How the HOA Board Uses Social Media

Facebook Vs. Nextdoor. Why Your HOA Board Needs to Know the Difference

Did you know that almost 50% of Americans don’t know the names of their neighbors? (Reference: CAI – July 2017 Newsletter)

As an HOA management company, it’s our responsibility to support and encourage communication within the community association. We have always encouraged getting to know your neighbors.

But like the rest of us, when we go home at night, it’s very common to jump on social media as ways to connect with people. For the HOA communities, social media networks such as Nextdoor© and Facebook© have replaced inviting the neighbors over for a barbecue.

It’s inevitable. Social media is here to stay as community homeowners are using these online forums more and more to have ongoing discussions with other community members. Should HOA Board use social media to communicate with homeowners?

Officially, social media isn’t the place for official HOA Board communications. However HOA Board Members should participate so they may keep a pulse on any online discussions issues in the community, complaints, and anything else that could cause harm to the community. Vice versa, these tools are a great way to post reminders about social events that encourage positive community involvement.

We will get into liability for communications in the next blog. For now, let’s understand how these social media networks function, so you can make the best decision on what to post, and where!

 

Why Should My HOA Board Care About the Difference between Facebook and Nextdoor?

 

Nextdoor© focuses on specific neighborhoods, and uses a thorough verification process (by postcard or email) to prove physical residence before a member can join any discussion on the community association level. The exclusivity has created a safe space for residents to openly discuss opinions regarding the community association, share recommendations for local services, and much more. The platform is completely administered by Nextdoor©.

Facebook©, on the other hand, uses a “Pages” model, meaning a page administrator creates the page and can monitor, delete comments, and authorize whom can join the page (as long as the settings are set to PRIVATE). It’s at the discretion of the administrator how to use their page. Also, anyone with a Facebook account, can create a page. A neighorhood may have a page started by a concerned resident, a neighborhood watch leader, or quite possibly an HOA board member (if the HOA Board agrees to it). Once a member of the page (after administrator accepts your request), you are able to view the admin information in the “about” section.

HOA Board members need to take into account how these social media platforms function, as they are very different.

For example, when an HOA Board member posts in Nextdoor©, the communication will automatically be posted in his/her community board. HOA Board members are residents alike, so communications may be intended as “just a homeowner.” However, residents (not on the board) may perceive otherwise. It’s a fine line to walk if you are an HOA Board member posting in Nextdoor©.

Lesson here; HOA Board members must be acutely aware of how you are commenting/initiating in each social media platform. When homeowner issues arise, encourage complaints or recommendations be sent to the Board or HOA Management company directly. We hope you take this valuable lesson on “how” these two platforms differ in function, to your next board meeting. Stay tuned for part II of this blog, where we will discuss the HOA Board’s liability for online communications.

Temporary Residents or Snowbirds in the HOA

Questions about Snowbird Rules in the HOA, Answered

Arizona is known for being a warm getaway for snowbirds that want to escape the freezing temperatures that much of the United States experiences in winter. “New” neighbors are moving back into their community associations every day since fall has commenced.

As a result, it’s not uncommon for residents in Arizona HOA communities to have a parent or family member living with them for part of the year. Or, for snowbirds to also have visitors during their stay in Arizona.

As an HOA management company that partners with community associations and their HOA boards in the Phoenix, Arizona Valley, these common question arises this time of year for all of our HOA Boards.

 

What is a visitor vs. a part-time resident? Why does the HOA have rules pertaining to visitors or part-time residents

 

Since Arizona attracts so many snowbirds, many Arizona HOA communities include a set of rules in their bylaws for part-time residents. First, check the CC&R’s to see what constitutes a visitor versus a part-time resident. Many associations have this outlined by, for example, how many days constitute residency for your visitors.

Why would an Arizona HOA community have rules in place that govern part-time residents? Any rules regarding visitors and part-time residents are put in place to keep the community safe and make it an enjoyable place for all residents to live. Generally speaking, the term “guest” or “visitor” refers to someone that stays in the community for a relatively short period of time with the property owner present. Typically, when the property owner is on site, there will be fewer issues with the guest.

 

Do I have to notify my HOA if a snowbird parent or family member lives with me during winter? 

 

Most issues that come up with part-time residents are related to the rules and regulations of the HOA community. For example, if a snowbird guest or a snowbird family member moves in for any period of time in the property owner’s absence, issues within the HOA community can arise such as the part-time resident may not understand the rules surrounding trash day, noise levels, or parking.  We suggest, as a best practice, reach out to your HOA Board to notify them of any part-time snowbird visitor or part time resident (as it would be defined). They can help remind you of the rules visitors or part-time residents need to follow during their stay in your home.

