-discovery and deal with preservation issues.
  • Some directors want to have group chats—a problematic trend. When people chat, they are not as mindful about what they say. Owners will argue that these are unnoticed private meetings if they are about association business and a quorum is “present.” Additionally, official chats arguably have to be preserved as an association record. 

     For more information about Haber Law, call 305-379-2400 or visit www.haber.law.

Maximize Every Dollar Spent
By Michelle Johnson

    Congratulations to all the board members! As the year begins, it is imperative for boards to reexamine their spending to ensure every dollar spent is maximized. 

     Telecommunications services are changing, and boards have a responsibility to negotiate a contract that protects the residents while adding value to the property. By offering bulk services to your community, you can accomplish both of these and offer additional benefits like the following:

  • Cost-Effective Pricing: Receive faster, symmetrical upload and download speeds at half the cost of retail pricing.
  • Concierge-Style Support: From construction through the life of our partnership, a dedicated team will provide support to the community.
  • Continuous Innovation: We consistently deliver the most advanced technology through direct fiber optic lines to each home and strive to remain at the forefront of innovation.

     Contact the Hotwire Communications team by scanning the QR code to learn more about bringing savings to your community.

A Challenging Year for Associations
By Sundeep Jay, RS

     Welcome back, new and returning board members. This year is going to be challenging for associations that are three stories and higher. In May 2022 our legislature created new rules governing condominiums as regards inspections and reserve studies. Due to the vagueness and ambiguities within the new laws, many of us are hoping that this spring, when our legislature goes back into session, they will help clarify some of the new laws passed in 2022. There has also been a concern for many of us regarding the timeline that has been set to be in compliance with these new laws. All condominiums that are three stories or higher must have a structural integrity reserve study completed by December 2024. This report requires an engineer/licensed architect to complete the visual inspection. My personal opinion is that this timeline provided by the State appears to be unreasonable and may not be achievable. Let’s hope the State provides us more time and further clarification on the new laws that have been passed.

     For more information on J.R. Frazer, call 561-488-3012, email JRFrazerENT@aol.com, or visit www.JRfrazer.com.

Avoid the Wrath of Khan
By Jeffrey A. Rembaum, Esq.

     Serving on a community association board should be a selfless act for the betterment of the entire community. A good board member represents the entire community and not any one person or any one issue. At times you will be successful in gaining support for your ideas, and at other times you may be in the minority and be outvoted. When that happens, treat people the way you would want to be treated. Provide support for the idea and gain respect. Later, you may be surprised when other board members support your ideas, too. Be a team player. Above all else remember, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.” 

     For more information about Kaye Bender Rembaum, call 800-974-0680 or visit www.KBRLegal.com.

Board Members: Know What You Don’t Know

     The community association world continues to evolve, especially in the Sunshine State. From new insurance legislation to dramatic Florida condominium law overhauls, there is a lot for board members to digest. Acknowledge what you do not know, and utilize the educational resources at your disposal to get up to speed.

     FLCAJ is an ideal place to start and gather timely legislative updates, association trends, and current best practices. Our comp-any launched a webinar series three years ago to keep board members informed early in the pandemic. That has evolved into a wide-ranging forum for association experts and public officials to share practical tools, tips of the trade, and important resources. That content now lives in a dedicated YouTube channel—KWPMtv—for on-demand viewing. Other helpful resources include Florida’s Condominium Ombudsman, the Homeowners Protection Bureau (HOPB), the Foundation for Community Association Research, law journals, and consumer-focused daily newspapers, to name just a few.

     Knowledge is power as communities navigate these important changes.

     For more information on KW PROPERTY MANAGEMENT & CONSULTING, contact Rob Arent at 239-495-3428 or rarent@kwpmc.com, or visit www.kwpmc.com.

The Current Insurance Crisis
By Larry Moskowitz, Esq.

     Welcome to the board! This year has been a defining year for property managers and condominium associations across the state of Florida. Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole made landfall just 43 days apart while causing catastrophic damage to thousands of residential properties. The Florida legislature has responded by stripping away the rights of insureds in favor of the highly sophisticated billion-dollar insurance companies.

