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  • 08/01/2020 4:27 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Gabriel Stefu, WesternLaw Group, LLC

    All around the country, businesses, non-profits, and organizations of all kinds are dealing with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Homeowner’s HOAs (“HOAs”), as volunteer-based, non-profit organizations, are uniquely affected by this pandemic.  From homeowners being financially impacted, to decisions regarding the restrictions the virus places on access to communal facilities, HOAs are left to make decisions on how best to manage their funds, the income of assessments, and the possible financial leniency given to homeowners.

    A Balancing Act

    Though it is tempting and commendable to offer leniency to homeowners during these trying times, it is important to realize the necessity of collecting HOA assessments.  On the one hand, boards can provide leniency to homeowners, including staying foreclosures, covenant enforcement violations, and “soft” costs, such as late fees.  On the other hand, HOAs need funds to continue to operate.  Continuing to collect monthly assessments from homeowners is the best way to ensure that HOAs can pay their expenses and can continue to provide for the needs of the HOA.

    Keeping the HOA Running

    Monthly assessments are vital to an HOA.  Because HOAs do not make a profit or generate other revenue, many times, assessments are the only source of funds for an HOA.  These incoming funds provide the bedrock to allow HOAs to continue to operate.  Boards and homeowners must realize that, though times are currently hard for many people, the HOA still has a duty to provide for the needs of its community.  Much of the incoming assessment funds are used to pay HOA bills, to contract with landscapers, to maintain and repair buildings and common property, to afford security, to keep insurance, and to provide for other benefits to the homeowners.  When money is saved from assessments in the form of a Reserve Fund, that fund is also used for the benefit of the community to fund future capital improvements.

    The reality is that HOAs have both financial and legal responsibilities owed to their homeowners and to other businesses that an HOA may contract.  Monthly assessments that fuel HOAs are a necessary and pivotal part of fulfilling these obligations.

    Consequences of Non-payment

    Unfortunately, the contracts and legal obligations of an HOA do not halt when a pandemic occurs.  HOAs are still required to fulfill their contracts and pay their expenses. 

    For example, if an HOA did not collect monthly assessments, even during this pandemic, they could find themselves open to liability from other entities with whom they have a binding contract.  HOAs contract with numerous companies and persons to maintain and repair common elements and units, and their duty to fulfill these contracts does not stop.  If an HOA does not perform on these contracts, the services provided may stop, or the HOA may be liable to the contracting party.  Furthermore, the board of directors of HOAs has a fiduciary duty owed to their homeowners. They may violate these duties if they do not fulfill their legal obligations by breaching contracts, letting common elements remain in disrepair, or not collecting monthly assessments.

    In addition, not collecting or lowering assessments right now may harm an HOA in the future.  The steadiness and reliability of monthly assessments allow an HOA to plan and prepare for future expenses.  If assessments stopped, not only would the HOA not have funds to address situations in the future, but they may have to charge homeowners an increased amount in the future to make up for the lack of funds.  The lack of collecting dues now may lead to a build-up of missing funds that will be exponentially harder to recoup.  This is not ideal for either the homeowner or the HOA.

    If an HOA does not collect homeowner assessments, many of the consequences above, and others unforeseen, will manifest.

    Leading with Empathy

    The sign of a well-run HOA will be their ability to handle the continued collection of assessments effectively and empathetically against the backdrop of these turbulent times.  No board is perfect, but there are a few things that both boards and homeowners can do to create transparency and work together through the current struggles.

    • Communication.  Both sides should converse and reflect on the information above that assessments are necessary for the current and long-term stability of an HOA.
    • Leniency Outside of Assessments.  Boards can grant leniency to homeowners by holding off on foreclosures, covenant enforcement, and waiving soft costs such as late fees and interest, but should be encouraging all homeowners to at least pay the monthly assessment.  
    • Mutual Benefit.  Monthly assessments go to the benefit of all homeowners in a community, not just for a select few.  Rally around each other during these hard times and communities will come out even stronger than before.

    It is during times like these that communities should come together.  HOA boards around the county would do well to recognize the need for empathy and leniency - where it can be given - while reinforcing the importance of homeowners timely paying their monthly assessments.

    As always, we recommend that HOAs reach out to legal counsel for any advice to ensure that boards meet their fiduciary duties and properly communicate with the homeowners during these difficult times.

    The law firm of WesternLaw Group, LLC focuses on the preventive aspects of Homeowner Association (HOA) procedures, and interpretation of governing documents. They develop methods for associations to operate and communicate with a level of efficiency that enhances a sense of community. They encourage open communication between the owners, board of directors, and management companies in an effort to resolve conflicts prior to taking legal action.

  • 08/01/2020 4:23 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By G. Michael Kelson, Aspen Reserve Specialties

    At the annual meeting, the treasurer reports that there is $175,000 in the Reserve account. To most people, hearing that figure mentioned usually makes you pretty happy. I mean, wouldn’t you be excited to hear you have $175,000 in your savings account?  Unfortunately, what is not mentioned is the fact that asphalt work, painting, and pool resurfacing is all scheduled the following year, and the cost of these projects is about $150,000, essentially depleting the Reserve account. 

