safety

Halloween and Autumn decoration, credit: Pexels

As Halloween shortly approaches, excitement is sure to be rising in your community.  Is your HOA, Condominium or Community Association ready?  Halloween is meant to be a fun festivity to dress up, get some delicious treats, and get spooked (or spook others).  However, ensuring compliance while encouraging community members to have a great time is often a nightmare for the association staff and managers.  Here are some tips to implement so that your community has a fun and safe Halloween!

  1. Safety is top priority

    Safety of your residents and staff members should always take top priority over everything else.  Inform your residents beforehand of tips to stay safe:

    • Stay away from harmful or inappropriate decorations – Although inappropriate decorations can be subjective, harmful isn’t. Any type of lights or yard items used should be kept out of walkways so neighbors won’t trip and injure themselves on yours or the resident’s property. Furthermore, the decorations shouldn’t be harmful to look at or listen to.
    • Neighborhood watch – It’s important for children to be attended to at all times.  Adults should accompany children while trick-or-treating.  Community management can even request volunteers to serve as chaperones to lead young trick-or-treaters.
  2. Ensure resident compliance

    Every association will have its own rules in place on Halloween decorations and neighborhood decorum.  As we’ve highlighted in our blog post last year, associations will need to keep in mind noise, lights, and resident sentiments when making the rules.  Generally, appropriate decorations may include carved pumpkins with bulb lights (the best bet), spider webs to place on bushes, stuffed animals, scarecrows, signs, and non-flashing lights.  The best way to ensure compliance in your neighborhood is to remind everyone of the rules, refer to it in your governing documents, and explain why those rules are in place.

  3. Organize a Halloween-related event

    Community or neighborhood parties are a great way to get your community members together and strengthen relations.  Some activities you can include for your neighborhood parties are fun games for children, teens, and adults; costume contests; talent shows; joint trick-or-treating; haunted houses; and potlucks.  You can request volunteers to assist with event planning, hosting, chaperoning, food preparation, or for other activities.  There are many ideas at your disposal to bring your community together this Halloween, but make sure that the finer details of each activity is compliant with community bylaws and state laws.

  4. Be considerate and fair

    There\’s often a thin line between consideration and fairness that has to be managed.  Compliance with respect to decorations can be difficult because what one finds to be appropriate may not be likable for another person due to various reasons.  What constitutes as damaging to property, and thus community values, and what doesn’t is another consideration to make.  When enforcing rules, it’s important to be considerate of other’s sentiments and convey that message to the residents.  If association bylaws do not permit large, flashy figures due to a potential decrease in property value, then provide alternative suggestions or set a time limit that the decoration/figure can be on the property (no more than two weeks, for example).

  5. Have fun!

    All said and done, you want your community to have a good time and for your management/association team members to manage issues/violations effectively.  Surely, it is a tough balancing act, but effective bylaws and communications with residents will make the job easier!  Encourage everyone to have fun and remind them to be safe and considerate.  We wish you all a happy Halloween in advance!

It’s hard to wrap your mind around the idea that there are still people in this country who don’t use computers at all. Or even smart phones. While these non-tech folks are surely the minority, there are legitimate reasons why some of them are so far behind the times.

Age. Some great-grandparents are embracing the online world, if only to have access to photos of their great-grandchildren, but many feel that technology has passed them by.

Cost. In many economically disadvantaged areas, technology can be hard to come by. And unless you have it at your fingertips, it can be hard to learn to use it.

Safety concerns. There are those who refuse to enter the online world for fear of exposing themselves to identity theft or other cyber-attacks.

So as a property manager, how do you reach these folks when you have important information to share?

One of the best methods is tried and true — the telephone. It’s almost a given that those who eschew cell phones altogether will have a landline to keep in touch with the outside world, so your best bet is to just give them a call. Better yet, use property management software that automates calls for you.

It’s not the best solution for time-sensitive issues, but for announcements about a community meeting or the annual Christmas party, printed flyers either posted on a common board or slipped under doors can get the word out quite effectively. Just make sure you’ve got a solid paper recycling program set up!

And finally, if your audience is old school, communicate in the oldest-school way there is — have a conversation! Chat with folks as you encounter them in your day-to-day and let them know what’s happening.