     Here are some changes that have already occurred this year. With the current insurance crisis, the Florida governor called a special session to address the issues in the insurance industry. The focus of the special session has targeted a homeowner association’s ability to sue their carrier when it underpays, denies, or delays your association’s insurance claim. The legislature has bolstered the position of insurers across the state, disallowing attorneys’ fees and assignment of benefits and locking associations into binding arbitrations. 

     Now is the time to evaluate your property before the next storm. WindyLaw offers free property inspections with a licensed estimator and engineer to evaluate the condition of your property before the next storm season. 

     To learn more about what the property damage law experts at WindyLaw can do for you, give us a call at 844-849-0760 or email us at info@WindyLaw.com. All inspections and consultations are free of charge.

Finding Success in Your First Steps 
By Gary van der Laan 

     Congratulations on joining or rejoining the board—resident involvement is key in helping the community thrive! 

     A successful association requires a dedicated board, one with extensive knowledge and a commitment to teamwork. The goal as a board member is to work together in the best interest of the association. The following tips may help in this role:  

  • Read your community’s governing documents.
  • Attend at least one board certification program. 
  • Become aware of contracts with vendors.  
  • Meet with the person/company responsible for creating the monthly financials and review those with them.
  • Review the past several months of meeting minutes. This is a great way to understand issues that have arisen in the past and see the actions that the board has taken.
  • Finally, looking forward, consider creating a new board member orientation program incorporating all of the above tips if one does not already exist. The sooner new board members can get up to speed, the sooner all will be working together for the success of the community!

     For more information on Leland Management, call 407-447-9955 or visit www.lelandmanagement.com.

Our Solution to Silicone-Based Wall Coatings
By Alexandra Freeman

     Welcome to the new board members and those who are returning! Did you know that silicone-based architectural wall coatings may, over time, become unsightly due to atmospheric deposits of dust and dirt? Even cleaning can be costly and only a temporary measure for remediation. Unfortunately, recoating is typically limited to silicone-based materials as most organic coatings will not adhere to the existing silicone-based coating. Recoating with high-quality acrylic architectural coatings is also not an option. Don’t fret; we have a solution—Pecora SilcoPrime. SilcoPrime is an STPU- (silyl-terminated polyurethane) based interlaminary primer specifically formulated to promote the adhesion of exterior-grade, non-silicone-based architectural wall coatings when applied over existing silicone-based wall coatings. The coating will act as a permanent bridge between the existing silicone base coating and the new acrylic architectural coating. This provides the advantage of flexibility to choose from a wide array of colors and coating manufacturers when considering a recoat application!

     For more information about SilcoPrime, please call 800-523-6688, email techservices@pecora.com, or visit  www.pecora.com/coatings/.

Today’s Smart-Home Technology Requires Best-in-Class Internet for Reliable Performance: Is Your Community Prepared?
By John Von Stein

     Your internet connection is only as strong as your network architecture. If your condominium community is wired with outdated coaxial cable, your residents may be frustrated with internet service that fails to keep up with the increasing digital load from smart-home devices.

     Fiber is the industry’s best practice for internet architecture. QXC’s Active Optical Network (AON) runs a dedicated pair of fiber-optic strands to every unit. Plus, our whole-home mesh WiFi6 considerably boosts coverage, speed, and capacity for multiple devices. Residents get a clearer, stronger signal with secure, seamless connectivity—no buffering or dead zones.

     For most installs, a full gig is brought into a community, which means exceptional capacity and speed for today’s popular streaming, web surfing, voice assistant and home security functions, and more. QXC’s AON fiber infrastructure performs today with scalability that can meet the needs of your community now and for many years to come. 

     John Von Stein is CEO of Boca Raton-based QXC Communications. For more information, contact him at 561-708-1500, email sales@qxc.us, or visit QXC online at www.qxc.us.

Three Helpful Tips
By Wendy Murray, CAM, CMCA 

     The following are three helpful tips for community association board members:

Educate Yourself

     In Florida, board members must take a board member certification course via an approved provider by the state (www.myfloridalicense.com) or sign a statement (shorturl.at/bsyBK) that they have read, know, and thoroughly understand their governing documents.  

