Thursday, July 23, 2015

President of Greensboro/Winston-Salem HOA Management Company, Association Management Group, Selected by Community Associations Institute (CAI) to Lead Advanced Class in Houston, TX

(GREENSBORO, WINSTON-SALEM, NC) Paul Mengert, President of AMG, Association Management Group, one of the Carolinas’ largest professional homeowners association managers with five offices in North and South Carolina, has been invited by Community Associations Institute (CAI) to lead an advanced class in community association management in Houston, Texas.  Mengert, who has taught classes for CAI in nearly every state in the US for more than a decade, will lead a continuing education session on management company administration for his peers in the industry, experienced association management company managers and senior executives.  The class is designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of a community association management company and will include topics such as budgeting, management ethics, contracts and team recruitment, training and retention.

Mengert, a "thought leader" in homeowner association management and whose company is considered a national standard-bearer in the industry for best practices and technology, has taught dozens of both introductory and senior level courses through the years. His other teaching credits include presentations on association law at Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston-Salem and Elon Law School in Greensboro as well as a business class at Queens University McColl School of Business in Charlotte sponsored by the Harvard Business School Alumni Association

“Our goal at AMG is to ensure community and homeowner associations and their member residents receive high quality, consistent service and equitable treatment,” Mengert said. “By focusing on operational excellence and best practices in this advanced class, we help our colleagues in association management deliver superior service to their HOA clients. We take our responsibility to set the standard and make the job of association directors easier and more efficient very seriously because, ultimately, it leads to a quality experience for association owners and helps create strong, healthy communities.”   

A former President of the Carolinas Chapter of CAI, the classes Mengert teaches about homeowners associations are approved for continuing education credits by the North Carolina Board of Realtors, the California Department of Real Estate, the Nevada Department of Real Estate, the Florida Bureau of Condominiums, the Georgia Department of Real Estate and the South Carolina Department of Real Estate. He also presents programs for NC attorneys and CPAs on teamwork and group decision-making for win-win organizational solutions. On the national front, he received a Congressional appointment to serve on the US Small Business Council and was a USAID housing sector advisor to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in the former Soviet Union. His team developed strategies for privatizing government housing and helped form thousands of new homeowners associations.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Creating Strong Community at Work Leads to Creating Strong Communities for Clients

It’s a warm summer night.  AMG team members and their guests are keeping one eye on the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the class A minor league baseball affiliate of the Florida Marlins, and the other eye on the wide-ranging conversation that covers everything from summer vacation plans to an upcoming birthday party to a recent road race for a worthy non-profit. Oh, and work. Maybe. The ball game night out was just one of many events throughout the year that AMG employees participate in outside of work.  For Ashley Kearnes, CMCA, Certified Manager of Community Associations at the Greensboro office and unofficial event organizer, AMG is all about creating community–for clients and in the workplace. “This is our family away from home,” Kearnes says. “We try to do this fairly often, to support local organizations and charities, to celebrate birthdays, to just get out and socialize together. I think it builds a stronger team when we have quality time together.”
            National statistics bear out what AMG understands intuitively. A Gallup poll showed a link between employee feelings and corporate success, finding, not too surprisingly, that disengaged employees cost the US economy $300 billion every year.  Another Gallup study found that employee perceptions of work affected business bottom lines: sales and profits, up and down, could be predicted by employees’ feelings, positive and negative, with an impact on everything from employee retention to customer loyalty.  Happy workplaces feed employee enthusiasm, creativity, loyalty and morale.
            Events the AMG team have enjoyed include a fun day at Charlotte amusement park Carowinds, donating food and running in the PTI 5K 10K on the Runway at Piedmont Triad International Airport to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC, Grasshopper ball games, tubing down the river, housewarming parties, bowling and birthdays. The employees participated in the Beach Music Blast benefitting the Children’s Home Society in downtown Greensboro to honor a team member who had been adopted through the organization.  “There’s a lot to celebrate about living in Greensboro and a lot to be done to support this great community,” she explains. “We’re looking at kicking that into higher gear.”  
            The networking isn’t limited to just the Greensboro office. That team along with employees from the Charlotte and Greenville/Spartanburg offices also participate in an annual corporate retreat that combines workplace best practices and training with engaging team-building activities. Kearnes believes truly getting to know colleagues she doesn’t see on a day-to-day basis strengthens the company.  “We try to keep a close connection with each other,” she points out. “It improves the workplace with better communication, a deeper sense of personality and a celebration of strengths. There’s a bond when you’re able to share challenges and successes.”                                           
             Kearnes feels a connected workplace that’s engaged both professionally and socially is good for business. And it shows at AMG in employee retention, job satisfaction and, ultimately, in the quality of the customer experience and company success.  “When you have a happier environment, it improves the customer experience,” she concludes. “When you like the people you work with and can get along, everything is easier and better. We brainstorm ideas to help customers. We fill in for each other.  If a customer issue comes up and one of us needs assistance or can’t handle it on our own, there are 10 to 14 others in the office who have your back and will support you. It works.”  

