Tuesday, October 4, 2016

New in the HUD

As is typical during the end of presidential administrations, a lot of new regulations are implemented, and this year is no different.  Beginning October 14, 2016, HUD Fair Housing regulation 2015-0095-0001 goes into effect, incorporating the results of court cases which in some instances involved homeowner associations. 

While HUD says this regulation does not place any new duties on HOAs, it squarely places these items “on the radar” of some who may see it as an opportunity to litigate.  Because of this, it is crucial that Boards of Directors consult with their insurance agents to confirm that appropriate Directors & Officers insurance is firmly in place. 

 This regulation clarifies some instances where a community’s Board of Directors must address harassment between neighbors:  Boards must carry a heightened sense of awareness and act in certain situations that in the past they may have chosen to ignore.  Additionally, they can be held liable for the actions of agents or employees.

In the commentary HUD included in releasing the new regulation are the following tidbits:
  • You can be held liable for failing to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory situation where the Board knew or should have known of the conduct and had the power to correct it.  Such knowledge can come from, for example, the harassed resident, another resident, or a friend of the harassed resident.  Neither psychological nor physical harm must be demonstrated to prove that a hostile environment exists.
  • The power to take prompt action depends upon the extent of control or any other legal responsibility the Board may have with respect to the conduct (as indicated in bylaws or other rules of a homeowner’s association or condominium, or by federal, state or local law).
  • Community associations regularly require residents to comply with CC&Rs and community rules through such mechanisms as notices of violations, threats of fines, and fines.  HUD understands that community associations may not always have the ability to deny a unit owner access to his or her dwelling; the rule merely requires the community association to take whatever actions it legally can take to end the harassing conduct.
  • Creating and posting policy statements against harassment and establishing complaint procedures, offering fair housing training to residents and mediating disputes before they escalate, issuing verbal  and written warnings and notices of rule violations, enforcing bylaws prohibiting illegal or disruptive conduct, issuing and enforcing notices to quit, issuing threats of eviction and, if necessary, enforcing evictions and involving the police are powerful tools to control or remedy a tenant’s illegal conduct.
  • A principal (such as the Board) is vicariously liable for the actions of his or her agents taken within the scope of their relationship or employment, or for actions taken outside the scope of their relationship or employment when the agent is aided in the commission of such acts by the existence of the agency relationship.
The response from some Boards has been denial, believing this regulation only applies to apartment complexes and the like.  HUD has stated otherwise, and this should be seen as an addition to existing Fair Housing considerations Boards must take in areas such as pet regulations and architectural review approvals.  It is crucial that you consult with the Association’s legal counsel on this timely topic.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Insurance Notice Deadline

Lawsuits are almost always unwelcome surprises.  Combined with the regular daily stresses Board members face for their communities, it's a relief knowing you have proper insurance in place, right?  So, when the insurance company denies the claim saying you didn't report it quickly enough, you reach for the heartburn medicine. 

Unlike in Georgia, many other regions of the country are lenient when it comes to missing reporting deadlines.  In these States, the thinking is that only material breaches relieve obligations under a contract.  Insurers should not benefit if they haven't suffered an actual disadvantage due to late notice.  And as one court said, "It would also disserve the public interest, for insurance is an instrument of a social policy that the victims of negligence be compensated."

A century ago, insurance policies were truly private contracts and judges avoided altering them.  Many courts now recognize that insurance policies are no longer fully negotiated agreements.  Instead, these are based on standardized forms with conditions dictated by the insurance company.  Since these forms are now used industry wide, there really aren't alternatives for the consumer to tap into.  But we live in a pro-insurer state, so let's dig a little into this whole "notice" thing.

Your insurance covers a time period defined as either "occurrence" (for damages that happen during the term of the policy, such as a windstorm) or "claims made" (for when you are served a lawsuit, not necessarily when an incident occurred).  "Claims made" policies have become more popular for insurance companies.  It helps them avoid losses from asbestos, environmental, and other claims having roots in actions occurring decades ago.   Among other reasons, the insurer isn't having to defend a previous customer from thirty years back, and can tack on stipulations to the claims-made policy to limit covering similar events for new clients involved in such items. 