    If someone is measuring the financial strength of an association, what is the best way to go about gathering this information? Review the budget and balance sheet only? As you saw in the example above, a starting balance does not paint the full picture. In our opinion, the best way to determine the overall health of an associations financial status is through the Reserve Study. 

    The Reserve Study will provide a long-term budget tool for the association to plan for future capital replacement expenditures. A Reserve Study is compiled by a professional evaluating the conditions of Reserve components at the time of a site visit. In addition, when on site, the professional will measure and quantify the assets the association is responsible to maintain.  Once the field work is completed, the professional will estimate the replacement cost of the components and compare the balance of the Reserve fund to “what should be in” the Reserves at that point in time. This is called the percent funded. Of course, the higher the percentage, the stronger your Reserve fund may be. 

    Now, there are times the percent funded may be low (30% or lower), but because the association is either recently constructed, or recently had major Reserve projects completed, the fund may be considered in a “weak” position. However, with no major projects scheduled for many years, there is no need to sound the alarm. In cases like this, the association has plenty of time to strengthen the account through Reserve contributions and nominal annual increases before the projects are scheduled for replacement. Of course, the recommendation needs to be followed, and the report should be updated frequently (every 2 – 3 years is ideal). 

    There are many benefits of being in a strong financial position. It provides more wiggle room for an issue that unexpectedly comes up, or a cushion in case the project costs a little more due to underlying issues the professional was unaware of at the time of the site evaluation. It allows you the opportunity to hire the BEST contractor, not the cheapest. And of course, the association is able to maintain the property as needed, rather than deferring maintenance, which impacts the overall property value. 

    Let’s face it, there are also things that happen in life in which we cannot prepare. Huge snow years, hailstorms, COVID! In these times, the Reserve contribution may not be able to be transferred. Or you may need to borrow from Reserves to help pay for operating expenses. Understand this is okay to do, as long as the association adopts a repayment plan. Typically, this repayment plan will take place over the following 12-18-month period. Of course, this option should only be considered if the Reserve fund is in a strong enough financial position to continue to address projects as they come up. 

    In conclusion, when measuring the financial strength of your association, be sure you are looking at the big picture. Is the association able to meet the demands of the operating budget? Does the association appear to be in good condition (paint is in good condition, asphalt is free from major potholes and cracks, landscaping is well manicured, etc.)? But the best tool to use in determining the overall health of the association is through the Reserve Study and the percent funded position.  

    G. Michael Kelsen, RS, PRA has been in the Reserve Study business for almost 30 years. In 2001, he started his own company, Aspen Reserve Specialties, and has been successfully addressing the Reserve Study needs of his clients ever since.  Aspen Reserve Specialties completes between 150 – 200 Reserve Studies each year for Condominiums, townhomes, high rises, loft buildings, commercial properties, schools, and places of worship.   


  • 08/01/2020 4:21 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By C. David Stansfield, Farmers Insurance

    As a 25-year Insurance Agent and multiple year member of the Million Dollar Round Table (top 1% of financial insurance agents), I have met with many business owners and clients to explain the pros and cons of Indexed Annuities.   I recently learned of an HOA that deposited a large sum of their cash reserve account into an Indexed Annuity and realized, this might be the best time for HOAs to consider this opportunity.  Interest rates are at an all-time low, the stock market is at an all-time high, and reasonable rate of return, with limited or no risk, is always appreciated.  This prompted me to explain why certain Indexed Annuities can be a good option for an HOA reserve account.   

    Let us start with the definition of an Indexed Annuity.   According to Wikipedia, “An indexed annuity in the United States is a type of tax-deferred annuity whose credited interest is linked to an equity index—typically the S&P 500 or international index. It guarantees a minimum interest rate (typically between 1% and 3%) if held to the end of the surrender term and protects against a loss of principal.”  

    There are two types of Indexed Annuities:  Income Annuities and Accumulation Annuities.  

    • Income Annuities allow someone to invest a fixed amount of money and take immediate income OR wait a specified amount of time to begin taking income (single income or joint income options exist).  This type of annuity is not recommended for an HOA due to the lack of liquidity, surrender charges, and it is designed to payout income for life.  
    • Accumulation Annuities allow individuals and an HOA to invest a fixed amount of money, have a guarantee of no loss of principle, and provide a choice of different indexes to invest in. The S&P 500 Index or Balanced Index are common indexes used in Accumulation Annuities.  This is an opportunity to participate in an Index increase, but not experience decreases in index value.  Many accumulation annuities have multiple index choices, as well as a guaranteed fixed account.  Even with the low interest rates we are experiencing, fixed rates of 2% are still available.  This is still significantly higher than the rate of a Certificate of Deposit (CD).  