Pilera is a best-of-class, easy-to-use, comprehensive online property management solution for apartments, condos, and associations. Pilera provides the easiest, most comprehensive data management capability available to property managers, leasing agents, boards of directors, and back-office personnel. Quickly and easily access whatever you need, whenever you need it, from wherever you need to be with office or mobile phone connectivity. You are never out of touch. Act on the document/information accessed from the office or “on-the-road” with Pilera-supported mobile capability. Contact us today!

 

Tornado season - is your community prepared for a tornado?

There’s no doubt that there’s been some weird weather this year. A neverending winter, snow in places that never get snow, mudslides, and flooding are just some of the odd weather events that have hit us in the first few months of 2014. And with spring and summer come tornadoes!

If your property is in a tornado-prone part of the country — or even if it isn’t — it’s a good idea to make sure your tenants are prepared in case of an emergency. Tornadoes can pop up with little to no warning, so put some safety tips in your tenants’ hands before bad weather hits.

Designate a safety zone where all of your tenants can gather. The first floor, an underground garage, or a basement space away from windows is ideal. Instruct residents on upper floors to move as low as possible. If there’s a tornado in the area, residents in the safety zone should lie down and cover themselves with blankets or pillows to protect themselves from flying debris. Lying under a heavy piece of furniture offers extra protection.

Once the immediate danger a tornado presents has passed, residents should still take care when exiting the building. Downed power lines or large tree limbs hanging by a thread all present dangers to people wandering the streets.

Help your tenants be prepared so they can stay safe if any more weird weather heads our way!

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About Pilera

Pilera is a best-of-class, easy-to-use, comprehensive online property management solution for apartments, condos, and associations. Pilera provides the easiest, most comprehensive data management capability available to property managers, leasing agents, boards of directors, and back-office personnel. Quickly and easily access whatever you need, whenever you need it, from wherever you need to be with office or mobile phone connectivity. You are never out of touch. Act on the document/information accessed from the office or “on-the-road” with Pilera-supported mobile capability. Contact us today!

Theft prevention for your community; picture of a lock.

When people live in a community, like in an apartment building, there are a lot of things they can do collectively to protect each other. This is especially true when it comes to theft. As the property manager, consider sharing these tips with your tenants so that they can protect themselves and each other from property loss.

  • When calling the kids in for dinner, make sure they put away their bikes and other expensive toys. Items sitting around outside are easy pickin\’s for thieves.

  • If you purchase a big ticket item, remember that leaving the box by the curb for trash pick-up is like letting a thief know exactly what you have in your home.

  • Thieves love properties that give them both easy entry and a good escape route. Keep hedges trimmed well below the window line. Hedges that grow over the windows provide good cover for thieves using them as a point of entry.

  • When considering what plant to use in your well-groomed hedge, think about those that have thorns. Those provide a natural defense against criminals.

  • If you have a sliding door, remember that some models can easily be popped off their tracks allowing thieves easy entry. In addition to locking your sliding door, place a strong dowel in the back track.

  • Always lock windows and doors and keep blinds closed so that thieves can’t peek in and see what you have in your home.

  • Look out for your neighbors. Know who belongs in your complex and who doesn’t, and question those who don’t look familiar.

Pilera is a best-of-class, easy-to-use, comprehensive online property management solution for apartments, condos, and associations. Pilera provides the easiest, most comprehensive data management capability available to property managers, leasing agents, boards of directors, and back-office personnel. Quickly and easily access whatever you need, whenever you need it, from wherever you need to be with office or mobile phone connectivity. You are never out of touch. Act on the document/information accessed from the office or “on-the-road” with Pilera-supported mobile capability. Contact us today!

 

Christmas tree with snow. Bring in the holiday cheer.

So the holidays are upon us, and everywhere you look, decorations are starting to appear. It’s certainly festive and shows great holiday cheer, but how does that type of Yuletide joy translate to the life of a condo owner?

The answer, unfortunately, is that it doesn’t. For the most past, condo owners are forbidden from using exterior decorations of any kind — not just around the holidays, but year ‘round. Why? In a word, liability.

In virtually every HOA agreement, it’s spelled out that the condo owner is responsible for maintaining everything within their four interior walls. Anything beyond that, including exterior walls, hallways, walkways, and other common areas, are the responsibility of the HOA.