If your HOA doesn’t currently have enforceable parameters in place that address part-time residents and guests, it’s in the community’s best interest to speak with an Arizona HOA management company about establishing governing documents around this topic, or insert into your CC&R’s. By clearly defining the rules surrounding visitors and part-time residents for your HOA community, you’ll minimize potential conflict for everyone.

Social Media in the HOA

Are HOA’s Liable for Online Comments? The Answer May Surprise You.

Before you jump right in, please reference our Social Media in the HOA, Part 1, which is a quick lesson on different platforms HOA’s are typically using as online forums!

Are HOA’s liable for what’s posted in online community forums? Well, it depends. We have outlined 3 quick tips on protecting yourself, and your HOA from liability. * Disclaimer; PDS is an Arizona HOA Management Company. This is not to be considered as professional legal advice. If you have specific questions on HOA law, contact your HOA lawyer or ask your HOA Management company for an HOA legal referral.
1. Understand the general rule of liability for defamation; Liability for defamation occurs when a person/party communicates to 3rd party a false and defamatory statement while knowing the statement is untrue. Digital Media Law Project defines  of defamation case in Arizona here.  Facebook could be the third party in a defamation case. If an HOA board member makes a false statement on a Facebook© page, the HOA could be liable. If a homeowner makes a defamatory comment on Facebook©, the resident may be liable.

2. Stay unified, even during contentious times; HOA Boards have to make tough decisions, and sometimes it is not a unanimous resolution. As tensions within the HOA board arise, remember that the board has a legal relationship with the community association. There are 3 components to the Arizona nonprofit corporation act (A.R.S. 10-3830) which are: acting in good faith, a duty of care, and a duty of loyalty. This means that individual HOA Board members, even when they disagree with the board, must refrain from taking action that could be to the detriment of the community association. Plainly stated, it’s not in the best interest of the association to post comments online that undermine board decisions.

3. Establish guidelines for the HOA Board for posting online; Board members (who are also homeowners) should participate in social media. You need to stay informed about events and issues happening in the community association. If you are tempted to initiate or comment, consider the liability as mentioned above. The board could institute a ban on HOA board members posting on behalf of the association, unless otherwise authorized by the board. If a ban can not be agreed upon during a meeting, at the very least, outline how comments can be professional, don’t violate HOA board confidence, and remain completely unoffensive to any party.

 

Again, seek out an HOA lawyer for specific information about HOA liability for online communication. We hope this article started a conversation in your board, in case you haven’t yet addressed social media etiquette!

Arizona Monsoon Safety Guide

Arizona’s Monsoon Season: Preparing and Staying Safe

Arizona monsoons, part of a larger North American monsoon system, are caused by extreme summer temperatures which cause low pressure zones across the Southwest. Those zones draw moist ocean air up from the Gulf of Mexico and California which create the monsoon storms.

Starting around July 15th and ending September 30th, the storms build each day as the atmosphere heats up, eventually forming strong thunderstorms in the later afternoon and evening. The storms usually dissipate overnight, only to begin the cycle again the following day.

When wind from these storms comes in straight lines through the desert it sometimes kicks up significant amounts of dust, bringing on the notorious haboobs – large walls of dust that blow in before the rain.

Though many monsoon storms are relatively mild and pass quickly, some pose serious risks to property and personal safety, especially for those caught on the road. Dust and heavy rain create low visibility and flooding of low-lying areas. Combine that with lighting, wind-blown debris, and occasionally even hail and you get a seriously dangerous storm.

Plan Ahead to Stay Safe from Arizona Monsoons

Of course, the best way to avoid the dangers of Arizona monsoon storms is by staying out of their way to begin with. During the summer months, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the weather, especially if you plan to travel in the afternoon or evening. There are plenty of options to stay informed:

Check your phone’s weather app, or weather sites like ASU’s monsoon page
Watch TV weather forecasts or listen to radio weather reports
Turn on a NOAA weather radio
Subscribe to severe weather notification services (many phones offer this feature)
Finally, check the actual sky, looking 360 degrees around and overhead before heading out

 

When driving if you find yourself caught in a dust storm, immediately pull off the road as far as you can, turn your car off, and take your foot off the brake pedal so your lights don’t draw in other drivers. Do not enter flooded areas, no matter how low the water may look (appearances are often deceiving).

Homeowners who live in flood-prone areas should make appropriate preparations to secure their property and drain off excess water. It’s also a good idea to have a disaster supply kit on hand.

What is in a 72 Hour Disaster Supply Kit?