    Based on the explanation above, I recommend Accumulation Annuities for HOAs versus a Certificate of Deposit (CD).  Below is a comparison of a five-year Accumulation Annuity and a typical CD:

    Accumulation Annuity

    Certificate of Deposit

    • Minimum 10% interest of premium after five years.
    • Varies year to year; current average rate is 0.37% /year.1
    • Multiple Index Strategies and investment options available to investors; higher upside with no risk of loss and investment flexibility. 
    • N/A
    • Return of Premium Benefit - full return of original investment amount; no early termination fee 
    • Loss of accumulated principal interest and early termination fees apply; varies by bank 
    • 10% annual withdrawal option with no fee
    • N/A
    • Guaranteed 2% premium interest option
    • N/A

    Indexed Annuity investors are provided a level of investment protection known as the State Guarantee Fund.  Each state, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, has a guaranty association, and every insurance company must belong to the guaranty association in the state where they operate.


    When researching potential Indexed Annuity products and providers, it is a good idea to investigate the ratings of the issuing insurance company before making an annuity purchase.  Resources to check the ratings of insurance companies are: AM Best, Fitch, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s.  If you plan on purchasing annuities worth more than your state guaranty association limits, you may want to purchase multiple annuities from different companies, without exceeding the guaranty limits on a single annuity.2


    C. David Stansfield, LUTCF has been an insurance agent for 25 years and is a multiple year member of the Million Dollar Round Table, which encompasses the top 1% of financial insurance agents. If you have more questions about Indexed Annuities and how they can benefit you or your HOA, feel free to reach out to me at dstansfield@farmersagent.com.


    References:

    1. “Current CD Rates- July 2020”, Golderberg, M.; July 16, 2020, MSN; https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/personalfinance/current-cd-rates-july-2020/ar-BBHwnKx
    2. “State Guarantee Associations”, Silvestrini, E., Annuity.Org; https://www.annuity.org/annuities/regulations/state-guaranty-associations/
  • 08/01/2020 4:16 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Trisha K. Harris, Esq., White Bear Ankele Tanaka & Waldron, P.C.

    Special districts are quasi-municipal corporations and political subdivisions of the State of Colorado, governed by Title 32 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (the “Special District Act”) and other laws governing public entities.  Special districts are typically formed to provide public infrastructure and services to new and existing development that counties or municipalities are unable to provide.  Often, special districts also operate and maintain public improvements, such as park and recreation facilities, to the extent such improvements are not dedicated to other public entities for purposes of operations and maintenance.  


    But, how do special districts in the State of Colorado pay for the construction, operation and/or maintenance of public improvements?


    Special districts have a variety of tools to raise revenue for the purposes of constructing infrastructure, maintaining and improving such infrastructure, and for providing services to the residents of the district.  These include the imposition of ad valorem property taxes, issuance of bonds (which are most commonly repaid to investors through property taxes imposed by the district), and the imposition of fees, rates, tolls, penalties, and charges.  For example, a district may impose taxes to provide revenue for debt service on bonds and for general operating costs.  At the same time, for example, that district may impose a separate fee for use of a recreational facility within the district, which fees are used for the operation of that facility.  This article will address the taxes and fees that are typically paid by property owners to a district to finance the district’s on-going annual expenses.  A discussion of the ability of a district to raise revenue through the issuance of bonds is beyond the scope of this article.


    Ad Valorem Property Taxes


    The Special District Act grants special districts the power to levy and collect property taxes in order to pay the expenses of the district.  An ad valorem tax is one that is based on the assessed value of one’s taxable personal or real property.  


    The assessor for each county determines, on a bi-annual basis, the “actual value” of all properties within the county.  An assessment ratio is then applied to the actual value to result in the “assessed value” for each property.  Currently, the Colorado Constitution requires that 55% of all property taxes in Colorado be paid by commercial properties, and that 45% be paid by residential properties.  For commercial property, the assessment ratio is a constant 29%.  For residential property, the assessment ratio varies in order to maintain the 55%/45% ratio required by the Colorado Constitution.  Currently, the residential assessment ratio is 7.15%.  


    By no later than December 15 of each year, each district in the state must certify to the county the mill levy it intends to impose that year, for collection in the succeeding year.  A mill is equal to one dollar per $1,000 of assessed value.  Districts will typically impose an operations and maintenance mill levy to pay for general administrative, operating and maintenance expenses of the district, such as management fees, insurance, legal expenses, annual compliance, accounting expenses, and the maintenance of public improvements owned or maintained by the district.  If the district has issued bonds or otherwise has existing debt obligations, the district will also impose a debt service mill levy.  Revenue generated from the imposition of a debt service mill levy may only be used for the repayment of debt, whereas revenue from the operations and maintenance mill levy may be used for general expenses, as well as debt service.  


    Property taxes imposed by a district are collected by the county treasurer as part of an owner’s property taxes, and the revenue therefrom is then remitted by the county to the district.  The county retains 1.5% of the district’s taxes as its fee for the collection services.  


