Firearms And Common Areas: Your Property, Your Decision

[ Blog/News ]

Firearms And Common Areas: Your Property, Your Decision

Recent high-profile mass shootings have ignited a national debate about gun control and the limits of an individual’s right to possess firearms. While much of the debate centers on appropriate rules and restrictions for schools and other publicly owned property, the issues are no less relevant when considering firearm possession on private property. To be sure, in the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona involving Congresswoman Giffords and the 2012 Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, both incidents occurred at privately-owned places of business. The following is a brief explanation of Washington law concerning firearm possession, and how these laws may relate to those condominium associations that may wish to consider limiting the right to such possession on association property.

 

Washington State Firearm Laws

Just as is with its Federal counterpart, the Washington State Constitution ensures an individual’s right to bear arms. The state Supreme Court has repeatedly found, however, that the right is not absolute and is subject to reasonable regulation by the state. These restrictions are generally stated in Washington’s Firearms and Dangerous Weapons statute,i and include restrictions on possession and carrying of concealed weapons (except for in a person’s place of residence or fixed place of business), as well as restrictions on firearm possession for most felons, the mentally ill, and anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime. Also, there are certain locations where it is illegal (with certain exceptions) to carry a weapon either openly or concealed, such as primary or secondary school grounds, court houses or other prohibited places such as places of business that serve alcohol and are restricted to those 21 years of age or older.ii Similarly, there are also many state and local restrictions and regulations about where and when firearms can be discharged.

But as is the case in any discussion of Constitutional rights, these principles really only apply to the limits on the power of the government to restrict the rights of the individual. More specifically—they deal with what the state and local governments can and cannot regulate generally regarding the possession of firearms and tell us relatively little about what private property owners may or may not do to restrict the possession of firearms on their property. Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending upon your perspective—the rules regarding private property rights and firearms are much more straight forward.

Private Property Rights & Firearms

Generally speaking, and with very few exceptions,iii a property owner is allowed to control absolutely a third party’s right to enter his or her property. An owner’s consent is considered a legal license to enter and remain on the property, and the license may be conditioned, restricted or revoked by the owner for any reason and at any time. Consequently, any private property owner is well within her rights to prohibit possession of firearms on her property and a third party’s failure to abide by that wish after reasonable notice would result in a criminal trespass by the offending party. An example of such a restriction might be a business or landlord that prohibits the possession of firearms on its premises for safety reasons, and it may post signs or other notices concerning this rule.

Similarly, a condominium association may also find itself in a position where it may become desirable to prohibit or restrict firearm possession on association property. The reasons could vary from simply the political/philosophical wishes of its membership, or it could be due to a pattern of past problems associated with firearm possession in common areas. While the reason isn’t typically important, it is important to remember is that the association’s power to restrict or condition firearm possession ends with association controlled property (common areas and limited common areas), and no matter how philosophically or politically desirable it may be for a particular community to wish to do so, an association would not have any legal basis to restrict firearm ownership in an individual’s condominium unit.

Additionally, while it is likely not necessary for a Board to adopt firearm restrictions into its foundational documents, board members will certainly want to take care to properly adopt such restrictions into its formal rules and regulations and post notice of any such rules prominently among its membership and by signage. In short, constitutional issues notwithstanding, so long as an association has the political will among its membership to do so and takes reasonable care to properly adopt appropriate rules, condominium communities are well within their rights to ensure rules for firearm possession on common property meet the standards and goals of that particular community.

References

i RCW 9.41 et seq.
Ii See RCW 9.41.300.
iii An example of one exception to this rule is the application of civil rights laws to private businesses and other places of “public accommodation.”

