All posts by Mike Sperling

Where There is Smoke There is Ire…
Crowninshield Vice President Jared McNabb Talks About Smoking Communities

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A couple of years ago, I was working with a condominium community comprised of 150 units. The property, a traditional midrise complex, had shared hallways and common areas.It came to our attention that several unit owners were being impacted by second-hand smoke resulting from unit owners smoking in their units. Given the close proximity and structure of the complex, non-smokers were being bothered by the odor of the smoke and concerned about the potential health risks.

As the complaints mounted, the condominium board of directors realized it had a fiduciary responsibility to deal with the growing problem. The first step was to conduct an informal survey to see if there was an interest in making the complex a smoke-free community. Most condos restrict smoking in common areas where the board of directors has the ability to dictate rules and regulations. In Massachusetts the board of directors does not have the authority to regulate behavior within the units and this type of change would have to be implemented as an amendment to the master deed. All homeowners would have to be involved in changing the amendment which would take a 75% majority to change.

Prior to engaging in the legal legwork of putting together an amendment, the board of directors wanted to get a sense of the community’s feelings about creating an amendment that would prohibit smoking in the units. A survey was drafted and distributed with the results showing it was worthwhile to pursue making the entire complex smoke free.

We then worked with the property’s attorney to draft an amendment. If the amendment passed, it would not be implemented for six months. In advance of distributing the amendment, we held three meetings to answer any questions and allow the residents to air their conerns. The meetings illuminated that the issue was quite controversial and went beyond the issue of prohibiting smoking, but raised concerns about residents’ rights. One board member commented, “Where there’s smoke, there’s ire!” Ultimately we did not have enough participation to pass the amendment.

After about a year, a group of homeowners raised the issue again. Citing health concern, the cadre of residents raised their voices louder. The board of directors dusted off the amendment and distributed it to homeowners. Due to increased lobbying by homeowners, there was more participation and the amendment passed.

After a six month delay, the amendment went into effect and the complex has been smoke free for over two years. Occasionally there is a violation, but for the most part the community has embraced the new policy. As more condos are developed, the smoke free mandate has become a regular part of the original by-laws.

Now that the state is permitting the legalization of medical marijuana, many communities will have a new issue to examine…

Continuing Education at Crowninshield Management Corp.

Crowninshield Management Corp. is committed to being a leader in the field and having its employees up-to-date on industry education and trends. Property Manager John Kadim shares his story of how Crowninshield has supported his professional growth.

“In my experience, Crowninshield has definitely proven to be very pro-education. I have had the opportunity to take a number of courses through the Community Associations Institute (CAI) on areas ranging from physical maintenance to community budgets and finances. I was able to obtain my Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) and Association Management Specialist (AMS) designations through CAI from the courses I have taken. I have also taken a handful of courses through the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) and was able to obtain my Accredited Residential Manager (ARM) designation as well,” says Kadim.

It is important to Crowninshield that the managers utilize the education opportunities that are available. Continuing education plays an important role in increasing the value of service managers can provide to communities and how they conduct business. It also speaks volumes of the company as a whole, employing competent managers and fostering their growth through education. These courses work towards keeping them in touch with the constantly changing rules and policies, while providing credit towards keeping certifications active with CAI’s education requirements.

“I was also encouraged by my company to join the Program Advisory Committee through CAI. The committee works hard to oversee the education courses and requirements, facilitate informative seminars and webinars, and work to engage involvement from other members. I am very lucky that my company supports me in my involvement with CAI as it is a great way to keep up with the ever-changing policies in this industry,” says Kadim.

Seven Tips to Spring into Energy Efficiency

Congratulations! You have endured the most wicked winter in history. Now it’s time to rejoice in the return to spring and all the green it brings. Speaking of green, spring is the ideal time to think about saving money and the planet. Here are seven tips to reduce costs and save energy.

Switch to LED Lighting
Although the initial cost of using LED lighting is typically higher than conventional lighting. in the long run you save money and energy. LED lights use 90% less energy than conventional lighting.  They offer a great low maintenance solution for indoor and outdoor lighting.

Explore digital solutions
With today’s advanced technologically, you can virtually control everything with a click on your smart phone or tablet. Take time to learn about the variety of systems you can control remotely. Something as simple as installing a programmable thermostat to reduce utility bills and manage heating and cooling systems efficiently is a great start.

Jettison your old appliances
Did you know that not buying new appliances can actually cost you more than investing in them? When purchasing new appliances, be sure to invest in the most energy efficient appliances. Take time to learn about smart appliances that can switch usage to non-peak hours.