The claims-made version can be either "general claims made" (discovery policies) or "claims made and reported policies" (reporting policies).   A general-claims-made policy may say something like,  "The Insurer shall pay on behalf of the Insured on account of any claims first made during the Policy Period."  A claims-made-and-reported policy may be something like, "The Insurer shall pay on behalf of the Insured all sums which the insured shall become legally obligated to pay because of any claim or claims first made and reported to the Insurer during the policy period." 

See the difference?  General-claims-made versions often give you a longer window to place a claim.  While Georgia courts usually side with the insurer when it comes to determining the notification period, on occasion something known as the "prejudice" rule comes into play.  In this arena, prejudice means that delaying notification to your insurance carrier placed it at a disadvantage.  It needs time to investigate, set aside reserves, and control or participate in negotiations if it hopes to have the best outcome possible.

If the insurance company can show prejudice, it avoids covering the situation even if there is a question about the late notification.

The take-away is this:  As soon as you suspect a claim, notify your insurer.  If your claim is denied, consult with your Association's legal counsel.  And most importantly, be sure to only use insurance brokers who regularly operate in the homeowner association industry.  You can locate them at the Georgia CAI (Community Associations Institute) website.  The first mistake many Boards make is cutting corners on costs by using an insurance broker who is not familiar with all the intricate pitfalls faced by HOAs.  An inexpensive policy fails you when you need it the most.  Don't scrimp in this area.   

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Like A Good Neighbor...

Like a good neighbor...dah, dah, is there! Many of us recognize this popular slogan. So what defines a "good" neighbor exactly? They are many ways that owners choose to manage their relationships with neighboring units. Let's take a moment to look at the more successful ways these relationships have been managed.

New ownership is the best time for  owners to make a good first impression. Some immediately introduce themselves to neighboring homeowners by visiting their homes. While others, choose to write little courtesy notes with notifications about pending work that will likely prove messy and disruptive to nearby units or homes. These small acts of kindness go a long way with building a good rapport with new neighbors. There's a high probability in attached multi-family structures that  an owner may have to one day confront an owner about a leak, noise, smoke intrusion, or any of the other items that may come up. An initial good rapport will make these confrontations more pleasant and better managed if the neighbors are already starting from a position of mutual respect.

Owners who have passed the new neighbor period can still strive for good rapport with their neighbors. For example, if an owner is being disturbed by a neighboring unit’s noise, then they have a couple of choices. Most owners either contact management or they confront the noisy neighbor directly. We've seen more success with owners who choose to politely address their noisy neighbor versus asking management to step in and address/handle. People are often a bit offended when management is contacting them with a report from an incident that took place a couple days prior and they are even more frustrated that management is not permitted to disclose who the reporting party is. However, when an owner chooses to confront a neighbor with an issue, it's often best if they introduce themselves and begin by saying "you may not be aware of this but...." or “probably don’t know or realize it but….” The noisy neighbor will sometimes offer their cell phone so the impacted neighbor can call or text if they hear future disturbances. Again, small acts of kindness go a long way.

The age old adage do unto others as you would have them do unto you is very true. In communities, a strong rapport amongst the neighbors is very important. Management often has to coach people through this process. People have diverse backgrounds with varied upbringing. So banging on the ceiling to make a neighbor be quiet is totally fine to some, or smoking in the bathroom where smoke goes into a shared vent is no big deal, or allowing contractors to leave messy trails of construction dust in the hallway is ok because they think the janitorial team will clean it. The Governing Documents, the Rules and Regulations, and community newsletters are designed to establish these standards for everyone. So on-going education about these standards is crucial to having a successful, vibrant community!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spirit Stick Beat Down

How does a stick become a carrot motivator?  When it’s a Spirit Stick.  This symbol evokes memories of high school pep rallies and Friday night football.  The stick tradition began in the late 1940’s at a national cheerleading camp.  One squad was not particularly good at performing the moves, but always arrived early and stayed late, all day long actively encouraging the other teams.  Their enthusiastic attitude had a dramatic impact on the spirit of the camp.  For this, the camp coordinator created an impromptu award, a decorated tree branch, to recognize that squad’s positive impact.

We all hunger to see such enthusiasm in our organizations.  But some groups have strange ideas of how to instill ‘spirit’.  An obvious example is some religious or social gathering that gets mired in group-think.  This mindset isolates and strangles the ability to positively influence newcomers. 