  • HUB International NW - HOA And Condo Solutions - Web Ad
  • The Copeland Group - Banner Ad
  • Rafel Law Group - Banner Ad
  • Barker Martin
  • Porter Construction Inc - Building With Integrity - www.porterci.com
  • Newman HOA CPA - Banner Ad
  • Condominium Law Group, PLLC - General Counsel & Collection Services - Partners Ken Harer & Valerie Oman - Phone: (206) 633-1520 Website: www.condolaw.net

Search WSCAI


Search Business Partners Directory


Diamond Sponsors

  • Association Reserves WA - Logo
  • CIT - Community Association Banking - Logo
  • HUB International NW - Logo
  • SageWater - Logo
  • ServPro Of Seattle NW - Logo
  • Columbia Bank - Logo
  • CAU - Community Association Underwriters - Logo
  • Transblue - Logo
  • Newman HOA CPA - Audit & Tax - Logo
  • Rafel Law Group PLLC - Logo
  • RW Anderson Services - Logo
  • Agynbyte - Logo
  • Superior Cleaning & Restoration - A COIT Service Company - Logo

Chapter Magazine

Journal July-August 2022

Jul/Aug 2022 Issue

Journal Advertising Partners:

  • Newman HOA CPA Audit & Tax
  • CIT Group Inc. - Logo
  • Rafel Law Group PLLC - Logo
  • The Copeland Group - Logo
  • Bell-Anderson & Associates - Logo
  • Community Association Underwriters - Logo
  • Ruff Construction - logo
  • Charter Construction - Logo
  • Popular Association Banking
  • SSI Construction
  • Sagewater
  • RW Anderson Services - Logo
  • Pacific Engineering Technologies, Inc - Logo

  • Association Reserves of Washington - Ad
  • Pacific Western Bank - Small Ad

Establishing Your Reserve Funding Plan: Considerations & Strategies

[ Blog/News ]

Establishing Your Reserve Funding Plan: Considerations & Strategies

Association approaches to preparing for major repair and replacement projects have varied widely over the years—from completely ignoring, to detailed analysis of building components and their related costs, and all variations in between. While next year’s operating expenses and the resulting regular assessments are rarely viewed as “discretionary,” reserve expenses and the offsetting Funding Plan often are, particularly when projects are slated more than a few years away.

Sarah Anderson, PCAM, Director of Marketing & Operations of EMB Management, Inc., AAMC, discusses some of the challenges of reserve planning with industry veteran Jim Talaga, RS, President of the Association Reserves – Washington regional office. Their goal is to present some new ways to view and approach this important task and establish some best practices.

Best Practice 1

Because of the havoc of special assessments and their disruptive effect on the community, boards should address the reserve funding plan early in the annual budget process. Being overly optimistic about a monthly landscape budget, for instance, rarely causes financial challenges. But years of underfunding Reserves will almost certainly result in the need for a Special Assessment.

Sarah: Why do you think it has been difficult for many associations to increase their reserve contributions and follow the recommendations within their Reserve Study?

Jim: There are three reasons for this in my view. First, many associations began their lives in an era where little to no reserve planning was ever undertaken. The misconception among board members and homeowners (that continues to this day) is that the Reserve Fund is for some far off future expense. In reality, funding reserves is necessary to offset ongoing common area deterioration as it occurs. The second reason is that addressing the reserve contribution is often left until the end of the budget process and board members are often unprepared to make wise funding plan decisions. In most instances, the reserve contribution is one of the largest budget line items, and an increase in the rate often means an increase in overall assessments, which is always viewed as unpopular. Finally, we have found there is a general misunderstanding of how to read and use the Reserve Study.

Although there is a statutory requirement in Washington for a 30-year reserve funding plan, the expense projections can and should be broken down into five- and ten-year action plans. With simple addition and subtraction, an association can clearly see how much reserves they currently have in the bank, and what expenses they need to prepare for in the near term. There is also confusion and emotion surrounding the concept of “% Funded” and “Fully Funded”—industry terminology that should not get in the way of a simple planning task.

Sarah: Can you suggest some other ways for association boards to explain what their reserves are for and, if an increase is necessary, how to get them moving in the right direction?