Given the regularity of monsoon and other severe weather events, it’s smart to prepare a household disaster supply kit in the event that power is lost or local services are rendered inaccessible. An effective kit should contain essentials like food, water, and sturdy clothing, to sustain a family for up to 72 hours (3 days) since electric, gas, and water services may be disabled or interrupted. Items to include:

3 gallons of water in clean, well-sealed containers per person and pet
First aid kit
Supply of food that can be eaten without cooking and stored without refrigeration
Portable battery-operated flashlights, radio, and extra batteries (test regularly)
Candles and oil lamps may be used as backups, but they pose fire risks
Medically necessary medications
Generator for life support or medical equipment that requires electricity to function

 

Monsoon storms are a fact of life in Arizona, so it’s important for HOA staff to help make sure new residents understand the risks. Of course, many long-time residents know that once you’re aware and prepared you can start to appreciate the thrilling majesty of this rare phenomenon. Just ask the growing number of photographers and storm-chasers who attend Monsoon Con every year.

Arizona Fireworks Safety Quick Guide

Legal Fireworks in Arizona: A Quick Guide

Hide your dogs (and have a safety talk with your kids) the summer fireworks season is here. From May 20 to July 6 fireworks may be purchased legally in Arizona. In the winter, you can buy fireworks from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3. They can be set off from June 24 to July 6 in summer and in the winter from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3.

Of course, not all fireworks are legal, and even the legal types pose real risks of fire, burns, and other injuries. Here’s a rundown of the legal guidelines and safety tips for fireworks festivities in Arizona:

Several kinds of fireworks are legal to use in Arizona, including cone and cylindrical fountains, wheels, ground spinners, illuminating torches, ground sparkling devices and handheld sparklers.

Fountain-style fireworks sit on the ground and shoot sprays of colored sparks into the air directly above them. Torches and ground sparklers typically spout colored flames or sparks, similar to the fountains but on a smaller scale. Ground spinners whirl and scream – keep an eye on those and give them plenty of space before igniting.

Handheld sparklers, the thin silver sticks that emit bright sparks as they burn down from the end, are a staple firework. Don’t let that fool you though, sparklers do pose serious burn risks, especially for children, as the heated end can reach 1,800+ degrees. Children often burn their feet when they drop sparklers because they feel too hot (or scary) to hold. Closed toed shoes, pants, and close supervision will help prevent injury.

In Arizona, the general rule of thumb is that ground-based fireworks are permitted, while fireworks that detonate in the air are not. The Phoenix Fire Department has detailed fireworks information up on their site. Restricted fireworks include bottle rockets, Roman candles, sky rockets, firecrackers, single-tube devices with reports, re-loadable shell devices, and other aerials.

Bottle rockets and sky rockets are generally smaller aerials, usually attached to a stick that goes into the ground to point them into the air for launch. Roman candles are packaged in a long, handheld tube that fires a number of explosive colored projectiles from the end. The other types generally use re-loadable tubes to launch exploding shells into the air (the smaller scale version of what’s generally used for official fireworks shows).

Firecrackers are one exception to the “ground-based is ok” rule of thumb. Firecrackers usually look like the fireworks in old cartoons – small red cylinders, often linked together with a long fuse that burns through and explodes a larger series. They make a lot of noise, but they also cause quite a few burns and injuries every year (thus their outlaw status).

Top 10 Things You Really Shouldn’t Do With Fireworks:

  • Don’t let kids play with fireworks. Firecrackers, rockets, Roman candles, and even sparklers are very dangerous. If you let children hold sparklers, keep them outside and held away from their faces, clothing, hair and other kids.
  • Buy only legal fireworks – typically, if it’s being sold in a package or kit inside a grocery store it’s legal. Also, legal fireworks should have a label with the manufacturer’s name and directions. Illegal ones are often unlabeled. Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  • Don’t try to make your own fireworks, or use store-bought fireworks in ways other than directed.
  • Don’t use fireworks inside. Keep a bucket of water and a hose nearby in case of mishaps.
  • Treat fireworks like weapons – don’t throw or point fireworks at someone, even as a quick joke. Keep a clear perimeter around the area fireworks are being used, and keep children out. Fireworks sometimes backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction.
  • When lighting fireworks, don’t hold them in your hand or have any part of your body above them. Ideally, wear some kind of eye protection, and carry them in a box or container, not in your pocket.
  • Don’t try to relight duds, and only light one firework at a time. Don’t light them inside of containers.
  • Be aware of fire risks. Bushes, leaves, dry grass and other flammable substances (like your home) may be ignited by hot fireworks, even after they’ve been spent. Light fireworks on cement or rocks or another safe area.
  • Leave the cleanup to the grownups and take care; some spent fireworks may still be ignited and can explode at any time.
  • It’s best to drop fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them in the trash.
  • Consider the happiness of your pets. Dogs and cats have sensitive ears and are often frightened or stressed by Fourth of July festivities. Keep your pets indoors to reduce the risk of injury or runaways.
Good News for Dogs in Arizona

Great News for Dogs (and Kids) in Arizona

School is out and Valley temperatures are already up over the hundred mark. Ready or not, it’s time for another Phoenix summer. That’s fine news if your HOA has a pool (and maybe a splash pad for the kids), but it also brings with it increased danger of heat-related injuries – and worse.