Introducing a newbie into your homeowners association, business, or a Georgia CAI committee is a matter of first impressions.  Does your welcoming act include a thick list of rules?  Greetings of “Thou Shalt Not” drown out any thought of benefits and rewards.  Words are like rain:  Hard ones don’t soak in.

The ways conflicts are handled cement your group’s reputation as a bridge builder or burner.  When a homeowner sends a ten-point list of accusations, the natural reflex is a point-by-point response.  That list of complaints serves to pull your emotional chain.  Ignore the distraction.  Instead keep your responses short, focusing on big picture items.  Sometimes silence is the best answer.

Conspiracies are an opportunity to quench the fires of volunteerism.   Gossiping about past conflicts with other individuals is unprofessional and leaves the hearer wondering what is being said about him or her.  If everyone is out to get you, there’s probably a good reason for it.  Take a look in the mirror.

Self-absorbed personalities in an organization are also a turnoff.   At best, they are daunting, or worse, obnoxious.  Either result dampens spirits.  Instead you should tout group accomplishments not yours.  Self-important people are only important to themselves.
Tooting your horn about the organization is expected.  More often, let your actions do the talking.  Keep your focus on encouraging the others to do their best, even those who might be competitors.  Raising the standard of excellence for ALL creates opportunities for you and your team.  So walk softly and carry a big spirit stick.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What Does the Architectural Committee Really Do?

Are you getting ready to make an addition to your house or build a new shed or fence in your back yard? Before you break out the miter saw, make sure to get your plans approved by your association’s architectural committee.

While it may seem arbitrary from an individual homeowner’s standpoint, the architectural committee looks out for the entire community. Aside from stopping residents from painting pink polka dots on their houses, the committee’s job is to make sure that the size and style of the project, the type of building materials being used and the overall look of the new structure adhere to the association’s design requirements. Not only does this keep the community looking cohesive, it also helps to keep property values up by preventing individual structures from standing out. Of course, it’s also important to note that unapproved structures might legally have to be removed at the owner’s expense, so save yourself money and headaches by getting approval before building.

So when you’re ready to start your new project, or if the design of your project changes midway through building it, send your plans to the architectural committee first so that the committee can make sure they’re in compliance with the association’s design standards. If the committee does find any issues, they will let you know what they are and try to help you come up with other options. The Association does appreciate all the hard work residents do (and have done) to make their homes and their community beautiful—so help the Association keep your community looking great by keeping them in the loop on all of your building projects.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Secrets, Secrets Are No Fun

Association members are welcome to read official association documents. There’s nothing secret about the business of the association. In fact, you should already have copies of key documents like the bylaws or rules. Other common documents that are open for members to review include:
  • Board meeting minutes
  • Insurance policies
  • Financial statements and annual audits
  • Declaration and bylaws
  • Rules and regulations
  • Current contracts
  • Leases and agreements
  • Ballots and proxies

Here is typically how homeowners are able gain access to these documents (procedures may vary depending on your exact community):
  • Send the board a request in writing specifying exactly what records you wish to review, the date of those records and the purpose of your request.

  • The board will respond to your request within 30 days. During that time the board or manager will locate the correct documents and get them ready for you.

  • The records you requested will be available for your review during regular business hours at the manager’s office for 30 days after your request is processed.

  • The association will make copies of records for a reasonable fee.

Please do not request documents that infringe on the privacy of an individual like medical or personnel records. These are not public records, and the association will not make them available. Salary information is available in the aggregate, but not for individuals. Some requests might also be denied if they involve ongoing legal or contractual obligations that might expose the association board or manager to liability.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Homeowner Rights & Responsibilities

As a homeowner in our association, you have certain rights—and certain responsibilities. And its just as important to know both!

You have the right to . . .

  • A responsive and competent community association
  • Honest, fair, and respectful treatment by community leaders and managers.
  • Attend meetings, serve on committees, and run for election.
  • Access appropriate association records.
  • Prudent financial management of fees and other assessments.
  • Live in a community where the property is maintained according to established standards.
  • Fair treatment regarding financial and other association obligations, including the opportunity to discuss payment plans and options before the association takes any legal action, and the right to appeal decisions
  • Receive all rules and regulations governing the community association—if not prior to purchase and settlement, then upon joining the community.
You also have the responsibility to . . .
  • Maintain your property according to established standards.
  • Treat association leaders with honesty and respect.
  • Read and comply with rules and regulations of the community and ensure that your tenants and guest do too.
  • Vote in community elections and on other issues.
  • Pay association assessments and charges on time.
  • Contact association leaders or managers, if necessary, to discuss financial obligations and alternative payment arrangements.
  • Request reconsideration of material decisions that personally affect you.
  • Provide your current contact information to the association so you receive all information from the community.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How the Budget Committee Works

The budget committee comprises members of our community association, which enables residents to have a say in how their money is spent. How does the budget committee work and who serves on it? 