Jim: Boards can use the information in the Reserve Study to create a summary of specific projects that will be completed during the next five or ten years. It will become much clearer to homeowners when, for example, they see there is a need to paint the buildings, replace the fence, and reseal the decks. This makes the expenses tangible, not just a list of meaningless numbers on a page. When we have clients facing a special assessment in order to afford timely repairs, we often counsel that those funds be allocated to specific projects, or a combination of specific projects and rebuilding their reserves. People like to know how their money is being used.

The current budget disclosure requirements that were implemented within the RCW (both the Condominium and HOA Acts) in 2011 for budgets adopted on or after January 1, 2012 are also a wonderfully illustrative tool. The disclosures clearly show the cash flow path the community is on by comparing their current budgeted reserve contribution rate to the funding levels recommended in their Reserve Study.

Homeowners need to appreciate that reserve expenses are inevitable and should be a question of when, not if. There are only four ways to pay for the expenses listed in the Reserve Study: 1) set aside sufficient reserves (many Declarations actually require this) 2) levy a special assessment 3) obtain a bank loan 4) endure deferred maintenance and the decline in property values associated with doing nothing. When you include compounding interest over time with regular reserve contributions, properly funding reserves is always the least expensive funding option by a significant margin.

Best Practice 2

Provide access to the entire Reserve Study to each owner, along with links to video tutorials, webinars and articles. You’re all in this together, sharing expenses and creating your community. Also, have your studies prepared and therefore available for distribution well in advance of the budget process, allowing time for owners to digest and formulate questions.

Sarah: But what if the Funding Plan in the Reserve Study requires a large increase, which the association cannot financially tolerate?

Jim: The Funding Plan is based on a scope and schedule of reserve expenses, as determined by the actual condition of each item on the component list. The repair and replacement costs won’t go away, and in fact are likely to increase during the life cycle of the association. Remember that all reserve components are inflating over time, and the lower the association’s current reserve fund strength, the harder it will be for them to meet those expenses if they don’t get going now.

With many of our client associations, we are able to craft a strategy of lower initial increases followed by some periods of time with larger than typical (e.g., 5% to 10%) annual increases. This type of “ramping” as we call it can get an association moving in the right direction more effectively rather than trying to implement a large leap in assessments. If some combination of reserve contributions and Special Assessment is inevitable, the earlier in the process the board can communicate the funding strategy to the homeowners, the better.

Because Community Associations are volunteer organizations with comparatively high turnover of board and committee members, financial transparency and basic education will likely always be at the center of successful communities. Many boards do not provide homeowners with a copy of the Reserve Study, nor utilize many educational resources and tools. We see this as a huge mistake.

Sarah: We have seen Washington state go from little or no guidance for Reserve issues, to requiring mandatory Reserve Studies and disclosures. What do you think the future may hold?

Jim: Well, the trend has clearly been for more scrutiny of an association’s financial health, not less, and more encouragement for the board to “do the right thing” on behalf of the homeowners. This trend is a good thing in my opinion. There is no reason for homeowners to be surprised by a repair or replacement expense that gradually approached over many years, often in plain sight! Association-governed communities are most successful with owners who are a good fit, including their ability to afford the “true cost of ownership.” If they can’t, delinquencies and foreclosures can result in major impacts to the cash flow and financial wellbeing of the association. We review association budgets every day, and often see “collection costs” as one of the largest line items in the operating budget.

I think it will continue to be important to educate and create a system where good financial stewardship of an association is rewarded, not punished. There has been a misperception in the real estate world that lower monthly assessments are, by themselves, very attractive, and is often a selling point in a buyer’s purchase decision. However, if a comparable property nearby has higher monthly assessments but sufficient reserves and a solid Funding Plan in place, the property with the lower monthly assessments may not be the better deal financially. Reserves “% Funded” is a fair way to compare property to property. Washington could follow the lead of California, where one of the mandated disclosure requirements is to show a per-unit reserves deficit or surplus.

