Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tips for Conserving Water

Some areas of Connecticut are experiencing drought conditions, so we are offering some ways to conserve water in your home.

1. Rinse fruits and veggies in a bowl of water instead of under the faucet.

2. Don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth or shaving.

3. Reuse the water from boiling vegetables or pasta to water your indoor plants (let it cool first!).

4. If you like to drink cold water, place a pitcher in your refrigerator instead of letting the tap run until it’s cold. 

5. Don’t run the dishwasher until it’s completely full. 

6. Don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket. Flushing a tissue or small piece of trash wastes 5-7 gallons of water.

7. Let your dirty pots and pans soak in the sink instead of letting the faucet run while you wash them.

8. Make sure to turn off all faucets completely after each use.

9. Instead of using running water, thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator.

10. Be sure to alert your maintenance staff if you notice a leaky toilet or faucet!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

HUD Releases Initial Response to HR 3700

October 25, 2016 - Earlier this year, Condominium Associations were very hopeful when HR 3700 was signed into law. Many were looking for relief on the 50% owner occupancy requirement, transfer fees, and leniency on commercial/nonresidential floor space.

The specifics in HR 3700 stated that HUD had 90 days to respond to the changes. Yesterday, HUD released its implementation action via the Federal Register.  Although the response is a bit lackluster, it appears as though we will have direct guidance regarding Owner Occupancy restrictions in the near future. All other changes from HR 3700, including transfer fees have yet to be sorted out and we don't have a timeframe on a response.  

This is HUD's official response regarding the changes: 

Section 301. Modification of FHA Requirements for Mortgage Insurance for Condominiums

Section 301 mandates several changes to FHA's mortgage insurance for condominiums, including changes to requirements on project recertification, exceptions to the percentage of floor space that may be used for nonresidential or commercial purposes, private transfer fee covenants, and the minimum required percentage of units that must be owner occupied.

Implementation action: Some of these changes must be done by regulations, while the revision to the owner occupancy percentage may be done by rulemaking or an administrative document. HUD issued a proposed rule to implement provisions on all these subjects other than transfer fees, and including general parameters on owner occupancy, on September 28, 2016, at 81 FR 66565. In the near future, HUD will be issuing a Mortgagee Letter to establish the specific owner occupancy percentage. For other provisions of section 301, HUD is considering the appropriate implementation action.

Proposed Rule FR-5715-P-01, Project Approval for Single-Family Condominiums

Although HR 3700 garnered more press, the proposed rule released by HUD on September 28th, has potential to make even more changes. The rule is still in comment period, however we believe it gives us a good idea of the direction HUD is going in. 

These are the highlights:
  • Single-Unit Approvals
  • Owner-Occupancy Percentage
  • Extension of the project approval period

Single Unit Approvals

Current FHA Guidelines: Single-Unit Approvals are not allowed. At this time the entire Condominium Project must be FHA Certified.

Proposed Rule: Single-Unit Approvals would be allowed based on a subset of criteria. The criteria have not yet been released. There would be a limit on the number of mortgages allowed within a single condominium project. This limit could potentially vary upon notice.

FHA Review Opinion: This could dramatically change financing options for owners and buyers. However, until the criteria are released and the process is announced it is too early to tell how much of an impact this will have. We have been told it is not the "spot-approval process of the past". Also, the last time there was a spot approval process we were still operating under the old guidelines and there were over 50,000 FHA Approved condo projects. Most real estate professionals have forgotten this and believe this new process will ease the FHA Certification process greatly. We anticipate a much more stringent review process and increased oversight in comparison to the previous spot-approvals. 

Owner-Occupancy Percentage

Current FHA Requirement: 50% of units must be owner occupied.

Proposed Rule: HUD is proposing a range between 25 and 75%, and HUD would be able to vary the acceptable amount by releasing a "notice". This is seen as favorable because it allows HUD to be flexible and adjust the percentages based on current market statistics.

FHA Review Opinion: Lowering the owner occupancy percentage would allow more communities to meet this requirement however any increase over 50% would have a detrimental effect.   Also, this large of a range will make it very difficult for Condo Projects to plan effectively for the future and maintain eligibility. We are adamant that any requirement over 50% would have a terrible impact.

Extension of the project approval period

Current FHA Requirement: FHA Certification is good for a period of 2 years.
Proposed Rule: HUD is seeking comment on extending the Certification time frame from 2 to 3 years.

FHA Review Opinion:      This has the potential to help tremendously.  Extending the certification period will give more value in applying and the recertification process would become less burdensome.  This would result in more Condominium Projects being approved at any given time.  