The Treasurer’s and Accountant’s Roles

It makes sense for the board treasurer to chair the budget committee. As chair, it’s the treasurer’s job to keep everyone on track as the budget is prepared. The treasurer also presents the budget for approval to the board and members. If the association works with an accountant, he or she may offer consulting, but the accountant really has no significant role in the process of devising the budget.

Who Should Be on the Committee?

The owners who serve on the budget committee should represent a cross-section of the community. Of course, if there are members willing to serve who have expertise in areas such as insurance, that’s even better. When it comes to size, a good general guideline is that the committee shouldn’t be so large that it becomes unwieldy.

What the Committee Does

The treasurer will make sure that all committee members understand the three basic components of the budget:

1. Funds needed for daily operation of the community, such as common electricity and water, grounds maintenance, management, insurance, and general maintenance. These expenses are either contractual or can be reasonably estimated based on experience. An important consideration when looking at items in the operating budget is the expectations of the community—for example, do members want a landscaper who is a “blow, mow, and go” type, or do they want a landscaper who provides a higher level of service? Obviously, the latter requires more of an investment.

2. Funds needed to maintain our reserves at sufficient levels. Reserve funds provide money for the repair and replacement of the community’s assets—such as the pool, roofs, pavement, etc.

3. Funds for additions or enhancements to the existing property. This is a function of what members of the community want and are willing to pay for. The community should provide input and approval for this component.

Armed with this knowledge, the committee will estimate total expenses for the coming year and compare that sum to the association’s potential revenue (assessments, interest on investments, concession income, and so on). If expenses are greater than revenue, the committee will look for ways to lower expenses without compromising service. If that doesn’t balance the budget, the committee may have to make a tough decision—whether to increase assessments or levy a one-time special assessment.

Its not always an easy job - but its absolutely essential to the health and longevity of your association. Homeowners always want to know where their money (or dues) are being spent. Serving on the budget committee can be a very eye opening experience!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sounds Like A Good Idea

Noise is a concern for every resident and because you live in a community, it’s important to understand that some degree of noise is to be expected. At the same time, residents need to consider the consequences of their noisy behavior. To keep everyone happy and maintain civility among neighbors, the following are a few steps that you can take to reduce or eliminate annoying noise (and if everyone follows these guidelines, your community will be a much happier (and more peaceful) place!):

            Be kind and respectful. A little common courtesy makes a big difference. Keep your music and television at reasonable levels, do your vacuuming before bedtime, and before remodeling, check with the manager about acceptable hours and days of the week that work can be done. If you put in hardwood or tile flooring, use a sound-reducing underlayment. Move your noisy appliance away from walls and put sound-absorbing material underneath before your neighbors complain.
            Keep a log. If you’re disturbed by a noise problem, note the times and the nature of the noise. Ask the manager to listen and verify the noise as well. There may be a pattern in the noise that can be adjusted.
            Visit your neighbor. If your neighbor is the source of the noise, try a friendly chat. Sometimes people just don’t realize how noise is affecting others. People are usually considerate once they realize they’re disturbing others. And, if your neighbor knocks on your door, listen politely and be willing to made changes to reduce your own noise.
            Contact the manager. If a polite request doesn’t change your neighbor’s noisiness, it may be time to ask the manager for help.  Have your noise log ready, including attempts to solve the problem yourself.

Reducing noise sounds like a good idea. A quiet, peaceful community, relatively speaking, is a happy community.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Community Association 101

Even though so many people live in an association, you might be surprised by how many of those neighbors—owners and renters alike—don’t really understand the fundamental nature of common-interest communities. And we know that many others, including the media and government officials, lack a true understanding of the community association (or condominium) concept.