I recently presented an educational seminar to an influential group of real estate professionals in the downtown Seattle core to illustrate these concepts. They warmly embraced the message, knowing that the ability to provide some basic financial insight into an association for their buyers would set them apart, resulting in happier customers and referrals. Board members and Managers should do the same—make sure you understand basic Reserve Funding concepts and that real estate agents and prospective homeowners are aware that you have a current Reserve Study, a strong reserve fund, and are pursuing a reasonable Funding Plan. That will set your association apart from competing properties in your market area.

Best Practice3

You should be continually recruiting volunteers— those who take time to read and understand the Reserve Study may be your next community leaders.

Sarah: To circle back to the beginning, and put you on the spot a little, what Funding Objective should an association pursue: Baseline, Threshold, or Full Funding?

Jim: Most people who debate this issue are unaware that reserve contributions associated with the higher-risk “Baseline” objective and the more conservative “Full Funding” objective averages only a 13% difference. Having said that, this is a question that will likely be debated until the end of time!Unfortunately, it’s been our experience that people who get caught up in this funding plan detail often miss the bigger picture.

After establishing a well-conceived budget and disclosing the association’s complete financial picture to the homeowners (of both current and future needs) the board will want to be sure that their decisions and actions comply with their Declaration and state law, as well as fall under the protection of the Business Judgment Rule: Made in “good faith,” in the “best interests of the association as a whole,” and “with reasonable inquiry.” That’s the bottom line.

Co-Authored By Sarah Anderson, PCAM

Director of Marketing & Operations, EMB Management, Inc., AAMC

Co-Authored By Jim Talaga, RS

President, Association Reserves

  • The Copeland Group - Banner Ad
  • Barker Martin
  • Porter Construction Inc - Building With Integrity - www.porterci.com
  • Newman HOA CPA - Banner Ad
  • HUB International NW - HOA And Condo Solutions - Web Ad
  • Rafel Law Group - Banner Ad
  • Condominium Law Group, PLLC - General Counsel & Collection Services - Partners Ken Harer & Valerie Oman - Phone: (206) 633-1520 Website: www.condolaw.net

Search WSCAI


Search Business Partners Directory


Diamond Sponsors

  • Agynbyte - Logo
  • Transblue - Logo
  • Rafel Law Group PLLC - Logo
  • RW Anderson Services - Logo
  • Superior Cleaning & Restoration - A COIT Service Company - Logo
  • CAU - Community Association Underwriters - Logo
  • Association Reserves WA - Logo
  • HUB International NW - Logo
  • SageWater - Logo
  • CIT - Community Association Banking - Logo
  • Columbia Bank - Logo
  • Newman HOA CPA - Audit & Tax - Logo
  • ServPro Of Seattle NW - Logo

Chapter Magazine

Journal July-August 2022

Jul/Aug 2022 Issue

Journal Advertising Partners:

  • Newman HOA CPA Audit & Tax
  • CIT Group Inc. - Logo
  • Rafel Law Group PLLC - Logo
  • The Copeland Group - Logo
  • Bell-Anderson & Associates - Logo
  • Community Association Underwriters - Logo
  • Ruff Construction - logo
  • Charter Construction - Logo
  • Popular Association Banking
  • SSI Construction
  • Sagewater
  • RW Anderson Services - Logo
  • Pacific Engineering Technologies, Inc - Logo

  • Pacific Western Bank - Small Ad
  • Association Reserves of Washington - Ad

An Ounce of Prevention – The Value of Association Common Area Preventative Maintenance

[ Blog/News ]

An Ounce of Prevention – The Value of Association Common Area Preventative Maintenance

There is a very old and time-tested proverb: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to preventive maintenance for common area elements for a homeowner or condominium association.  Stating the obvious, materials utilized in the construction of common area equipment and structures age over time.  With a strategy based on basic preventive maintenance, it becomes possible to extend the useful life of these common elements.