In summary, 

There are estimated to be over 100,000 condo projects in the United States, and typically between 9 and 12% are ever FHA Approved. This is negatively impacting condo owners, potential buyers, and the real estate market as a whole. The importance of this is reflected in the efforts put forth by CAI, NAR, and other trade organizations. HUD is making efforts at relaxing the guidelines to allow more condo projects to become certified, however the industry as a whole needs to make a joint effort for any major improvements to be achieved.

SOURCE: http://fhareview.com

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

New System Puts Association Info at Your Fingertips!

Our new system was designed BY association managers and bookkeepers FOR association managers and bookkeepers. That translates into an intuitive interface, user-friendly screens, and clear workflows. NO tech jargon, just really approachable property management software that helps us work for our customers! We're in the process of moving all of our clients over to the new system right now ... in the meantime, check out these screen shots of the new Board Portal:

Friday, September 30, 2016

What Can A Website Do for Your Association?

Simple answer: A lot!

A website helps residents feel like they’re a part of the Association by keeping them informed of meetings, projects, etc.

When residents don’t hear about their Board’s progress, it makes it easier for them to complain! A regularly updated website gives residents no excuse not to know what’s happening and how the Board is working to make things better. It can also help residents understand the purpose and benefits of enforcing the rules, keeping their homes in good condition and voting on issues. 

A website is also a great place to store things like meeting minutes and condo docs. Being able to pull up these documents quickly is a great tool to have at meetings and to save research time … if someone has a question, refer them to the website, where they can find the information right away.

Some other things that you might consider adding are an events calendar, a link to online work order submission and a list of units for sale. The great thing about a website is that it can start small and grow along with your Association!

If your Association is ready to create their website, Premier can help! Give us a call at (860) 523-0157 today. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst!

Sometimes bad things happen to good Associations… a fire or flood destroys several units, and the repair costs are huge. Even if the problem can be narrowed down to negligence by a single owner, you’d be surprised to learn that the Association’s master policy might be required to cover the entire expense. What can an Association do to protect itself? Here are 5 practical steps an association can take to protect the property and the residents:

1. Review and update maintenance standards regularly. 
Unit owners should be performing routine, preventative maintenance to their units, just as any homeower does. Checking the water heater for leaks is simple, no cost, and can prevent huge amounts of damage.

2. Perform a yearly review of the Association’s master insurance policy.
Connecticut law currently requires that the master policy cover the costs of clean-up and restoration, while the owner is responsible for their personal items in the unit.

3. Make certain everyone is insured.
Owners need to carry HO-6 Homeowners Insurance equal to the Association’s master policy deductible. Their tenants should carry insurance as well. This will help the Association at least recover the deductible amount if a situation occurs.

4. Take on responsibility of performing tasks in high-risk areas.
Yearly inspections and cleaning of dryers vents and chimneys should be required, and built into common charges or billed back to each owner to ensure compliance.

5. Reinforce the importance of preventative maintenance with owners on a regular basis.
This can be done with newsletters, emails, website updates and covered at annual meetings. 

Floods, fires and other disasters can occur anywhere, without warning. It is the responsibility of the Board and manager to eliminate as many dangers as possible.

Monday, June 27, 2016

How boards can avoid costly (and embarrassing!) mistakes

Obviously, we are all human and we all make mistakes. These mistakes come in all forms, from legal to management to human relations and can be minor or can cost Associations thousands of dollars. Since it’s best to avoid errors all together, we’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 Mistakes Boards Make.

1. Abuse of Power.
In some cases, owners join the Board for the wrong reasons, including pursuing their own agendas. They end up bullying some neighbors and doing favors for others. It’s important for Board members to be able to stand up to a rogue member, and better still, learn a little more about why members wish to join the Board before electing them.

2. Unclear Roles.
Often times Board members try to take on the role of property managers. Eventually they try to cut out management all together, and this can lead to problems in communication between management and contractors/maintenance staff. Other roles Board members often try to assume are the “Nice Guy” that gives out special permission for things he has no authority over and the “Policeman” that takes it upon himself to personally enforce the Rules & Regulations. 

3. Ignoring the community rules and procedures.
Boards are governed by their declarations, rules and regulations, in-place procedures and even cities and states. Boards should pay close attention to these rules when making decisions, and should also keep them updated. Problems can arise when rules and procedures are decided verbally in Board meetings, but not translated into written documents. 

4. Not listening to owners.
It is the Board’s responsibility to make sure that they make decisions that work for the majority of the community, and not just the person with the loudest voice. 