Community Associations Institute (CAI), a national membership organization that represents the best interests of common-interest communities, developed 10 basic principles that answer three essential questions: What is the basic function of a community association? What are the essential obligations and expectations of homeowners? What are the core principles that should guide association leaders?
Lets take a look:

1. Associations ensure that the collective rights and interests of homeowners are respected and preserved.

2. Associations are the most local form of representative democracy, with leaders elected by their neighbors to govern in the best interest of all residents.

3. Associations provide services and amenities to residents, protect property values and meet the established expectations of homeowners.

4. Associations succeed when they cultivate a true sense of community, active homeowner involvement and a culture of building consensus.

5. Association homeowners have the right to elect their community leaders and to use the democratic process to determine the policies that will protect their investments.

6. Association homeowners choose where to live and accept a contractual responsibility to abide by established policies and meet their financial obligations to the association.

7. Association leaders protect the community’s financial health by using established management practices and sound business principles.

8. Association leaders have a legal and ethical obligation to adhere to the association’s governing documents and abide by all applicable laws.

9. Association leaders seek an effective balance between the preferences of individual residents and the collective rights of homeowners.

10. Association leaders and residents should be reasonable, flexible and open to the possibility—and benefits—of compromise.

Fundamentals can be downloaded at www.caionline.org/governance/fundamentals.pdf. For more information about Community Associations Institute, go to www.caionline.org.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Money Down the Drain

Most condominium or townhome communities share a similar structure when it comes to water.  Each unit either has its own meter, is sub metered, or the water is included in the assessments for the community.  Owners with meters feel a sense of responsibility for the water usage and try to help conserve.  But responsibility for water consumption is not all that is needed; owners need to also take the proactive approach to ensure that plumbing fixtures are in good working order.  Alas, not all owners are this responsible. 

We’ve had an incredible success story recently with one of our clients, and their board of directors is truly proud of the results.  We noticed a trend by carefully reviewing the financial reports.  It is so important that you pay attention when you look at your financials!  The water bill at this condominium community was skyrocketing.  Operating funds were depleting.  We knew we had to act fast. 

Two approaches were researched and implemented.  We contacted the city utility department and got approval to participate in a toilet rebate program:  All owners installing a low flow flush toilet would get a rebate from the city.  The city credited the association’s utility bill and in return the association issued funds to the owner.  We also had the community's attorney review the governing documents to ensure that we would have the right to do unit inspections searching for any plumbing leaks.

The water bill received immediately after the process began was already showing improvement, success!   After all the reports of completed repairs by the owners were in and many new, low flush toilets had been installed - the next water bill had been cut in half as compared to the same date the year before.  It was so important to the board of directors to be able to show this to their owners that not only do they have a responsibility to ensure their community is being run well, but they also are proactive in finding ways to keep spending down as well as find ways to save costs. 

While of course we had a “fun time” dealing with disgruntled owners that didn’t want us to enter their units or didn’t believe us when reported leaks needing repairs, it was well worth it in the end to be able to thank them for their cooperation!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Point of Contact

It’s always a good idea to have a single point of contact between various groups and businesses.  Having too many hands in the cookie jar can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.  Important issues and resolutions are almost always missed. 

This is especially true with committees, boards and vendors.  Committees are frequently made up of three or more homeowners - and when there are a lot of volunteers, there tends to also be a lot of opinions.  So it is important to designate a committee chairperson who reports the wants and needs of the entire committee to the board and/or management. 

Having a member of the board acting as a liaison for each committee is equally important.  That way each committee chairperson can report to one member of the board instead of all five or more members.  Around budget season each committee should have met and discussed their proposed budget amongst themselves for the upcoming year.  They then send this proposed budget to the Treasurer for review and to be included in the Association’s budget.  If you had three or more committee members trying to convey their budget needs to each board member, something inevitably will get marginalized. 

The same system applies to management and board members.  The board should assign each board member a specific committee to oversee (i.e. landscaping, pool, finance, etc.).  For example, the landscape committee discovers that a major irrigation leak has occurred and, after receiving three bids, they determine they would like XYZ Irrigation Company hired to conduct repairs.  The landscape chairperson reports the findings to management.  The manager then adds this to the manager’s report and notifies the board liaison for landscaping.  The liaison reports his findings to the rest of the board so they can quickly decide as a group on the request.  This also helps everyone to be more organized and efficient during the month and more productive at the board meetings. 