Check your windows
Make sure to use snug-fitting shades on drafty windows. Now is a great time to repair your storm windows and get them ready for next winter. If you need to replace windows, check out high performance windows that are more energy efficient. Although you may not see the cost benefits for years, it’s worth the wait!

Conserve on your light usage
Are you wasting energy by not monitoring your lighting usage? Take advantage of the many ways to save energy  like sensors, dimmers, or timers  to reduce your lighting usage.

Streamline power usage
Use a power strip for all your electronics saves money and energy. Be sure to switch off the strip when you are done using the equipment.

Change Filters
Be sure to routinely change HVAC filters monthly during peak cooling or heating seasons. New filters are typically inexpensive. Dirty filters cost more to use, exhaust the equipment and result in lower indoor air quality.

Clothes Dryers Safety

In 2006, an estimated 17,700 reported U.S. non-confined or confined home structure fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines (including combination washer/dryers) resulted in an estimated: 15 civilian deaths, 360 civilian injuries and $194 million in direct property damage.


 Leading Items First Ignited in Non-Confined Fires Involving Clothes Washer or Clothes Dryer, 2003-2006

Dryer Fires –

  • Clothing  –  30%
  • Dust, Fiber, or Lint  -27%
  • Unclassified soft goods or clothing  –  10%

Washers Fires

  • Wire or cable insulation  –  29%
  • Appliance housing or casing  –  21%
  • Drive or other belt  -18%

  •  Most (81%) non-confined home structure fires involving washers or dryers began in a laundry room or area.
  • Most of these home fires involve clothes dryers (92% in 2003-2006).
  • The risk of fire is slightly higher for gas-fueled clothes dryers than for electric-powered clothes dryers.
  • The leading cause (29% of fires) of home clothes dryer and washer fires was failure to clean.

 Nine Safety Tips

  • Have your dryer installed and serviced by a professional.
  • Do not use the dryer without a lint filter.
  • Make sure you clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry. Remove lint that has collected around the drum.
  • Rigid or flexible metal venting material should be used to sustain proper air flow and drying time.
  • Make sure the air exhaust vent pipe is not restricted and the outdoor vent flap will open when the dryer is operating. Once a year, or more often if you notice that it is taking longer than normal for your clothes to dry, clean lint out of the vent pipe or have a dryer lint removal service do it for you.
  • Keep dryers in good working order. Gas dryers should be inspected by a professional to make sure that the gas line and connection are intact and free of leaks.
  • Make sure the right plug and outlet are used and that the machine is connected properly.
  • Follow the manufacturers operating instructions and don’t overload your dryer.
  • Turn the dryer off if you leave home or when you go to bed.

Officers Duties and Responsibilities

Community association officers typically serve at the pleasure of the board in carrying out specific duties. Here is a checklist of the major responsibilities of the officers:

President:

  • Chief executive officer and leader of the association
  • Presides at all meetings of the board and membership
  • Executes legal documents on behalf of the association
  • Sets meeting agendas and controls all meetings
  • Represents the board before the residents
  • May have nominating, if not appointment, responsibility for all committees

Vice President:

  • Performs all of the duties of the president in his or her absence
  • Typically shares some of the burden of the president regarding appearances, liaison, public hearings,etc.
  • Usually assigned liaison responsibility to specific staff or contractors and to specific committees

Secretary:

  • Prepares and distributes board and membership meeting agendas, minutes and materials referred to in minutes
  • Maintains minutes book on all meetings
  • Maintains book of resolutions
  • Maintains all official records, including official correspondence, contracts, membership roster, etc.
  • Receives, verifies and maintains all proxies
  • Attests, by signature, to the legitimacy of certain documents

Treasurer:

  • Work with appropriate staff, contractors and committees to develop and submit annual operating budget for approval
  • Maintains adequate roster of all association financial transactions
  • Maintains roster of delinquent accounts and recommends action regarding collections
  • Receipt and disbursement of funds, as authorized
  • Prepares periodic financial reports
  • Arranges, subject to board approval, an independent audit of financial affairs

Spotlight:

Alexa Williamson
Assistant Property Manager

When Alexa Williamson joined the Crowninshield Management Corporation team last fall as an Assistant Property Manager, she was excited to use her administrative, organizational and problem solving skills to support the team of property managers at the Accredited Management Organization. Alexa brought over a decade of professional experience working as an account manager for local insurance companies to her new post.