Now let’s say, for example, you decided to string a set of holiday lights outside your condo door and someone somehow tripped over them and was injured. If there are no rules or by-laws in place restricting the use of decorations, then the HOA would be liable. If there are such rules in place and you, the condo owner, flouted them, then you’d be liable. Either way, it’s an ugly situation that no one want to deal with.

To extend the hypothetical even further, what if the holiday lights somehow caused a fire? There could be loss of property, loss of possessions, or even loss of life. The possibilities are terrifying to imagine.

So when you’re forbidden to decorate your condo’s exterior, remember that in the grand scheme of things, it’s for your safety and the safety of others. You can still fill your condo with all the decorations you like, and that should bring you plenty of holiday cheer this season.

Pilera is a best-of-class, easy-to-use, comprehensive online property management solution for apartments, condos, and associations. Pilera provides the easiest, most comprehensive data management capability available to property managers, leasing agents, boards of directors, and back-office personnel. Quickly and easily access whatever you need, whenever you need it, from wherever you need to be with office or mobile phone connectivity. You are never out of touch. Act on the document/information accessed from the office or “on-the-road” with Pilera-supported mobile capability. Contact us today!

A man who is yelling in frustration.

Nearly every property manager has had to deal with a fire inspector during his or her tenure. They typically happen once a year, are almost always unannounced, and usually result in the property having to shell out some cash to make a few upgrades. Even if your fire safety equipment seems in good condition to your tenants, its condition may not live up to safety standards. It’s also important to remember that fire safety regulations can change and this year, you might be asked to upgrade to meet the new regulations.

Because a fire inspector almost never will give your property a perfectly clean bill of health, it’s a good idea to build fire safety equipment upgrades and certifications into your annual budget. Here is a list of expenses most property managers will incur every year:

  • Certification and test of fire alarms
  • Certification, inspection, and recharges of fire extinguishers
  • Flow and pressure test of fire pump, as well as certification
  • Flow test for fire hydrant, as well as certification
  • Test and certification of fire sprinklers
  • Test and certification of generator or backup power

Other parts of your property that must be working properly and safely in case of a fire are exit signs, stairways and railings, and fire pull stations. Most of these safety items are inspected annually by their manufacturers, but if the fire inspector sees that they weren’t, they’ll be red-flagged.

The fire inspector also will look for things that you might not ordinarily think about or have control over, like chemical or cleaning supply storage. We’ll cover these items and discuss ways to manage them in a separate post.

Pilera is a best-of-class, easy-to-use, comprehensive online property management solution for apartments, condos, and associations. Pilera provides the easiest, most comprehensive data management capability available to property managers, leasing agents, boards of directors, and back-office personnel. Quickly and easily access whatever you need, whenever you need it, from wherever you need to be with office or mobile phone connectivity. You are never out of touch. Act on the document/information accessed from the office or “on the road” with Pilera-supported mobile capability. Contact us today!

Dealing with tenant issues.

As a property manager, your dream scenario is a full building with residents who pay their rent on time, abide by the law, respect their neighbors, and take care of the property. But even if you carefully screen every candidate before allowing them to sign a lease, problems can still arise. Below are some common tenant problems and simple ways to deal with them.

Non-payment or late payment of rent
If tenants are consistently paying you late or giving you bounced checks, you can end up with a serious cash flow problem. In some cases, even one late payment can put you in a difficult position in tough times. The way to combat this problem is to have a strict screening process in place, a strong lease, and good communication with tenants so that you’ll know if they’re experiencing financial difficulties. Some property managers also offer rewards to tenants who pay on time consistently for a set period of time.

Illegal activities
If illegal activities are going on in your residence, not only can the value of your property go down, but the safety of other tenants can be put at risk. If you know illegal activities are occurring on your property, act immediately by calling the authorities.

Unauthorized roommates
Occasionally, a tenant may bring in a long-term guest who is not on the lease. This is a problem for property managers because that person is not bound to the lease agreement like the legal tenant is. Keep an eye out for unfamiliar vehicles and people so that you can stay on top of situations like these.

Poor upkeep
It is a general rule that people take better care of properties that they own than that they rent. However, you can still encourage tenants to keep your property beautiful by setting a good example. Most tenants will be reluctant to leave a rusty bicycle near a beautifully manicured garden.

Noise problems
Noisy tenants can create problems for other people in your property and for people living in nearby properties. Have a clause about proper noise levels in your leases and discuss the problem with your tenants if they violate that clause. If the problem continues, don’t be afraid to call in the authorities.

