Pest Infestations – Association Board Member Responsibilities

When you get a call or email from a resident who is frustrated, concerned or freaked out about pests, what are you and your fellow board members obligated to do? Whether it?s snakes, roaches, rabbits, coyotes, wasps, rats, mice, bats or any other common household or garden pest, where does the responsibility for pest control end for the resident and when does it become a communal problem for the homeowner or community association to solve?

How association board members can deal with rat infestationsIn theory, the unit owners are responsible for pest control within their own dwellings and exclusive use areas, and the HOA is responsible for infestations affecting anything in the common areas.

Of course, the legal theory sometimes doesn’t match up well with reality, and no attorney in the business of drafting association covenant documents can possibly foresee every possible eventuality and describe the solution and exact division of responsibility in detail.

When it comes to responsibility for pest control and eradication, it will take goodwill and common sense on the part of both residents and the board. This is especially the case because when there is an infestation affecting both private and common areas, the eradication effort needs to be coordinated and simultaneous.

Pests Can Be Surprisingly Hard to Eradicate

An association’s attempts to eradicate pests can be complicated by a number of unforeseen factors. For example, your pests may be impossibly cute, causing their eradication to traumatize the children who live in or visit your development. But even humane methods of removing cute pests can bring about problems.

That’s what happened to a Broomfield, Colo. HOA. They were faced with a rabbit problem and initially planned to kill the precious little rodents – until they heard an outcry from their residents.

“What do I tell my granddaughter when the bunnies are gone or she sees them in a trap? What are we going to say? We killed the rabbits because they ate our flowers,” said one grandmother.

In the end, the HOA in question pardoned the pesky rabbits and sought for a way to trap and relocate them elsewhere. It was at this point that the HOA ran into a complex series of local laws that regulated how far away from the capture location animals can be relocated. For example, cottontail rabbits had to be relocated within 10 miles, while other species of rabbits had different regulations. Some species required them to get a special permit from the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.

You shouldn’t have much trouble with your common roaches, rats and wasp infestations. But for more unusual animals you’d better check with local wildlife officials before trying a relocation process.

How State Laws Treat Pest Infestations

Your state law may shed some general light on who’s responsible for what. For example, California Civil Code Section 1364 (The Davis-Sterling Act) spells out:

(a) Unless the Declaration provide otherwise, the association is responsible for repairs, necessary replacements and maintenance of the common areas in a CID, other than “exclusive use common areas,” and the owner is responsible for maintaining his or her separate interest and “exclusive use common area.”

But note that the law defers to the Declaration, which, in most cases, is your association’s CC&R document. This state law, and likely the law in your state, only kicks in only if your documents don’t adequately delineate responsibility.

California law also has special provisions for termites and other wood-destroying pests that allows the association to take control of the situation and prevent the infestation from spreading to other units.

Pest infestations are bad. Handling them on your own is worse. Get help from a professional association manager >>

Pest Infestations Caused by Humans

Sometimes there’s no direct cause for pest infestations. Mouse and snake infestations just happen, regardless of how much communities do to dissuade them.

But sometimes residents do cause pest-related problems (e.g., an old widower who enjoys feeding stray cats). In this case, documentation is key. If a problem resident can be identified (preferably via multiple witnesses), your eradication efforts need to be combined with one or more registered letters or other formal notices. If the problem behavior does not stop, the association may have cause of action to sue the problem resident (or, if it’s a renter, the owner) to cover the association’s eradication costs.

Paying for Pest Extermination-Related Relocation

State law varies on what party should pay for relocation. In California, for example, the Davis-Sterling Act says that if you have to relocate a family for fumigation or other measures, the association must pay for the relocation.

Check with your state’s laws. If they aren’t clear, it’s a good idea to address this squarely in your association’s CC&Rs and vote on how you want to handle this in your community. However, as a practical matter, if the association wants to retain the authority to force a family to relocate temporarily while their home is tented (to prevent further damage and infestation, for example), it makes sense to have the association pick up the costs, too.

Board Member Tips: Dealing With Late Dues Payments

Do you know what happens when one of the owners in your community can’t or won’t pay their homeowner association dues? As an association board member responsible for collecting dues on the association’s behalf, what are your rights and responsibilities in such a situation? What are the courses of action available to you? Keep reading to find out.