Monday, July 20, 2015

How to Avoid a $100,000 Board Mistake

Real Cases that Caused Real Problems for Associations

4 Things Every HOA Director Must Know

1. Families with children under 18 are protected (They have legal "familial status")
Associations should not make or enforce rules that treat families with children differently than families of only adults. Rules that single out minors such as “Adult-Only Swim Time” and “Children under age X must be accompanied by a parent,” may well be Fair Housing violations unless you can prove your rule is specifically related to health and safety. This applies to all common areas, not just pools. Not sure if your community rules are correct? Seek legal guidance immediately.

2. Be smart about making accommodations.
When a request for an accommodation—such as a ramp, service animal or special parking space—is made by a person claiming a disability or handicap of any kind, share the request immediately with legal counsel experienced with Fair Housing laws for review. Never assume that you can ask residents making these requests questions about the severity of their disability or details about their medical records. Get legal advice on how to handle the request. Our experience is that no matter how well intentioned a board of directors may be, it is very easy to violate these important laws inadvertently.

3. Let a professional review your community rules.
Now is the time to have your community rules reviewed by your legal advisor. Compared to the cost of fines for a Fair Housing Act violation, the expense of having an experienced attorney review your current rules and policies is negligible.

4. AMG is here to help.
Since 1985, AMG has helped guide and assist associations with everything from board training and writing effective policies and procedures to setting up financial systems and creating connected communities. Contact Corporate Vice President Spencer Ferguson, PCAM, AMS, CMCA, at (888) 908-4264 or for immediate assistance.

We have qualified managers and connections to expert lawyers and other professionals who can help with FHA and other issues.

About the Fair Housing Act and What It Means for You

The federal Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968, prohibits discrimination in residential housing based on color, race, sex, religion and national origin. Over the years, it’s been augmented to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and familial status. The Fair Housing Act absolutely applies to community associations, and we’ve found that the Act’s guidance on discrimination based on “Familial Status” is often misunderstood or overlooked.

Familial Status
  • Definition: one or more individuals who have not attained the age of 18 years being domiciled with (i.e., living in the same household as) a parent or another person who has legal custody of such individual or individuals, or the designee of such parent or other person.
  • Law: It is unlawful to discriminate against a person in the terms, conditions or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin.
Bottom Line

It’s against the law for you and your association to deny or limit access to your common areas, swimming pool or any other facilities just because a household includes one or more children under the age of 18. That means rules, conditions and policies about use of your facilities should not be solely age based – for example, “no children allowed.”

About the Americans with Disabilities Act and What It Means for You

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. The ADA is one of the United States’ most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life—to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services and to participate in state and local government programs and services.

Are You Covered?

The ADA prohibits discrimination in places of “Public Accommodation” on the basis of disability and requires that private entities make alterations if they open their premises to the general public. “Public Accommodation” as defined in the ADA does not include residential facilities; therefore, common areas of a homeowners’ association and common elements of a condominium (such as the clubhouse and pool) are likely not covered by the ADA because use is restricted exclusively to residents and their guests—these facilities are not open to the public. The exemption from the requirements of the ADA would generally not apply if the Association were to open its common areas, such as the clubhouse or pool, to use by the general public who are not residents or guests of residents. For instance, if the Association were to rent the use of the clubhouse or pool to the general public or host events open to the general public, then the ADA rules would likely apply.

Bottom Line

When you or your community receives a request for an accommodation, don’t say no or even ask questions about the requester’s disabilities—some questions can get you in trouble. Call your legal advisor. While the ADA may not apply, other statutes may. Be prepared to be reasonable and to make or allow reasonable accommodations, perhaps even if not required. Always follow your lawyer’s advice!

Dos and Don'ts of Rule Writing

Following are some rule-writing dos and don'ts that will help keep you out of hot water, saving your association legal troubles and costly fines:

Don’t write rules about status or people; for example, rules applying only to children, teenagers, people with disabilities, etc. Do write rules about problem behaviors.

For example, don’t deny children access to the pool or pool area if a parent isn’t with them. Don’t outlaw only infants and kids who aren’t potty-trained from swimming in your pool. (What about adults who are incontinent?) In this case, do write policies that require people, in general, who are incontinent or not potty-trained to wear appropriate waterproof clothing in the pool.

Do create rules that get at the root of health and safety concerns.