With that in mind, the Arizona state legislature and Governor Ducey have passed a bill aimed at reducing hot car deaths, aimed toward saving children and pets. The bill, HB2494, protects “good samaritans” who rescue pets or children left in a potentially dangerous vehicle during the heat of the day in Arizona.

However, certain conditions must be met in order to qualify for protection from liability resulting from a post-rescue civil action.

The Arizona Humane Society recently provided a clear summary of the conditions you’ll need to satisfy should you come across such a situation. The legislation’s protections apply when:

  1. The rescuer has a good faith belief that the confined child or pet is in imminent danger of suffering physical injury or death unless they are removed from the vehicle.
  2. The rescuer determines the car is locked or there is no reasonable manner in which the person can remove the child or pet.
  3. Before entering the vehicle, the rescuer notifies the proper authorities (defined).
  4. The rescuer does not use more force than is necessary under the circumstances to enter the vehicle.
  5. The rescuer remains with the child or pet until the authorities arrive.

What does this mean? If you come across a child, dog, or other animal locked inside a car in a parking lot, on the street, or in a driveway you will need to make sure they are really in danger, really can’t be let out without damaging the vehicle, and don’t have a parent or owner nearby. If At that point, you’ll need to call 911 or contact another eligible authority to report the situation.

12 News clarifies in an article about the bill that proper authorities as defined in the bill include “a peace officer, deputy, first responder or animal control enforcement agency”. Dialing 911 would seem to be the easiest option there.

At that point you might get to bust some windows to save a pooch (emergency services will probably coach you on your options). You’ll then need to stick it out and wait for emergency responders to arrive.

As temperatures continue to rise this might be a good topic to bring up at your next HOA board meeting and circulate through HOA websites or in a newsletter. On top of that, promoting awareness in our communities about the extreme risks of hot vehicles in Arizona’s sun could help reduce the need for anyone to do any rescuing in the first place.

Hopefully we can all contribute to a safe summer in the Valley of the Sun!

Planned Development Services Code Red Water Drive

Code Red Water Drive

The newly created PDS Philanthropic Board is announcing the first opportunity to give back to our community: The Code Red Water Drive

We are teaming up the Phoenix Rescue Mission to bring water to the homeless during the HOT Phoenix summer.

Did you know?

  • In extreme heat our bodies need 4 liters of water a day, twice the normal amount.
  • In 2015 at least 56 people died from heat related deaths.
  • The Phoenix Mission started their Code Red program with the goal to bring that number down to 0.
  • In 2016 there were 2 heat related deaths.

Starting Monday May 1st, 2017 we will be collecting water bottle donations here in our Peoria, AZ office. Spread the word!

We have an online link for monetary donations. Please pass it on to your HOA Boards and Communities: Link to Phoenix Rescue Mission

More information will be coming. Be sure to check the PDS website in the next few weeks for some exciting ways to get involved.

Thank you,
Your PDS Philanthropic Board

Why Your HOA Needs a Collections Policy

Why Your HOA Needs a Written Collections Policy

Some Homeowners Associations are lucky enough to have minimal collections concerns. However some, are constantly dealing the delinquency of homeowners falling behind on dues. No matter where your HOA sits on this spectrum, it is vital for your community to have a written collection policy documented for the HOA, and a managing partner to handle the day-to-day tasks.

Why Your HOA Needs a Written Collections Policy in Place

 

A written HOA collections policy partially removes the HOA board from having to manage the day-to-day aspects of collecting dues (by delegating to their managing partner) allowing the board to act impartially with their homeowners. Board members can not give leniency to friends in the neighborhood, or vice versa, act harshly with community members they may dislike. Think about this, if you know some of your neighbors personally or see them on a regular basis, do you really want to be the one in charge of collecting past due balances from them?

A written collections policy, in addition to a managing partner, makes the process easier for the HOA board and ensures all homeowners are treated fairly.

Additionally, without a written collection policy, the board may not recall the precedents set with each new collections scenario, forcing them to dig up records of how they’ve handled other past-due assessments, in order to make a decision on present collection situations. And what if they can’t find record? Now we have a situation with no precedent being followed at all.