Don’t Ignore Late Dues Payments

How to collect unpaid association duesThe most important thing to remember is that you can’t ignore the problem. As much as any of us hate to be the bad cop, if you’re on the board your fiduciary responsibility is to all the members of the association as a whole. If you ignore the non-payment of dues, you are doing an injustice to all the other owners in the association who are meeting their obligations.

Here are three more reasons you can’t ignore late due payment:

  • If your association gets a reputation for letting responsible members carry financial weight for the slackers, they’ll likely start selling, word will get out, and property values in your community will fall.
  • Failing to collect unpaid dues will deprive your association of funds needed for maintenance, upkeep, landscaping and servicing the common areas. The cost of ignoring non-payers is thus much greater than what they owe because it affects property values across the whole community.
  • If you fail to pursue the collection of unpaid dues, your fellow association members may file suit against you to force you to act. Otherwise, you could be in violation of your fiduciary duty to look after their interests and could be removed from the board.

What You Can’t Do to Collect Late Dues

It’s imperative that you don’t publicly shame owners into catching up on their dues by publicizing their names; this is prohibited in practically every state. Remember that the business of collecting unpaid dues is between the board and the individual owners. No one else should know.

You may need to disclose the aggregate amount of shortage to any association member who asks to inspect the books but, in many states, you must redact anything that would personally identify anyone who’s in arrears.

What You Should Do to Collect Late Dues

First, get an attorney. You will hopefully be able to collect the amount in arrears in due course. But if you don’t, this process may well eventually result in a lien filing and an eventual foreclosure. If this comes to pass, you’ll want your legal ducks in a row from the very beginning.

Note: This is one area where it may well pay to have a professional association manager in on the process. While board members often serve short terms and are typically new to the process of collecting late dues themselves, a veteran association management firm will have already been through this process many times.

Next, check your bylaws and covenant documents carefully. If they were well-drafted to begin with, they will outline a process that you must follow whenever you attempt to collect dues payments in arrears. In most cases, you’ll have to send one or more registered letters, so you’ll have a receipt in hand if you need to go through a legal process.

There’s usually nothing wrong with a reminder phone call or two, but ensure you don’t run afoul of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This statute prevents you from disclosing information over the phone about the unpaid dues to anyone but the responsible party, prohibits “harassment” and restricts the hours at which you can call.

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Can You Charge a Late Fee?

You may charge a late fee only if the fee has been specified in your association’s CC&Rs, duly passed by the association board or by voters in accordance with your association’s governing documents and bylaws.

Can You Arrange a Dues Payment Plan?

Save time avoid stress - get a quote from a professional association managerLife happens. If you were in the non-payer’s shoes and facing financial challenges, you’d probably appreciate a chance to work out a payment plan. Some states, including California (under the Davis-Sterling Act), grant the owners the right to petition the association to arrange a payment plan. These plans can include ongoing fees and assessments, but don’t allow for the continual charging of late fees if the homeowner is in compliance with the terms of the plan that you work out together.

In the vast majority of cases, working out a payment plan is cheaper and more successful for the board, while simultaneously being less traumatic for the owner than a foreclosure or forced sale.

Small Claims Court or Liens?

If attempts to resolve the delinquency fail, you may be forced to take the owner to small claims court. Specific rules on how to do this vary by jurisdiction. A court may issue a judgment that can eventually result in a wage garnishment until the dues are paid.

You can also potentially get a lien on the home. Once you have one in hand, you can, as a last resort, begin the foreclosure process within 30 to 90 days after the lien has been recorded, depending on the jurisdiction. The association board must usually vote to proceed with foreclosure. Generally, you must formally offer the owner in arrears a “meet and confer” session to address the problem.

If that doesn’t work, you must go through the courts, serve a summons and, once the title has been transferred, engage in a waiting period before you can put the house up for sale.

Closing Thoughts on How to Collect Late Dues

Let’s face it: dealing with the non-payment of association dues, and dues-wrangling in general, is anything but a pleasant job. Anyone who doesn’t enjoy confrontation or stays away from awkward conversations would want to avoid it.

Fortunately, association board members like yourself have allies who will happily be your dues wrangler – not to mention legal advisor, maintenance mogul and more. If you want to save time and avoid stressful situations like collecting late dues, get a free quote from a professional association manager.