    The mechanics of the imposition of ad valorem taxes may be best understood through an example.  Let’s say an owner’s property has an “actual” value of $500,000, and the district in which the owner’s property is located has imposed an operations and maintenance mill levy of 10 mills, and a debt service mill levy of 40 mills.  The following illustrates the calculation of the tax that would be due for both a commercial property and a residential property:



    Actual Value

    Assessment Ratio

    Assessed Value

    O&M Mill Levy

    Debt Service Mill Levy

    Total Mill Levy

    Taxes Due

    Commercial

    $500,000

    29%

    $145,000

    10

    40

    50

    $7,250.00

    Residential

    $500,000

    7.15%

    $35,750

    10

    40

    50

    $1,787.50



    Fees and Charges


    The Special District Act also authorizes districts to impose fees, rates, tolls, penalties, or charges for services, programs, or facilities furnished by the district.  An example of a typical fee imposed by a district is an on-going (such as monthly, quarterly, or annual fee) for the operation and maintenance of specific improvements.  For example, a district may impose an annual recreation fee that is used for the operation and maintenance of the district’s recreation center and pool.  Or, a district may impose a fee on just a portion of the owners for the maintenance of improvements that directly benefit such owners, such as the maintenance of alleys that back to and access only certain homes.  Any such fees must be justified and reasonable in relation the services, programs, or facilities funded through such fees, and the revenue generated from such fees may only be used to pay for expenses related to such services, programs, or facilities to which the fee applies.


    Any such fees imposed by a district are not a personal obligation of the owner, but rather are secured by a statutory lien on the property of the owner.  This lien is superior to all other liens on the property, including any mortgages and homeowner association liens, with the exception of the lien on the property for taxes.  As such, the remedy for non-payment of such fees would be an action to foreclose the district’s lien for the unpaid fees.


    A district’s powers to raise revenues may be limited by the district’s electoral authorization and/or its service plan.  To get a basic understanding of a district’s revenues and expenses, the first stop should be a review of the district’s budget and audit.  Copies of both documents are required to be filed with the Division of Local Government each year.  The Division of Local Government maintains a website for district information where various documents can be accessed (https://dola.colorado.gov/lgis/), or, as a public record, copies may be requested directly from the district.  



    Trisha K. Harris is a senior associate with the law firm of White Bear Ankele Tanaka & Waldron.  White Bear Ankele Tanaka & Waldron serves the needs of residential, commercial and mixed use projects throughout the State of Colorado, and in particular provides advice and counsel to project developers, property owners and residents on a wide range of issues.  WBA also represents homeowner and commercial associations, as well as metropolitan districts that are responsible for covenant enforcement and design review, operations, and maintenance of common and other public areas, together with required collection activities. Ms. Harris has over 15 years of community association law experience.  Her practice focuses on representing community associations, as well as assisting metropolitan districts, primarily in relation to interactions with existing homeowner associations and HOA functions assumed by the firm’s district clients. Ms. Harris also focuses on drafting covenants and governing documents for new communities.

  • 08/01/2020 4:13 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Stephane Dupont, The Dupont Law Firm

    A lot has changed in the community association industry since March 2020, when the COVID-19 crisis began to substantially impact our lives. Many of us are now working from home in our pajama bottoms and dress shirts while engaging in endless Zoom meetings, electronic association meetings, and participating in endless discussions on whether common area amenities should be reopened. 

    The Colorado legislature was quick to respond to the crisis by passing laws and regulations impacting eviction and foreclosure matters and preventing the filing of many lawsuits for a period of time. Those initial measures, however, have had a relatively minor impact on community association collections. 

    Collection of association debt is normally a four-step process. The association or community association management company first sends out delinquency letters and a payment plan opportunity to a delinquent homeowner. Next, the homeowner is pursued by the association attorney, who may typically send a demand letter and record a lien. If the debt is not resolved, the next step involves filing a lawsuit in the county where the association is located. The first court appearance is called the ‘return date’ which is the deadline for a homeowner to contest the lawsuit and, in some cases, meet with the association attorney to attempt to work out a resolution or payment plan. In the current COVID-19 world, the requirement or ability to appear at the court return date has been eliminated. The final step of the collections process, collecting the judgment, follows after a judgment enters against the delinquent homeowner --- a court determination that the association is owed a fixed amount of money from a delinquent homeowner. A judgment is typically collected by garnishing funds on account at a financial institution or the wages of a delinquent homeowner.

     On June 29, 2020, Governor Polis signed Senate Bill 20-211, which will have a substantial impact on association collections.  The law requires associations to send a written notice to a delinquent owner, prior to starting any garnishment proceedings (and other less utilized collection methods), to provide them with an opportunity to object as a result of financial hardship due to COVID-19. No documentation or additional explanation needs to be provided by the homeowner to the association to terminate the garnishment process. The law provides for this protection until November 1, 2020, with a possible extension until February 1, 2021. Additionally, through February 1, 2021, a delinquent homeowner may claim $4,000.00 of funds as exempt from a bank garnishment – this means that even if a delinquent homeowner does not claim COVID-19 protection from garnishment, the association may not be entitled to the first $4,000 of funds on account. 

    So, what does this mean for associations? The result is that the garnishment process will likely be ineffective for the next several months, except in the rare case where a delinquent homeowner does not object. Unfortunately, this likely means that when the restrictions are lifted, the delinquent homeowners may be further financially indebted with a long road ahead for the association to collect. The new law, thankfully, does not delay or prohibit any portion of the collections process with the exception of collecting judgments entered against delinquent homeowners. 