Concerned about horseplay, roughhousing, bad language and unreasonably loud noise at the pool? Don’t refuse access to children and teens. Instead, do simply prohibit the unsafe behaviors: running on the pool deck, profanity, rough play and diving. Be sure to include language stating a consequence: for example, “violators will be asked to leave the pool and may lose access, possibly facing suspension of future use by the board of directors.”

Do watch your words! Don’t use these red flag words:

“child,” “children,” “parents,” “adult,” and any words having to do with age such as “ages” and “years old.”

Do be smart.

Want an adult swim time at your pool? Communities should not have “adult swim", because it’s a possible FHA violation to restrict only families or kids. However, you can have times for “lap-swimming” only. By mandating lap swimming only, you are likely not discriminating against children or families because they could also swim laps.
As if it weren’t complicated enough, there are state regulations that seem to contradict the FHA. For example, North Carolina requires swimming pools operating without a lifeguard to post a sign in a prominent place that reads: Children should not use the swimming pool without adult supervision. What should you do: Comply with NC law or federal FHA law? In many cases, federal law supersedes state law. It’s a challenge. Protect yourself: Consult your legal advisor for sound advice.

Don’t risk making a mistake that could cost your association $100,000 or more... Call AMG today—we will help you get qualified legal representation, before it is too late.

Information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be relied upon other than as general information, which may or may not apply to particular circumstances. Association Management Group encourages all communities with legal questions or concerns to consult with their attorneys for guidance. If you do not have a legal advisor, AMG can help you retain a qualified attorney.

For immediate assistance call (888) 515 1477

Friday, July 17, 2015

About HOA Property Managers

Your homeowners association (HOA) has many responsibilities. Sometimes, the HOA directors will hire property managers to take care of day-to-day operations – or even broader HOA responsibilities. When a property management company is hired, the HOA is ultimately responsible for oversight.

Choose a Licensed Company

If your state licenses property managers, full licensure should be the first thing that an HOA board looks for when evaluating different property management companies. Usually, one person will serve as the manager and make all decisions. The HOA should also find out ahead of time who the management company will appoint as manager. The board should check this person’s educational background and years of property management experience.

Responsibilities of the HOA Property Manager

Property managers provide a long list of services to residential communities. These may include maintaining all common-use structures on the property, landscaping the grounds, coordinating trash removal, checking safety equipment (such as fire and carbon dioxide detectors), scheduling homeowner meetings, providing security, and keeping all financial books and records current.

Homeowners Pay All Property Management Fees

Homeowners in a covenant-controlled community pay the property management company for its services through monthly fees and assessments. When these services aren’t being provided, homeowners have the legal right to challenge their HOA. They may also question that amount that is being spent on a property management company.

Monday, July 6, 2015

5 Keys to Increase Safety in HOA Communities

Home is a place that brings the secure and safe feeling; the HOA community ensures and optimizes the neighborhood security with precautionary measures to keep their member residents and their properties safe. These associations strive to extend safety measures with several options. 

Local Law Enforcement Assistance

HOA associations play a very effective role in establishing a responsive and strong relationship with local law enforcement officers. They set up meetings of home owners with them to familiarize, feel comfortable and bring the voice of their concerns. The association ensures the regular patrolling in neighborhood to prevent illegal activities.

Home owners can help by informing the community board before going on vacations or business trips, and watching out for any unusual or suspicious commotions in the community that can assist in deterring crime.

Install alarms and appropriate lights in the community

HOA association takes active part in the assurance of the well lit and secured community area. Cost efficient motion sensor lights can provide ample lighting, alarm system installations can bring advantages in various situations, as well as, all the assets are protected and maintained by apt monitoring. 

Ground inspection on potential hazards in timely manner

This is something HOA associations are already doing in a proper manner. They evaluate the community area for potentially dangerous situations such as damaged property, fallen trees and debris that can become risky for the neighborhood. 

It is also a responsibility of homeowners to inform their association and alert the board on any concerns so that the situations can be properly addressed without any damages. What HOA associations can do is to have a place where homeowners can file their concerns and check their follow-ups. 

Road and Street Safety

Budgeting on speed bumps and traffic signs for pedestrians and driver’s safety can make a good impact on lowering traffic incidents. HOA associations develop events to educate the community about traffic precautions, or simply update them on monthly board and member meetings to implement right speed limits. This can make the community a safer and pleasant setting to live in. 

Professional Services

Standard Operating Procedures can be obtained from professional consultants adapted to meet the community and association’s needs. This service can help the board to enhance security features, background checks of vendors and other inspection elements of their neighborhood through training and orientation in suggested systems. With specialized services, board can provide a complete toolbox of security techniques and prevent their members from vulnerabilities. 

Paul Mengert is founder of Association Management Group. He can be contacted at:

Association Management Group
614 W Friendly Ave, Greensboro, North Carolina 27401
(888) 908-4264

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