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 ( ).

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 ( ).

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 .

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.