    There are several measures that an Association can take to stay ahead financially, given the new restrictions and current economic climate. Here are some suggestions on how to minimize the impact to your association from the new law and general economic downturn:

    1. Given the inevitable delays in the collections process, an association may want to consider extending a longer payment plan to a delinquent owner than they would normally approve. Further, consider waiving soft costs such as late fees and interest charges. However, work with your legal counsel to determine objective criteria for how you will work with owner requests for payment plans so that you have a policy to apply such measures.
    2. An association may consider strictly enforcing its mandatory collection policy to ensure that delinquencies are being processed as efficiently as possible to maximize cash flow to an association.
    3. Some associations have realized cost savings from shutting down their common amenities, due to safety concerns for COVID-19. In some cases, these cost savings may be sufficient to offset any loss of association income from delays in the collection process.
    4. Start discussing possible increases to the 2021 budget to help hedge against a likely rise in delinquent association assessments. 
    5. As a last resort, an association may consider foreclosing its lien against a delinquent homeowner. This suggestion is especially pertinent to older collection matters that started prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

    A meeting in the near future with your board, community association manager, and attorney to develop a strategic plan to hedge against future delinquencies may help your association to stay ahead of the curve.

    Stephane Dupont is an attorney with The Dupont Law Firm in Parker, CO, with over 20 years of experience representing community associations.  sdupont@dupontlawco.com 


  • 08/01/2020 4:11 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Russell Munz, Community Financials, Inc.

    I say that the best practices are born out of lessons learned from the worst practices.  If you have been a board member or manager for a few years, you may have come across some worst practices.  They can result from incompetence, or in the extreme, criminal activity (embezzlement).  Read on to learn about the 10 Financial Best Practices for Homeowner Associations and Condominiums.

    Transparency

    Online Banking: A management company controller embezzled $2M by doctoring the financial reports and not providing bank statements.  This would have been prevented if the board had access to the bank statements and, even better, could see the bank accounts online, view current bank information, and historical bank statements.

    Online Bill Approval by 2 Board Members: Some communities have been embezzled by board members that had the checkbook and came on hard times.  If you have an online bill approval system with more than one board member, you have checks and balances. You also don’t have surprise bills; instead, your board has the control to approve or reject a bill.

    Reporting

    Monthly & On-Time Reports: Some boards I talk with have not received financial reports for months.  If you don’t receive financial statements on time or for several months, there is a problem.  How can you operate a community without up to date information?  

    Use a Comparative Income & Expense Report:  Make sure you get this report.  It shows the actual income and expense versus what you had budgeted and the variance.  Some communities have lost thousands in water bills because they did not see the bills, and they did not have this variance report that would have shown the increase in cost (this is also a useful tool for flagging theft).

    Get a Bank Reconciliation Report: This report proves that the money you have in the bank matches what you have in your financial reports.  This is another protection from fraudulent activities.

    Process

    Offer Owners Multiple Ways to Pay:  Make it easier for owners to pay, and you can improve your cash flow.  Some owners travel a lot; others don’t live at the property full time, etc.  Provide a way to make payment by check, online debit of their bank account, or use of a credit card if needed.   Additionally, you want a system that allows owners to set up recurring payments.

    Have a Collection Policy & Systems to Follow it Uniformly:  If you don’t know what a collection policy is, you need to get one set up ASAP.  The collection policy outlines the community’s collection process, timing of activities, charges, etc.  Then you need to be able to apply late fees, mail notices, and handoff to collection agencies or attorneys.  Then make sure you are applying the same treatment for all owners.  

    Have Effective Deterrents:  Some governing documents were written decades ago and I’ve seen late fees of five to fifteen dollars – you have to adjust these for inflation.  Do you think $10 is a deterrent?  Follow what large corporations are doing and charge appropriate late fees that are reasonable but work.  Additionally, communities often get paid last for a 2nd reason; all the other bills report delinquencies to credit rating agencies that impact the owner’s credit score.  This is available to community associations, and we have seen a dramatic 25-35% reduction in delinquent balances within 90 days.

    Cash, Debit & Credit Cards: Be careful. Don’t have petty cash, period. It can be stolen, and there is no recourse when cash disappears as compared to credit cards.  Debit Cards can have a daily limit set on them, but someone can just hit the limit every day for days on end.  We recommend setting up a separate bank account tied to this card with a limit.  Credit cards can be better as they can be set up with limits.  Someone needs to track who has physical credit cards (collect them during employee or board turn over), what the limits are, etc.  When possible, we encourage boards not to use these and instead use supply accounts that can be paid upon receipt of invoice, or submit for reimbursement for the few times a board member may purchase something personally on behalf of the community.

    Close Unused Accounts:  If you have additional accounts that you no longer use but have cash balances, close them out and consolidate them.  First, former board members or employees may be signers on the account and may have an old checkbook.  Second, I’ve seen where the signers on the account moved, and the new board could not get access to the funds (it took a year and a lot of work to access their money).  Lastly, it simplifies your accounting and less to track and read on your reports.

    I hope you incorporate these best practices into your community’s procedures. You’ll improve cash flow, you’ll reduce the chances of negative surprises, and you’ll sleep better.  