The Property Management Creep Factor

One of the great things about being a property manager is that no two days are alike. You never know what tomorrow will bring. For that matter, you never know what this afternoon will bring! That uncertainty may not appeal to everyone, but if you believe variety is the spice of life, then becoming a property manager certainly fits comfortably within your wheelhouse.

In the same vein, you never know who’s going to show up looking to rent. A property is of no value if it’s not full and generating revenue, right? So if a candidate breezes into the management office and has the proper ID, the resources, and the references, there’s no reason not to take them on a tour of the available spaces.

But what if something’s a little off? What if you get a weird vibe from a potential tenant? Something you can’t quite put your finger on? Don’t ignore your instincts! Your concerns may be baseless, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Make sure you follow these guidelines:

Tell everyone where you’re going. Make sure everyone in the management office knows that you’re going to show units, and if possible, which ones. If no one is around, wait until someone comes back or send an e-mail to everyone, letting them know that you’ve gone.

Keep the ID. If you don’t have a policy of hanging on to the potential tenant’s ID in the office, be sure to get a photocopy of it.

Never show a unit at night. This is probably not a huge issue, since most property management offices are closed for showings after normal business hours. But during the winter months, night can come early. Stick to busy daytime hours.

Keep your phone with you at all times. Be sure to have building security or the local police only one button push away.

Greet everyone you see. Heaven forbid anything to happen to you, but if you say hello to everyone you encounter and then you wind up missing, people will remember bumping into you and your steps can be retraced. An even better plan is to introduce the potential tenant to everyone so they’ll remember him or her as well.

If you’re really concerned, double up. Have someone from maintenance or security, or even someone else from the management office, tag along. There’s always safety in numbers.

If you’re really, really concerned, just say no. If the person is really creeping you out and you’d never rent to them if they were the last person on earth, tell them you have nothing available.

Your safety and peace of mind are worth more than all of the rental income in the world. Always listen to that little voice in the back of your head. It’s your greatest asset!

Pilera is a best-of-class, easy-to-use, comprehensive online property management solution for apartments, condos, and associations. Pilera provides the easiest, most comprehensive data management capability available to property managers, leasing agents, boards of directors, and back-office personnel. Quickly and easily access whatever you need, whenever you need it, from wherever you need to be with office or mobile phone connectivity. You are never out of touch. Act on the document/information accessed from the office or “on the road” with Pilera-supported mobile capability. Contact us today!

photo credit: Melissa O\’Donohue via photopin cc

Several residents meeting one another.

Different properties tend to have typical rental cycles, depending on their residents. For example, properties in cities with a lot of students tend to turn over apartments either at the beginning or end of the summer. Of course, when students graduate, there isn’t much property owners can do to entice them to stick around. New jobs in new cities or the low rent available in childhood homes are difficult to compete with. However, if your tenants are not students or if you want to keep students in their apartments until the end of their college careers, there are a few things you can do to keep your lease renewals high.

The top three factors people cite when discussing their decisions to renew are maintenance services, safety and security, and customer service. If you deliver these on these factors all the time, you can be certain to keep your renewal rate high.

When tenants call with a maintenance issue or show up in the leasing office asking for help, send someone over quickly with the tools they’ll likely need to fix the problem. Doing so keeps tenants happy and makes the management team look efficient.

People should always feel safe in their homes, whether they’re behind a locked door or crossing the parking lot. Make sure your property is well-lit and that burned-out bulbs in fixtures are replaced quickly. If incidents like theft or vandalism take place on the property, inform tenants quickly so that they can take extra precautions, and work with law enforcement to resolve the issue quickly.

Finally, keep customer service top of mind all the time. Make sure that you and your employees always greet tenants with a smile. Put them at ease when they express a concern. And most importantly, make sure you have a team in place that genuinely cares about your tenants and their homes.

Pilera is a best-of-class, easy-to-use, comprehensive online property management solution for apartments, condos, and associations. Pilera provides the easiest, most comprehensive data management capability available to property managers, leasing agents, boards of directors, and back-office personnel. Quickly and easily access whatever you need, whenever you need it, from wherever you need to be with office or mobile phone connectivity. You are never out of touch. Act on the document/information accessed from the office or “on the road” with Pilera-supported mobile capability. Contact us today!

photo credit: doc(q)man via photopin cc