Along those same lines, it is always a good idea to have one point of contact with your contractors/ vendors -both to deal with on a regular basis and to report issues to.  With more than one point of contact you waste time navigating through the vendor’s organization to report specific issues, and may not have successfully followed through afterward.  Also, you risk the vendor misunderstanding the specific needs and conditions of the community, if he/she does not regularly interact with a particular person. 

A single point of contact creates accountability, pinpointing errors and decreasing communication snafus and lost time in working through your community’s challenges. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Do You Winterize?

Winterizing and Preparing for Extreme Cold Weather 
As cold weather approaches there are some things that homeowners and associations should consider to be proactive to avoid frozen pipes and potential water damage.


Every winter, homeowners suffer from the destruction, frustration, and the financial burden caused by freezing and bursting water pipes. Freezing can occur in any water pipe exposed to temperatures of 32ºF or below. As freezing water expands, it generates enough pressure to burst pipes and fixtures. When frozen pipes thaw, flooding can occur and cause extensive damage. Pipes in garages, attics, crawl spaces, and unheated rooms are particularly susceptible to freezing. Pipes in exterior walls may also freeze when temperatures fall below freezing during severely cold weather.
During the winter, taking a few simple precautions, you can avoid the frustration, destruction, and expenses caused by frozen pipes. Access Management Group recommends you use this guide to help prevent frozen pipes and protect your investment.


An eighth-inch (three millimeter) crack in a pipe can leak up to 250 gallons (946 liters) of water per day. Both plastic (PVC) and copper pipes can burst.


Know Where Your Shut-Off Valve Is – All responsible household members should know where the home’s shut-off valve is located prior to needing it for an emergency. Every home should be equipped with a shut-off valve. Generally a stop and drain valve is located on the service line on your side of the water meter, near the house. If you live in a condo or townhome, you may have a shut-off at your water heater or where your water line enters your unit. Unfortunately, not all units have a main shut-off. If you have one, locate it so you can shut off the water if a break occurs.

Insulate Pipes and Faucets – If you have pipes in unheated areas, such as the garage or a crawl space under the house, insulate them with items such as pipe wrap, foam jackets, or heat tape. Insulating products are available at local hardware stores or building supply retailers. Follow all manufacturers’ installation and operation instructions. If you have questions, call a professional for help. Simply insulating the pipes will help during a short cold spell but a long term cold spell will ultimately cause the unheated pipe to freeze even if insulated. If you are concerned about this potential, we recommend installing heat tape under the insulation against the water pipe. Install insulated covers on your exterior hose bibs. Again during extreme cold, these could still freeze due to a lack of a heat source. Shut off hose bibs from the inside, if you have that capability and if a cut off is available. This is the surest way to avoid these from freezing. Remember to drain the line outside after turning off the valve.

Seal Off Air Leaks – With cold winter winds, a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to freeze a pipe. Look for leaks around dryer vents, electrical wiring, and pipes. Use caulk or insulation to keep the cold air out. Don’t cover or block air vents from your water heater or furnace; proper ventilation is important for those items.


Shut Off and Drain Outdoor Irrigation System
  1. Set the automatic irrigation controller to the “Off” setting.
  2. Turn off water to the irrigation system at the stop and drain valve. Many homes have separate stop and drain valves for the outdoor water supply. Make sure the different valves are labeled so they are easy to identify.
  3. Drain all water out of any irrigation components that might freeze. Some systems may drain automatically. The system may not drain completely based upon how it is installed but draining as much water as possible is a positive action.
  4. Disconnect garden hoses from hose bibs.

Shut Off and Drain Indoor Plumbing to unheated buildings such as pool houses.
  1. Shut off water using the stop and drain valve. Use caution to make sure this valve has been completely turned off. If this valve isn't closed correctly, the water will continue to feed the building and/or flow out the drain valve if the main valve is not properly closed.
  2. Drain all water out of the pipes by opening every faucet until the water stops running. After the water has stopped, turn off the faucets. If water does not stop, go check the stop and drain valve to make sure it’s shut off all the way.
  3. Flush toilets.
  4. Pour biodegradable anti-freeze into all toilet bowls, toilet tanks, and sinks to displace water in the drain pipes. Carefully follow manufacturers’ instructions and always store in a child and pet proof location. RV antifreeze is the best product to use since regular automobile antifreeze can damage toilet wax rings and other components of the plumbing system.
  5. Open your hot water drain valve, usually located at the low point of your hot water pipes. If you choose to drain your hot water tank, turn off the gas or electric supply to the heater. If you do not turn off the water heater, it will continue to try and heat the water and cause your heater to malfunction. This will result in the potential for fire and total replacement of the water heater.
  6. Not all buildings are designed to be totally drained and there is a possibility that there could still be water left in the piping system that could freeze. If you turn the water back on after winterization, check all plumbing to ensure you do not have a broken pipe. If a pipe is broken, turn the water back off and call a plumber or the AMG emergency line immediately.