“I was used to working in fast paced environments where you have to prioritize and shift gears. This has been an extraordinary and challenging winter but I love using my array of skills to help out the managers and clients. I l enjoy working at Crowninshield as the people are really great”, says Alexa. She also notes that clients have been appreciative of her responsiveness noting that last week a client she assisted with a boiler issue left her a cheerful voice mail thanking her for fixing the issue. “I made a couple of calls and it made the clients day”, says Alexa who provides administrative support to the condominium managers at Crowninshield Management Corporation and also supports owners, trustees and vendors.

Alexa, who is a newlywed, lives in Salem with her husband Tim and their lab mix rescue dog named  Salty. She enjoys boating and working out.

Accredited Management Organization of the Year!

Crowninshield Management Corporation has been named Accredited Management Organization of the Year by Boston Metropolitan Chapter 4 of the Institute of Real Estate Management.

The award was presented at Boston Metropolitan Chapter 4 of the Institute of Real Estate Management’s Awards Night held at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.  “We chose Crowninshield Management Corporation because they have a long commitment to excellence in the real estate management industry.

The executives of the company have the certified property management designation, the highest designation provided by the Institute of Real Estate Management,” said David Barrett, Boston Metropolitan Chapter 4 of the Institute of Real Estate Management President 2014. “It is truly an honor to be recognized by the Institute of Real Estate Management. Our team works tirelessly year-round to deliver excellence and are proud to be recognized,” said Nick Ruccolo CPM, Vice President Crowninshield Management Corporation who accepted the award.

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left to right: Dave Barrett, CPM and former President of Boston Metropolitan Chapter 4 and Nick Ruccolo CPM, Vice President Crowninshield Management Corporation

Water Tank Watch: How to Avoid A Soggy Situation

Drip, drip, drip…is often how it starts. But by the time a unit owner realizes that the hot water tank has leaked the amount of water released has done a great deal of damage.

In many communities, each homeowner has a water tank which serves his or her unit exclusively. This tank is responsible for heating your water for washing dishes, clothing, and your steaming morning shower. Needless to say, this often forgotten “appliance” is working overtime to keep you comfortable in your unit. But like any machinery under constant use, duress and wear and tear can occur. More often than not, when an element of your hot water tank fails it means the release of a large volume of water. As anyone who has accidentally spilled a beverage can confirm, water travels. So a leak from a water tank in has the potential to make its way into many areas and damage elements of the building’s living space. In the event that this happens, what steps should a resident take?

First and foremost before any leaks ever happen take a few minutes to review your homeowner’s insurance policy. Discuss your policy with your own agent and be certain that you have ample coverage to dovetail with the property’s master policy. This proactive step will ensure that you will be covered for any water damage and restoration work should a leak occur. Water alarms are available at retailers like HomeDepot. This small device sits on the floor near your water tank; it detects the presence of water when a connection is made between two contact points on the bottom of the device. When this happens a shrill alarm sounds notifying you of a leak. It’s not incredibly effective as it does require that a homeowner be present to hear the alarm. But at about ten dollars, it is an inexpensive recommendation that can also minimize damage.

Additionally, check and familiarize yourself with the age of your water tank. Hot water tanks have an average lifespan of seven to eight years; many will last longer than that however. Whenever possible, it is best to make arrangements for its replacement around that time. This situation is one of the rare occasions where “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” doesn’t apply. When your plumber installs a new tank ask him/her about including a water shut off device. A wags valve is the trademarked name of one such device. This item, which must be professionally installed by a plumber, terminates the further flow of water into your tank in the event of a leak. Some homeowners’ insurance policies will offer a discount for the documented installation of one of these devices so be sure to keep your plumber’s invoice.

Please note that that a water leak never occurs at a convenient time. A cool head can help any homeowner minimize the damage to the building . A water tank leak often manifests by way of a soggy carpet in the interior areas immediately adjacent to your exterior maintenance closet. Additionally, it is not uncommon for the ceiling in this same area to be impacted in a unit immediately below yours. Should a homeowner notice signs of a leak, the water to your unit should immediately be terminated. Familiarize yourself with the location of the water shut off for your unit. Each building is slightly different but homeowners should familiarize themselves with this important valve. Once the water supply has been terminated, every available attempt to contain the flow of water should be made. For most homeowners this means the use of many towels and/or rags to soak up the water. Your next move should be to call the property management company. If it is during normal business hours, the call should be placed to the office. As is often the case, water leaks occur after hours or on weekends, the management company should still be your first call. Crowninshield Management has a 24-hour number for emergencies; a leaking water tank is an emergency! Be sure to tell the operator your unit number, name, return telephone number and nature of your problem. You should receive a phone call from a representative of the management company who will attempt to ascertain additional information about the situation you are experiencing. Depending on the nature of your situation, the representative will provide you with the contact information for a vendor to assist you.