Obtain a Copy of all Current Association Contracts 

     These contracts can be kept electronically, stored in a binder or folder, etc.; however, ease of access should be kept in mind. Any contracts that are not clearly understood should be discussed with the community association manager and/or the association’s legal counsel.  

     The board has a fiduciary duty to the association. Understanding this and understanding current contracts, financials, budgets, bank accounts, insurance policies, and statutory requirements are all key to running a successful association. If the board signers for the bank accounts have changed, then you will need to complete new bank signature cards for your bank accounts.  

Develop an Annual Plan/Calendar

     List out the calendar of months, insert the fixed dates (insurance renewals, CD renewals, contracts, etc.), and then enter the flexible dates.  Having this will help keep you focused.

     Wendy Murray, CAM, CMCA, is a RealManage Florida division president. For more information on RealManage, visit www.realmanage.com.

Helping You Manage Community Business with Confidence 
By Matt Kuisle, PE, PRA, RS

     Congratulations and welcome to the board! Between planning for capital projects, acquiring and maintaining adequate reserve funds, and the day-to-day hustle of running a community, the life of a board member can be hectic. Our team of reserve study engineers takes pride in delivering easy-to-understand reserve study reports and unbiased guidance that supports your community’s long-term capital planning needs. 

  • A reserve study presents the following, all of which lay out a path to your association’s financial and physical health:
    • A detailed assessment of the condition of each common asset
    • A prioritized repair and replacement schedule for each common asset
    • Fair and equitable reserve fund recommendations that support your community’s project needs

     Let us make your job easier by providing capital planning support for years to come, setting your community on the path to financial and physical success. 

     To learn more about Reserve Advisors, visit www.reserveadvisors.com, contact us at 800-980-9881, or email info@reserveadvisors.com.

Increasing Budgets will Require Careful Deliberation and Communication
By Shari Wald Garrett

     Association budgets are on the rise due to increases in insurance, inflation, inspection/reserve requirements, and other factors. 

     One of the best approaches for reconciling required increases with owners is the use of a finance/budget committee, which is able to give all of the important financial questions that come into play the attention and consideration that they deserve.

Communities that are unable to develop and implement a finance/budget committee should make such matters the primary purview of their board treasurer. As they are preparing the budget to be proposed to the membership, treasurers should communicate their findings and projections to the other board members and owners during discussions at the board meetings.

     Financial and budgetary strains are significantly impacting Florida community associations. By relying on dedicated and experienced finance/budget committees and association treasurers, and by effectively communicating all of the changes and answering owners’ questions, community associations will be in the best position to navigate the difficult financial straits that lie ahead.

     For more information about Siegfried Rivera, visit www.SiegfriedRivera.com, or www.FloridaHOALawyerBlog.com, or call 305-442-3334.

Know These Best Practices
By Tara Tallaksen

     Welcome to the board! Becoming a member of your association board is an exciting and respectable distinction. At Vesta, we strongly believe that whether you’re a returning member or brand new, it’s important to know the best practices for serving your community’s needs. Our best pract-ices are as follows: understand your expected responsibilities, be transparent, comprehend the financials, and research property management companies. 

     First, it’s important to understand your role and responsibilities as a board member. The overall role of the board is to uphold the association’s rules and regulations. If you’re not already familiar with the association rules, then you need to investigate your association’s articles of incorporation, bylaws, covenants (CC&Rs), and other documentation. 

     Second, board members need to be transparent. Transparency is key to communicating with homeowners and establishing trustworthy relationships with residents and vendors. 

     Third, it’s vital to understand the financials and practice sound financial management. One of the most critical responsibilities of the board is to create budgets and monitor the reserves of their association. 

     Finally, board members should take the time to research property management companies. This is beneficial as property management companies can help manage associations through providing their trained professionals and other additional resources. 

     At Vesta, we want all our board members to succeed, which is why we strongly recommend our best practices for you and your associations. We’re always here to help! 

     For more information about Vesta Property Services, visit www.VestaPropertyServices.comsales@vestapropertyservices.com, or call 877-988-3782.