When living in an Association, planning and funding repairs/replacements can become a headache. Annual reserve studies are essential because when an asset within the Association’s boundaries is in need of repair or replacement, then funds delineated in the reserve study should be available to address the issues in a timely manner. To start with there are two categories for a community’s assets:
- Those which can be taken care of with relative ease and minimal expense when changing, such as:
- Electrical fixtures, timers, and bulb changes
- Irrigation timers, heads and valve changes
- Landscape plant changes to visually open up areas, remove dead and woody older materials, add more drought-tolerant plantings
- Drainage areas redesigned to eliminate annual problems or flooding of units, roads, etc.
- Roofing and gutters – expensive, but can be fixed without remodeling the entire building structure
- More energy efficient equipment when a replacement is necessary (e.g. space heaters for common areas, lighting, etc.)
- Recycling programs which can be environmentally good, but also reduce trash hauling costs, composting
- Those that cannot be easily or logically changed without major financial investment and significant reconstruction:
- Upgraded installation
- Thermal pane windows
- New and more efficient HVAC and water heater systems
- It is important to remember how critical communication is between a Board and the other owners. Owners should be regularly given the facts regarding their infrastructure assets, ranging from initial installation dates to interim repair or replacement dates, and the current status of these assets. These important issues can be communicated through regularly scheduled meetings, email updates, or an HOA newsletter. It is often a good idea to communicate this information in more than one way, as many members may not remember the exact details of the infrastructure assets when they are first discussed.
It would be unwise to assume that just because you live in a homeowners’ association then everything is going to be taken care of and the assets will last forever. No matter how cautious an Association may be about following their interim maintenance program, at some point in time a replacement or major repair will be necessary. In these types of situations, it is important to remember that people hate bad news, but they despise surprises even more. Being completely honest about the status and what has to be done to ensure the protection of an Association’s assets means that a well-functioning board will have the community’s support when it comes to making these decisions because they won’t have anything to hide from the owners themselves.
Written by Tea Fant, The Management Trust – Northwest