When practical, notify your insurance agent of the incident. He or she will be able to offer additional advice. Depending on the volume and location of the water, it may be recommended that you engage a restoration company specializing in the extraction of water. These initial and important steps can make a significant difference in the amount of damage potentially created by a leaking water tank. Being proactive and staying calm will help your community avoid a soggy situation.

Master Policy/Homeowner Insurance Hurdles

When condominium sites renew their current Association Master Policy with some adjustments, or when they obtain a new Master Insurance Policy, it is critical that they notify all unit owners of the changes.

A letter should be issued to assist with a contact for certificates of insurance and how to coordinate individual unit owner policies with the Master Policy.

The Master Policy typically covers all Common and Limited Common elements pursuant to the Condominium Bylaws, although there exists exclusions in the Master Policy coverage that should be considered when purchasing a homeowners insurance policy.

Unit Owner’s Policy
It is the Unit Owner’s responsibility to insure their own contents and personal liability. Additionally, homeowners are responsible for the Master Policy deductible. It is also strongly recommended that all Unit Owners purchase an “HO-6 Policy”. The Master Policy will have a deductible; therefore, unit owners should discuss the following with their insurance agent for the “dwelling” of their HO-6.

  • Please have your agent review the insurance section of the Bylaws of the Condominium Documents.
  • In case there is a loss which does not allow you to occupy your unit, you should consider obtaining “Loss of Use” insurance.
  • Should there be a claim that is not fully funded by the Master Policy’s insurance, you should consider obtaining “Loss Assessment” insurance. Please discuss this with your agent.
  • It is also recommended that Unit Owners speak to their Insurance Agent to include the HO-1732 endorsement, which broadens the perils insured under coverage A-Dwelling from “named perils” to “special form”.
  • It is recommended that unit owners making improvements and upgrades to their units (e.g. kitchen cabinets, expensive flooring, wall covering, fixtures, etc.) retain documentation of the improvements. It is important that documentation be kept so unit owners may recover replacement value.

Investor Units
Personal liability coverage and the deductible is the responsibility of each unit owner. This would include loss of rental income. We suggest that investors require their tenants to purchase an HO-4 tenant policy.

HO-6 Unit Owners Policy Exclusions and Limitations
There are some important policy exclusions or limitations that should be reviewed when unit owners are analyzing their own personal insurance requirements (i.e. Jewelry, Fine Arts, Business Property, etc.). In many instances, these exclusions or limitations can be modified or changed. Please note coverage and endorsements must be arranged through a unit owner’s personal agent!

The importance of insurance within a condominium cannot be stressed enough. It is important to be properly insured against all types of losses. The association should meet with an experienced commercial agent to discuss all types of liability and losses which may occur on their property. We recommend each owner sit down and speak with their own agent with a copy of the Master Policy insurance certificate to insure they are properly covered in the event of liability or a loss.

To Bee or not to Bee…a sticky and sweet dilemma!

by Andrea Georgetti, CMCA, CAM
Regional Property Manager
Crowninshield Management Corp. AMO

My story began when I received a call from a unit owner saying that there was a pile of bees swarming around their window and on the ground under the window. They were afraid the bees would get in their home and they would get stung. The owner wanted me to call an exterminator immediately to come and kill the bees.

My first thought was that these must be the wasps I saw at another unit weeks before that were burrowing holes in the ground. I decided I would take a ride to the community to check out the situation because I would not be able to live with myself if they were actually honey bees. Although exterminators legally cannot kill them, not all vendors are alike and will do the right thing. So, before I headed out I reached out to my colleague Nathaniel to ask if he would be willing to accompany me because he actually has beehives at his home and would know, if these were indeed honey bees, what to do.

Sure enough, when we arrived we discovered a swarm of honey bees and the queen was in the grass. I was told that when bees are swarming they are at their most docile state and will not sting. We decided to collect the bees ourselves and transport them to Nathaniel’s home as he happened to have a vacant beehive we could use. Armed with a cardboard box, some gloves and a mesh laundry bag that I had to quickly run to the nearby Walgreens to get, Nathaniel scooped the pile of bees into the box in the hopes he was able to get the queen. After several scoops, the queen was in the box and the bees began to follow.

Once we collected the bees we closed the box, wrapped it in the mesh laundry bag and despite my hesitation, put the box in my car and drove to Nathaniel’s home where his vacant beehive was prepped and awaiting its new occupants. During the drive, a few bees did escape and were flying around my car, which of course had me screaming a little, but we arrived safely and sting-free. The bees have been doing their thing ever since and have made us a lot of honey! I keep one jar on my desk not only as a reminder of what we accomplished that day but also for my tea. 