    Russell Munz is a Licensed / Certified CAM in 7 states and Founder and President of Community Financials, Inc. a nationwide financial management company that provides monthly accounting services to HOAs and Condos based in Boulder, CO.  If you want to learn more about financial best practices, you can visit the resources page of his website at www.CommunityFinancials.com or you can send him your questions through the Contact Us page and he’ll be happy to provide additional help.

  • 06/01/2020 3:52 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Michelle Peck, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, TMMC Property Management

    Do you ever find that Board members are trying to steer their own “ship,” without regard to their co-captains (other Board members), their passengers (homeowners), or their compass (HOA Management)?  When you work with a Board, given the differing backgrounds, experiences, and personalities, you will experience times when Boards disagree, push personal agendas, make uniformed decisions, or feel as though they can’t even speak up at all.   Our job as Community Management professionals is to help navigate and guide Boards to help ensure they are working in the best interests of their Community.  Below are some of the misdirected courses that Board members may try to take with you, with homeowners, or with each other; and some suggestions on keeping the HOA boat from turning south or even sinking.

    Board members do not see eye-to-eye

    Take this as a positive, not a negative.  Remind yourself as a manager, and remind the Board, that this is part of being on a successful Board of Directors.  The Board is elected to be a representative sample of the community.  This is a collaboration of varying backgrounds and opinions.  Remind the Board that opposing opinions are completely expected, and what creates heathy discussion; and it is that healthy discussion that helps Boards come to a well thought out, deliberated decision for the association (not always unanimous – and that is perfectly ok).  In fact – congratulate the Board when these healthy discussions occur, and when they do not vote unanimously.  Remind them that this is what it is all about and thank them all for the valuable input!

    Board members cannot agree on a decision

    This is very similar to the not seeing eye-to-eye above.  There is great value in not having the same opinion on every decision that the Board must make.  However, there are some instances where the topic may need additional resources in order for the Board to make a decision in the best interest of their association.  This may be additional information provided by the community manager, guidance from a contractor, or it may require a legal opinion or direction from the association’s attorney.  As a Community Management professional, it is our job to be the advisor, and when you see that the disagreement could potentially be dissipated by additional resources, make the suggestion. It is ok to table agenda items to get more information for your Boards to have the data they need to come to a point where they are ready to make a motion on the topic. 

    One Board member monopolizes the conversation and does not allow the rest of the Board to share their view.

    Sometimes it can be difficult to interact with people who have strong, boisterous, loud personalities; people who tend to always control the conversation.  If you find that there are one or two Board members that monopolize Board meetings or communications for the association, take some steps to try to break that cycle.  For example, when in a Board meeting as the Community Manager, wait for a pause and then try to interject/redirect the conversation to the Board members that are being left out – “Tom, what do you think about installing a new playground?” or “I’m curious to hear what Tom thinks about this.”  These sorts of phrases can bring other Board members into the discussion in a way that feels constructive and helps dialogue get started.  Over time, the additional contribution to the conversation (because of your interjecting phrase) will become more natural and may not need interference. 

    Board tries to act outside of the authority granted to them in the governing documents; or does not understand their role.

    Help Board members learn to be the best Board member for their Community by providing Board member education.  Providing Board member education allows Boards to understand what is expected of them in their role and how to best accomplish those expectations.  It is beneficial for Community Management professionals to hold Board member education on an annual basis or more frequently if there are changes to the members of the Board.  Having Board member education will help set the framework for a successful relationship between the Community Manger and the Board.  It will also allow the Community Manager a time to address any items that are not working and review best practices.

    During the Board member education orientation/review there are several things that the Community Manager should review to ensure that the Board understands their responsibility.  The Community Manager should review the roles and responsibilities of the Board as well as the authority granted to the Board in the Governing Documents and remind Boards that they do not have the authority to take action outside of that which is granted in the governing documents.   This is also an opportune time to review the role of the Community Manager and the process in which the Board communicates and directs the Community Manager and the expectations of the Community Manager.  During the review it is important to help Board’s understand that the Community Manager is to act as a resource to the Board and provide valuable insight and experience to help the Board make decisions that are in the best interests of their community. 

    If a Board member/members choose to take action outside of the authority granted to them, even after you have advised them against this, ensure that you have written documentation stating as such.  (i.e. recap the email discussion to the Board with a conclusion that management has advised that this action seems outside of their authority and that you have advised them to consult with the association’s legal counsel.)  This will help protect you as the Community Management professional in case of future repercussions.

    Board members “over-communicate” during the regular cycle of business (between meetings)

    Most Board members do not have firsthand knowledge of the daily workload of their Community Manager.  Board members are volunteers and do not get paid to work in the community; therefore, they often delegate action items and wish lists to their paid Community Manager.   Boards can sometimes have unrealistic expectations of their Community Manager and feel that their Community Manager should “do it all” for them.  It is your responsibility as their Community Manager to help them understand your role as their Community Manager and help to set realistic expectations.  This can be done on an “ad-hoc/as-needed basis” or can be a part of the Board member education/orientation.  