5. Not looking toward the future.
Boards need to consider many factors when embarking on projects or doing general maintenance. While the cheapest solution could work in the short term, it may end up costing more in the long run. In these situations, advice from property managers in invaluable.

6. Violation of meeting laws.
Boards must typically conduct business and vote “in the open.”  Voting by email and having no minutes to back up decisions can open Boards up to legal problems.

7. Ignoring your experts.
Boards work with many experts including managers, attorneys, lawyers and accountants. Consequences of ignoring their advice can be disastrous and expensive.

8. Misuse of electronic communication.
While email may be a good way to communicate basic information, it’s not a substitution for real discussion/debate, and information posted on social media sites can also get Boards into trouble.

9. Not doing your research.
Reading the Board packets, checking the minutes and inspecting financial reports are all important duties of Board members, and should not be ignored.

10. Overdoing things.
Board meetings don’t need to last for hours, with each member and owners going off into their own personal issues that are more suited to submitting work orders with management. In some cases, a timer has been shown to be an effective tool to keep speakers with business for the Board sort and to the point!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Spring Maintenance Tips

Spring is here, and it’s time to start doing some maintenance work on your property to undo the damage from winter! 

Here is a list of the basics:

Check the roof. Snow, ice and rain may have created leaks, now’s the time to check.

Clean and inspect gutters to ensure they can handle spring rains.

Repair building facades. If the cold weather has caused any part of your building exterior to deteriorate, fix it now before spring wind and rains cause additional damage.

Reinsulate. The fluctuating temperatures of winter can cause the caulking around  doors and windows to crack and fall away. Check these seals, recaulk if necessary.

Clean the common areas. Now that snow, sand and salt is gone, give the carpets a thorough cleaning.

Repair the sidewalks and parking lot. Inspect for broken curbs, pot holes, cracks and other damage and tripping hazards.

Landscaping. Start getting garden areas and grass up to shape by removing debris and raking out excess sand.

Follow these tips, to get an early start on the spring season and keep your property in optimal condition!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cracked Walkways ... How Much is Too Much?

Spring is here and it's time to address some of the problems that may have turned up over the winter months. With shoveling and salt, the paths and walkways on your property may have taken a beating. 

If your walking surface has settled or is cracked or damaged and has a raised area of over 1/4" it can be considered a tripping hazard and should be repaired immediately. 

Our clients should contact us right away if they notice any damaged walkways.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Frozen Pipes – Prevention & Solutions


From the looks of the snow piling up outside, it appears that winter has finally arrived in New England! If you’re considering taking a trip to a warmer climate or turning your heating off to save money, here are some things you should know:

It Starts with Prevention

  • Insulate your Pipes – especially if they’re on outside walls, attics or crawlspaces. The more insulation, the better!
  • Wrap Pipes – Use heat tape or thermostatically-controlled heat cables. Make sure to have them professionally installed by a licensed contractor.
  • Seal Air Leaks – Cold air can enter around electrical wiring, dryer vents and plumbing and through door and window seals. Check caulking and weather-stripping regularly and replace anything that’s old and cracked.
  • Keep Exterior Doors & Windows Tightly Closed – Seems obvious, but we had to mention it!
  • Turn Off Outdoor Hoses – Put away hoses and turn off the water supply to hoses and sprinkler systems.
  • Allow Warm Airflow into Unheated Utility Rooms – Make sure that warm air can get into your utility room if it’s in an unheated area.
  • Let the Water Run – If you must leave the heat off, leave your faucets running at a trickle if they’re on outside walls.
  • Know Where Your Shutoff Is – In case of an emergency, you should always know how to turn off the water supply to your unit.
If the Worst Happens
If you turn your faucet on and nothing comes out, turn off your main water supply, leave the faucets on and call a plumber right away. Never try to thaw frozen pipes with a blowtorch or other open flame. You can try a hairdryer on a warm setting, working from the faucet toward the colder section of the pipe. If a pipe has burst, be aware of the risk of electrical shock – stay away from any standing water.

We also suggest having a neighbor, friend or family member check on your condo or apartment if you’re going to be away for an extended period. Be sure to leave them with emergency contact information for you, as well as your property manager, plumber and electrician.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Help Us Welcome Our Newest Team Member!

Premier is pleased to welcome Kristie Bonilla to our team! Kristie has been working in Property Management for the past 17 years, specializing in Sate and Federal Housing Programs.She is a graduate of Asnuntuck Community College and is currently pursuing a bachelors degree in Business from UCONN. She is fluent in Spanish. Kristie is ready to help you find a great apartment, give her a call today at (877) 208-4570.