December 2015 - The Sharper Focus - Board Member Edition
We value our clients and the partnership we have with your Association's Board.
The goal of this newsletter is to touch on general industry news and helpful topics that may help you better understand how Community Associations work.

Every Association is different in their type, size, scope, and how things are organized and established via the Governing Documents.  There are, however, a number of universal topics common to all associations. We hope you will find this newsletter a valuable source of information!

Board Tips: Make Your Meeting Matter

In previous issues we've discussed the importance of a strong meeting facilitator; we've suggested agenda formats to create better meeting efficiency; and recently we wrote on the principle that meetings should be regulated to making decisions. There's no denying that we live in a culture of meetings. In this issue's Board Tips, we offer one thought for you to consider regarding meeting frequency, and one tip for you to try to make your meetings more meaningful.
 
Meeting Frequency - how often are you meeting as an association Board? This will certainly vary. Your Governing Documents may dictate a number of meetings to be held within a calendar year. The size and complexity of your community may require more or less meeting regularity. And situational issues or projects may dictate the volume necessity for a "meeting of the minds."   Consider the notion, however, that the more often you meet, the less productive you may be.  Fewer meetings create more focus when you do meet - and therefore motivation to have tangible outcomes and measurable initiatives as a result. 
 
Consider evaluating your meeting productivity. If you find that decisions are often times delayed or tabled, if your meetings are more social than business, and certainly if you have a limited number of items on your docket, consider having fewer meetings.  See how it goes. The results might surprise you!
 
Action List - to ensure that the meeting was, in fact, constructive with measurable outcomes, it is helpful to have a summary at the end of the meeting to identify and assign action items. Make a list!  These can even be incorporated into the Meeting Minutes if it reflects a new business decision or resolution of the Board. Towards the end of a meeting, it is natural for people to just want to get home. Verbally summarizing and capturing, in writing, all action items is imperative.
 
Make your meetings matter by ensuring they are productive and with measurable results!

Limited Common Elements vs Common Elements

It is important to understand the difference between Limited Common Elements vs Common Elements.  And please note that these will vary significantly by association and how the Governing Documents define and treat them.  A Common Element is typically a space or component that is "shared" by all. Popular examples include roadways, parking lots, condo building hallways and lobby areas, roofs, siding, grass/trees/landscaping, etc.  Typically the association is responsible for maintaining these areas and components with funds collected from regular dues/assessments. Cutting the grass, plowing roads, repairing roof leaks, etc.  Additionally, the association may be responsible for replacing some of these components with funds set aside via the Replacement Reserve.  Common Elements are things that are equally shared.

Limited Common Elements, however, are a bit trickier to understand. These are typically areas or components that are exclusively used by a particular homeowner or shared owners; or they may be components located outside of the "unit boundaries."  Examples include doors, windows, decks, patios, etc.  Another example might be components that not all units have - such as balconies, skylights and chimneys. Limited Common Elements are exclusively used and NOT equally shared.

The important thing to realize about Limited Common Elements is that while the responsibility for maintenance and replacement MAY (and not always) be the association's, the cost could be entirely the homeowner's. Governing Documents will read differently, but the common theme and practice for an association is that maintenance/replacement of Limited Common Elements may be assessed to the benefiting unit owner, unless said maintenance/replacement is provided to ALL owners.

For more information on the topic, and particularly if your association is governed by the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act (MCIOA), see the full statutory description of Common and Limited Common Elements at  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=515b.2-109


The Ever-Changing

HOA Insurance Market


If you have seen your association's master insurance premium increase in recent years, know that you are not alone. The insurance market for multi-unit dwellings (i.e. condos and townhomes) continues to be volatile.

According to Marsh & McLennan, for the past eight years Minnesota has ranked in the top three for "catastrophic losses." Hail storms and severe thunderstorms seem to be the primary culprits. In 2014, the President of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, Bob Johnson, reported that the storm clusters that affect the South West Metro in August of 2013 reached nearly $1 billion in losses. Similarly, the storms that came through in 2007 went over $1 billion, and in 2008 reached $1.5 billion.

The loss history and risk exposure has created a market place that has consistently increased insurance premiums over the past 10 years - and significantly reduced the pool of carriers that will even consider insuring condominium and townhome communities.
In response, carriers are diversifying policies. One particular market change that will affect many associations in 2016 is the addition of separate wind/hail deductible. For example, American Family, which insures a large share of the townhome market in Minnesota, has stated that all communities made up of more than 10 buildings will require a 1% or 2% wind/hail deductible, per building, for new and renewing policies.

Until the losses subside, or until more players enter the market place, it is hard to see premium increases stabilize - and easy to see policy changes shift some risk exposure back to the association and/or homeowner's HO6 policies.



Sharper Management News


All of us at Sharper Management would like to take a moment to thank you for a wonderful 2015.

This year we continued to grow through partnerships with associations like yours. We added 14 associations to our ever expanding list of happy clients. To manage this growth, we made several improvements to our operations. Some of these improvements included expanding our office space and starting a new manager/assistant manager training program. To better our communication with boards and community members, we added regular email newsletters. This form of communication with our board and association members has really taken off. The positive feedback we've received has been wonderful. We plan to continue newsletters in 2016. If you have suggestions on topics you'd like to learn more about, please send them our way.

The community at large also recognized the growth of Sharper Management. In July, we were named to The Business Journal's Book of Lists of Top Property Management Companies in the Twin Cities.

As we look forward to 2016, Sharper Management will continue to support those who support you by adding to our internal administrative staff, improving our processes, and by adding two additional maintenance technicians in the spring.
Have a safe and happy holiday season.

Sincerely,
The Sharper Management Team


Sharper Maintenance

 
Did you know that Sharper has a maintenance team available to service both Association and homeowner repair / remodel needs?

Our team of highly skilled and General Contractor licensed techs are ready to tackle any project including plumbing, electrical, drywall, HVAC, painting, exterior repairs, etc! We feel our maintenance division is a value-add in our management services to your Association!

Contact Matt Froehlich with questions or to schedule. (952) 224-4777 or
or matt@sharpermanagement.com
Online Feedback

As Board members, we truly value your feedback. If you appreciate the work we do for you and your Association, we want to encourage you to take a few moments and write some positive feedback and comments via an online "review."

Among others, Google, Yelp and BBB are common sources of reviews that pop up on search engines. Please help us establish a review log that is reflective of the excellent service we feel we provide!


 

Sharper Management | 952-224-4777 | SharperManagement.com