    When providing information to the Board, be sure to provide the “why.”  Board members want to know why things are the way they are so they can make the best decision for their community.   The Community Manager is to provide their expertise to the Board to help Board’s make the best decisions for their community.  Oftentimes when a Community Manager fails to provide context it can create a lack of understanding and cause a loss of trust (and MORE phone calls and emails between meetings).  For example, be able to provide the detailed information and background on why you are recommending the Board consider a certain action.  Boards will value and trust you when you communicate with them and provide context to the decisions they are making.  Be PROACTIVE in anticipating questions that the Board members may have and include the answers within the original communication/documentation; this will drastically increase the trust and decrease the need for follow up emails.

    With all of these scenarios and any others that you navigate though, the communication compass is critical.  Effective communication is vital when guiding your Boards through any water; especially when the waters get rough or muddy.  Communication is key to building trust and fostering a good working relationship amongst Board members and between the Community Manager and your Board.

    If you find that you are having difficulties with the Board or a single Board member, it is best to sit down and discuss what is causing the difficulty. Just as we explain to homeowners who contact the management company to complain about their neighbor’s barking dog, perhaps they do not know there is a problem.  Also, find out from the Board what they are experiencing and ask for their input on working through the issue.   

    Ultimately, a well-run community is not one that is free from rough waters, but rather one whose Board and Community Manager communicate and strive to work together in the best interests of the community.    


    Michelle Peck is one of the owners of TMMC Property Management based in Castle Rock.  Michelle and her husband Dave have owned and operated TMMC Property Management for over 21 years.  

  • 06/01/2020 3:49 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Priscilla Jimenez Spooner, Farmers Insurance and Financial Services Licensed Producer

    One of the biggest challenges in Colorado is the recent hailstorms damaging our local communities.  Colorado’s hail season starts in May and continues as far into the year as September!  As soon as possible you should:

    1. Send a letter reminding homeowners of the Master policy deductible and possible assessments from common property damage.  This will prepare the community members, especially for the hail season, by securing coverage under their individual HO-6 Condo policy.  Your agent might be able to sponsor this mailing.
    2. Include reminders of this information in newsletters, board meetings, and community billboards throughout the year.  This information should also be part of the Welcome Package for new members.

    Upon noticing property damage from covered perils under your policy:

    1. As soon as possible, put your agent on ‘notice of property damage’: this does not mean a claim will be filed, it prepares your agent and allows them to be part of the process from the beginning.
    2. Ask your agent for a referral of a local trusted contractor for a free estimate: this will confirm the damage is over your deductible.
    3. If needed, complete temporary repairs to keep the property from further damage!  This is very important: if the association would like to recover the cost of repairs associated with the loss, the insurance company needs documentation to approve the repairs!  Make sure the contractor documents well before and after temporary repairs are completed.
    4. Review the estimate of repairs and cause of damage with your board members and agent.  As a team you can decide the best course of action.
    5. Review your contract of service and find the associated cost of managing a claim through your community manager.  This will be an out of pocket expense.
    6. Filing a claim: the agent will take care of this step upon your request.  An adjuster will need a point of contact aside from the agent.  For large losses, a solid and experienced contractor will coordinate paperwork directly with the insurance adjuster.
    7. Notify the community members of a Special Assessment if applicable.
    8. Communication during the process is the key to success:  the contractor must review the pending repairs periodically, as well as the cost with the adjuster.  The adjuster needs to ensure repairs are appropriate and cost effective and refer information about the condition of the property to the insurance company.  The contractor must use the same estimating software as the insurance company, this is the equivalent of speaking the same language!
    9. Reach out to the agent with any questions: we want you to utilize the coverage and service you have paid for!  We also love to attend special board meetings during the claim process.

    FAQ: Do boards need to hire a Public Adjuster?

    Public Adjusters are partnering with local contractors now more than ever.  In my professional opinion, the community’s insurance premium includes the service of the adjuster to settle claims, and the out of pocket expense from hiring the public adjuster is not easy to justify.  In some instances, several construction professionals may conclude that the settlement is not adequate, but remember each claim and insurance company is unique.  Talk to your agent before hiring a public adjuster and exhaust all communication avenues first.

    A proactive approach to claims can help the community lower costs and avoid delays during the repair process.

    I hope by following these steps, your next claim is a success!


    Priscilla Jimenez Spooner is a producer with Stansfield Insurance, a Tyler and Leavey Award Agency, in junction with Farmers Insurance and Financial Services. She can be reached on her direct line at 970-214-8571, or via email at priscilla.dstansfield@farmersagency.com

  • 06/01/2020 3:46 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Ella Washington, Ella Washington Insurance Agency

    With so much uncertainty in our world today, the one thing we can count on is hail in Colorado.  In fact, since 2017, Colorado’s insurance carriers have paid about several billions of dollars in hailstorms alone.  As hail and windstorms continue to be problem for insurance carriers in Colorado, we are finding that the coverage on your personal Condominium or Townhome insurance policy could be affected.


    Separate wind or hail deductible percentages are nothing new in Colorado: this mandated deductible change has been around for over ten (10) years.  Because of this, Homeowners Associations are experiencing Special Assessments for claims resulting from their HOA’s wind or hail deductible now more than ever.  Homeowners that live in a planned unit development have always had the option to purchase Loss Assessment coverage under their personal home policy.  These policies are known as HO6 policies.  Loss Assessment is a rider on your HO6 home policy that you can purchase to help pay for a special assessment from a covered insurance loss.  In the past, we have always suggested working with your personal home insurance agent to get Loss Assessment coverage to help pay for these special assessments.  But it’s not that easy anymore.  