  • Instead of draining your water system, you may heat the building to avoid freezing pipes. However, leaving the thermostat at 45 to 55 degrees does NOT always ensure that the pipes will not freeze. Winter storms may cause power outages, which will cause some heating systems to shut off, resulting in frozen pipes.If you are going to be away from your home and it is the time of year that cold weather may be a concern, make sure you leave your unit with the heat on. 
  • If you are in a Condominum or Townhome, your unit not being heated may cause a water line break and now you have also flooded your neighbors and cause thousands of dollars of damage to yourself, others and the common association areas. 
  • Letting your water drip slightly is also a method that can be used since moving water freezes slower than water simply sitting in a water line. 
  • Open cabinet doors to allow heat to flow easily around water pipes.


If you turn on the faucets and nothing comes out, call a plumber or the Access Management Group Emergency Line immediately. The AMG Emergency Line is our main line number at (770) 777-6890 and follow the prompts. We can send personnel to your home to help evaluate the situation.
Open all faucets in the house. When water freezes, it expands by 1/5th its original volume. By relieving pressure, due to the expanding water, you may avoid additional pipe damage. 

Once your pipes have thawed, it is important that you carefully inspect your home for any signs of a leak. The freezing of the pipes could have caused a pinhole leak, hairline break, or large crack.

If the water lines are in an attic space it would be wise to ensure the piping is covered with insulation and is best if they are within the heated envelope of the unit. Ensure that if pipes in these areas are repaired and the insulation is disturbed that the insulation be placed back into its original configuration and not left exposed to freeze another day.


Be Water Wise, Winterize!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Do You Know What The CAI Can Do For You?

Community Association Managers must be knowledgeable in a myriad of topics and issues. In a single day, they touch items ranging from pet owner violations to million dollar capital projects. After appropriate training and experience, managers are effective partners with communities, helping maintain assets and increase property values.

The State of Georgia requires Association Managers to be licensed through the Georgia Real Estate Commission.  Mandatory licensing provides increased protection to communities from negligent practices, and allows a much better option to thrive versus a self-managed community run by those with limited knowledge about Association issues.  Managers must attend a 3-day course taught by homeowner association attorneys.  This is followed by both a class test and then a State test.
Related to this, the Community Associations Institute (CAI) is a valuable resource and has proved to be an important organization for homeowner associations and industry affiliates.

Byron Hanke, an eventual founder of CAI, authored the first systemic study of planned communities entitled, The Homes Association Handbook. This book called for the creation of a national organization to provide education and act as a clearinghouse of ideas and practices for the community association housing market (https://www.caionline.org/AboutCAI/Pages/History.aspx ).

In 1965 a model planned- unit development statute was drafted, and in 1973 the CAI was organized through the joint efforts of the Urban Land Institute and the National Association of Home Builders, the U.S. League of Savings and Loan Associations, the Veterans Administration, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 23 builder/developers and a number of leading community association professionals (https://www.caionline.org/AboutCAI/Pages/History.aspx ).

Forty-two years later, CAI continues the mission of building better communities. There are 60 local chapters, including one in the Atlanta metro area, established in 1981. Its Board of Directors is comprised of community association professionals, volunteers, homeowners and business partners.

The local chapter acts as a source of knowledge for all members, with driven professionals and homeowners.  There are rewarding networking and career opportunities which directly impact the success of our region, as well as on the national and international levels.  Its active sub committees have created an organization filled with endless insight, happy homeowners, productive community associations, better communities and hardworking professionals who believe in the organization and what it means to them, personally, professionally, and ethically.

Managers have the opportunity to gain credentials through continued education through CAI. To learn more visit  https://www.caionline.org/LearningCenter/Credentials/Pages/default.aspx .

Whether you need a new resolution for your association, new board member training, or a new manager for the community, look to CAI to provide ethics, industry best practices, knowledge and education for community associations.