How to Create an HOA Collections Policy

 

First, we suggest you review our 5 Ways to Ruin Your Collections Process blog, which gives our top five big “no-no’s” for HOA collections policies and procedures.

Next, contact your Planned Development Services Community Manager and an Arizona Collections Attorney, to make sure you follow the correct process according to Arizona law for collections.

Many times, it is impossible for a policy to cover every circumstance, but your new HOA collections policy should be able to address frequently-encountered scenarios. Your Community Manager (and attorney) will create a list of questions for you to review. Once your board has decided and agreed on the responses, a formal collections policy can be drafted and approved at your next HOA board meeting.

Once the HOA collection policy is in place, the board’s involvement in regular collections actions is minimized, leaving more time to accomplish other community goals and projects.

While a collections policy can’t keep your homeowners from falling behind on payments, having a firmly documented plan for how past-due assessments will be addressed, will allow the HOA to collect those fees sooner and with higher success. Regardless of a homeowner’s individual financial circumstances, it isn’t fair to the rest of the community that pays on time, to end up paying more to cover expenses and attorney fees incurred because of a delinquent payer.

Arizona HOA Water Conservation

5 Free Activities for Arizona Water Conservation Fun

Unless you live under a rock, you know that water is a serious subject in Arizona. The availability and quality of our water supply is vital to our quality of life. This precious resource was recognized by Arizona’s Governor in 2008 with an Executive Order that designates April as Water Awareness Month.

In our Arizona HOA communities, we should always be discussing and encouraging awareness of about this precious resource on a local community level.

We have culled this list of free tools for parents, so teaching at home is quick, easy and fun. There’s also some “lead by example” tools for you at the end! Be sure to check those out.

 

5 Free Activities for Arizona Water Conservation Fun:

 

  • The Arizona Department of Water Resources has a couple free downloads you can print right from home! Download them here.
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency offers some fun, at-home tools for water conservation. Move the water-efficiency hero Flo through water pipes and answer water-efficiency questions while avoiding water-wasting monsters! Here’s the quick link to Flo’s Water Efficiency Game.
  • Try out Thirstin’s Water Cycle activity experiment! All you need is a jar, some water, and a little bit of time to spend with your kiddo talking about water!
  • One of our favorite websites, The Water Use it Wisely website, has an entire section dedicated to KIDS! Play interactive games like Water Busters with fun characters like Phil Dumpster and Bert the Salmon from Seattle.
  • As always, lead by example! The Water Awareness Month website has a calendar layout for a water conservation task you can do at home each day. A perfect way to show your children what you are doing for their future, and water conservation for Arizona.

Please visit our previous article Best Arizona HOA Resources for Water Conservation & Allotments for more HOA specific information.

Arizona HOA Water Conservation Guide

Best Arizona HOA Resources for Water Conservation & Allotments

Sure, April is known for taxes, but the Grand Canyon State also spends this month celebrating the most precious of resources – WATER – with Arizona Water Awareness Month!

Make sure your Arizona HOA community stays smart, sustainable, and responsible with these water conservation and allotment resources:

  • Arizona Water Awareness Month (waterawarenessmonth.com): The official website of this holiday is full to the brim with news, tips, and special events all centered on building awareness of water’s value – this month, and every day.
  • Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (www.amwua.org): The nonprofit Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA) has four-plus decades of experience in helping to “provide assured, safe, and sustainable water supplies” to local communities. “Residents and businesses play an important role in helping to manage water supplies sustainably,” according to AMWUA. “Converting to drought-tolerant landscaping, learning how to water landscape plants correctly, and changing out old fixtures and appliances with WaterSense labeled models now will start saving water and money that much sooner.” Check out their page for a host of resources for homes, businesses, and landscaping, as well as details on informative public meetings in Arizona.
  • The City of Scottsdale (http://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/water/home-owners-associations-multifamily-residences): “The HOA’s water use in December, January and February determines the sewer fees for the next year,” says Scottsdale’s website, which includes more helpful tips, including information on water rebate programs.
  • The Water Use It Wisely Campaign (wateruseitwisely.com): The Water Use it Wisely Campaign offers terrific resources – one of our favorites is the 100+ Ways to Conserve, tips and (free) colorful, downloadable posters that can be shared with homeowners and community members on social media or displayed throughout the community.
  • Arizona Department of Water Resources (azwater.gov): This government site, dedicated to “securing Arizona’s water future,” might just be the best place to understand laws and policies related to water use and conservation, including an interactive timeline map of the state’s water management efforts.