    Because of the severity of wind and hail claims in Colorado, many of the insurance carriers are now changing their Loss Assessment coverage.  Some home insurance carriers are now excluding an HOA’s wind or hail deductible under their Loss Assessment coverage.  Some are only offering a maximum of $1,000 in Loss Assessment coverage for any claim resulting from an HOA’s wind/or hail special assessment (regardless of the policy limits that were purchased).  Other carriers will not allow a policyholder to add this coverage or increase this coverage throughout the year but rather only at the policy renewal date.


    If your insurance carrier does offer Loss Assessment coverage for your HOA’s wind or hail special assessment, we recommend for policyholders to reach out to their insurance agents, each year, to confirm policy limits or exclusions on this endorsement.  Insurance carriers do have to inform their policyholders, in writing, of any coverage changes or changes to the contractual language of a policy.  I find it’s best to have these conversations with your insurance agent as well as reading your policy renewal coverage. 


    There are still plenty of quality HO6 insurance policies that offer the coverage that homeowner’s need for their Special Assessments.  We encourage consumers to do their due diligence and find those insurance carriers so they can have their Special Assessment claim covered before the next storm occurs. 


    Ella Washington is a 20-year veteran in the HOA Insurance industry. She is named one of the top writers in the nation for homeowners’ association insurance. Being an advocate to her Association Board Members and Managers is always her top priority and is the foundation of her success. 

  • 06/01/2020 3:43 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

    By Chris Herron, Westwind Management; Sandra Oldenburg, Poudre Property Management; Trina Rodriguez, MSI, LLC; Linda Warren, Warren Management

    Curated by: 

    Keely Garcia, CAI-RMC Spring Conference Co-Chair

    Ethics. Principals. Integrity. Virtue. We all know these words, but do we really know what they mean and how they apply to Homeowner Leaders, Community Association Managers, and Business Partners that support our community? An ethics statement defines the minimum standard to which people must adhere while creating a “level playing field” for all members supporting the industry, a standard for volunteers who support community associations, and a common bar for all community association managers to respect and uphold. Ethical situations are a normality in any profession, especially those that involve so many different relationships and personalities. Because the world does not exist in black and white, knowing how to identify and address potential ethical dilemmas is crucial to every member of CAI. Understanding and openly discussing ethics will prepare each of us when faced with these uncomfortable situations.

    Identifying an ethical violation may be difficult. Regularly reviewing your company’s standards, service contracts, CAI Code of Conduct, and CAMICB Professional Standards for credentialed members is always good practice. CAMICB, CAI National, CAI-RMC and CAI-SOCO information can be found on their respective websites. If you are unsure about an infraction, trust your gut. If something feels off there is no harm in discussing it.

    “Everybody does it.” “It isn’t a big deal.” “This is just the way things are done.” “You don’t know all of the information.” These are not acceptable responses to an ethical quandary. 

    Do not be persuaded to let an ethical violation pass. What harms one of us harms all of us.

    Addressing the situation can be more daunting. First, understand your company policy. Guidance may differ between addressing the situation directly with the potential offender and escalating it to a member of leadership. Any type of confrontation may come with the fear of, or even result in, retaliation or damaged relationships. While addressing the issue properly can help the situation, accusations likely automatically put the other person on the defense. Instead, try to understand the reasons behind someone’s actions and communicate openly with them. Be clear about the issue, ask questions, and keep to the known facts. You may find out that the person simply does not have enough information or experience to understand or properly analyze the ethical situation. They may have tried to solve the problem differently than you would. Ask yourself if their actions are violating professional or company standards. If the violations are clear, and you believe an ethical problem still exists after such open communication, escalation is likely necessary.

    The following are a few ethical issues which arise in our industry and which you should discuss with your company or association:

    • Providing services at no cost to ‘show’ the community association manager/management company demonstrative services.
    • Buying favors and expecting a tangible return, such as inviting a client to high cost events (sporting event, concert, ski weekend).
    • Excessive gifting of marketing items.
    • Offering financial benefits to community association manager and/or board members in exchange for acceptance of a proposal.
    • Asking for and/or receiving competitors pricing, proposals, or protected information for gain.
    • Clients crossing their own ethical lines (how to address and remedy).
    • Abusing relationships and/or speaking poorly about other members of CAI.
    • When CCIOA/Colorado Statutes collide with one’s ethical duties.

    Remember, we are only human, and so are the people with whom we interact. Learning to be an ethical person is a continuous journey. We are always learning and growing as people and professionals. Discussing difficult issues elevates all of us, our industry, and our clients.

    This article is a summarization of the Manager Ethics Panel which was scheduled to present at the CAI-RMC Spring Conference (re-scheduled for November 2020). Spring Conference Co-Chair Keely Garcia curated the main points of the panel and summarized them here on behalf of the CAI-Editorial Committee. 

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