Q1 2015 Rental Ranking Report – How Hot Is Your Market?

Rental markets across the U.S. are becoming significantly more lucrative.

When crunching data for the Q1 2015 Rental Ranking Report, which measures the attractiveness of investment in rental real estate in 75 markets across the country, we were shocked to find how much more favorable conditions are for rental property owners since we created the last iteration of this report. For every metric, from median rental prices to rental capitalization rates, U.S. averages have improved.

While there are some particularly high-performing markets, like Minneapolis and Raleigh, and regions, like the Western U.S., that stand out as being exceptional places for rental real estate investment, rental property owners can earn impressive returns on their investments in even the lowest-ranking markets like Syracuse and Honolulu.

Here are some of the top-performing rental markets from the Q1 2015 Rental Ranking Report:

DENVER

3rd in the West, 3rd in the U.S. Learn more >>

Denver Q1 2015 Rental Ranking ReportWith the second-highest year-over-year rental price gains in the U.S., seventh-highest annual property value appreciation and third-lowest age of housing inventory, the Denver rental market is probably hotter now than it ever has been before. To make matters even better for rental property owners, Denver’s explosive job growth will only continue to raise demand for their properties.

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PHOENIX

2nd in the Southwest, 17th in the U.S. | Learn more >>

Phoenix Q1 2015 Rental Ranking ReportAfter being pummeled during the 2007-2008 housing bubble burst, demand for Phoenix rental real estate seems better than ever. Property values improved an impressive 7.05% year-over-year, about 25% more than the U.S. average. The median age of Phoenix’s housing inventory, 57 days, is significantly lower than the U.S. average of 70 days. What’s more, Phoenix’s stunning 3.09% annual job growth indicates that demand for housing will only continue to rise as more residents move to the area.

See a list of Phoenix property managers >>

ATLANTA

3rd in the Southeast, 15th in the U.S. (tie) | Learn more >>

Atlanta Q1 2015 Rental Ranking ReportThe reasons to move to Atlanta are as numerous as the cranes that dot its skyline, but Atlanta’s stellar annual job growth of 3.89% is perhaps the best reason of all. Various real estate statistics, including Atlanta’s eyebrow-raising year-over-year property value appreciation of 8.87% and its low median age of inventory of 53 days, also indicate that demand for rental housing will continue to rise – as will Atlanta rental property owners’ rental incomes.

See a list of Atlanta property managers >>

WASHINGTON, D.C.

1st in the Northeast, 15th in the U.S. (tie) | Learn more >>

Washington D.C. Q1 2015 Rental Ranking ReportInvesting in Washington, D.C. rental real estate is a capital idea. Modest property value appreciation and low vacancy rates and median age of inventory exemplify the high demand for D.C. housing. A 12th-place ranking on our Job Availability Index indicates high future job growth in D.C. and a fifth-place ranking on our Future Rental Availability Index means that new housing construction is unlikely to keep up with demand. What better indications of high returns on rental property investments could one ask for?

See a list of Washington, D.C. property managers >>

INDIANAPOLIS

2nd in the Midwest, 18th in the U.S. | Learn more >>

Indianapolis Q1 2015 Rental Ranking ReportBoasting one of the best rental capitalization rates in the country, 8.98%, Indianapolis is home to more than just fabled NBA and NFL franchises. The impressive returns Indianapolis rental property owners are currently earning are likely to get even higher as Indy’s 2.97% annual job growth and modest 29th-place ranking on our Job Availability Index indicate that new jobs will bring more residents and, therefore, even stronger demand for rental housing.

See a list of Indianapolis property managers >>

Click here to find out how your closest market performed in the Q1 2015 Rental Ranking Report!

Regardless of what market you own rental properties in, you should be reaping the benefits of the improving U.S. rental market, at least to a small degree. If your rental income has remained stagnant over the last several years, or if you would like to invest in more rental properties in your area, consider working with a professional property manager. Beyond dealing with the everyday hassles of managing rental properties, professional property managers help set competitive, income-maximizing rental rates, find the right tenants and connect you with skilled contractors.

Get a free, no-commitment quote from one or more property managers in your area and start a conversation that could have an immense and lasting impact on your finances.

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