In fact, the current condition of the economy has placed additional pressure on Association budgets. Even so, studies show that it is much more cost-effective to address maintenance issues proactively rather than to seek to affect repairs after damage sets in when issues quickly turn from prevention to “emergency” repairs and responses. In fact, when maintenance is not properly conducted or is cut back due to poor planning or budgetary pressure, the failure of structures, parking surfaces, HVAC and other critical equipment will only increase over time.

The term preventive maintenance (also known as preventative maintenance) implies the systematic inspection and detection of potential failures before they occur.  This term is the polar opposite of unplanned maintenance which is a response to an unanticipated problem or emergency.

A preventive strategy in addressing HOA and Condominium Association maintenance is meant to achieve at least three results: a safer environment due to common areas remaining free from defects, a lower cost of replacement, and a more efficient use of time, manpower and materials.

A Safer Environment

Certainly safety for all residents is a key criterion for association boards when considering what and when to implement maintenance activity.  Rough or significantly uneven sidewalks, loose steps on stairways or wooden porches and decks, low-hanging tree limbs near parking spaces, broken tile around pools, and other such items simply must be granted priority attention on any repair list.  Similarly, replacing broken or failed street and parking structure lighting, repairing video surveillance equipment, or addressing inoperable entry gates or security entrances, must also be the focus of first-priority repairs.  Every such situation needing repair, especially those that could adversely affect the safety of the residents or guests of the community, must be given the prompt attention of those overseeing the common area elements of the association.

With such safety factors in mind, preventive maintenance is an essential tool that can actually look-ahead to those items which, if not kept in proper repair and appropriate working order, could result in excessive risk to people who live in or visit the association property.  With these types of items, preventive maintenance is a tool that can keep adverse conditions from ever developing in the first place.  As we commonly hear, this boils down to a matter of placing safety first.

A Lower Cost of Replacement

Having preventive maintenance programs can help to minimize or even eliminate sudden “emergency” repairs that result in after-hour or rush-order and extra costs to the association.  Such a strategy can help to avoid major unplanned repairs and unknown malfunctions in the association’s common areas or common area equipment.

In contrast to urgent and unplanned repairs, preventive maintenance can help to maintain a constant work flow thus keeping labor and vendor costs in line with an annual budget plan since they can actually be scheduled on a seasonal basis, in accordance with a planned work schedule, and during normal work hours.

Preventive Maintenance Checklist:

  • Gutter cleaning
  • Power washing
  • Touch up painting
  • Siding repairs
  • Water prevention (caulking)
  • Deck and fence repairs
  • Wood rot repair
  • Dryer vent cleaning
  • Drywall repairs
  • Tile sealing and grout repair
  • Changing light bulbs
  • Irrigation repair
  • Pest control
  • House cleaning (common areas)
  • Window cleaning
  • Gutter cleaning
  • Carpet cleaning (common areas)
  • Duct and furnace cleaning and repair

This strategy should also include regularly scheduled inspections that follow routine seasonal schedules. These inspections can also be based on the annual budget, one that includes preventative maintenance; thus eliminating or at least drastically reducing surprise and reaction-based repairs that result in equally surprising costs or cost overruns.

Yet another way that preventive maintenance can save costs is that taking good care of existing common area elements can often extend the useful life of such elements. With simple routine maintenance it is often possible to expand the amount of time that key equipment and structures are able to be used in a productive manner.  This can reduce the cost of replacement which more than justifies the minimal cost of the preventive upkeep that is routinely provided along the way.

Efficient Use of Time, Manpower, and Materials

Scheduled Inspections and scheduled preventive maintenance can be choreographed in a much more time and labor efficient manner.  These efficiencies can save significant costs with both labor and materials.  Obviously, when work is scheduled well in advance, the use of manpower can be coordinated and tasks can be group into common categories which can reduce wasted time and partial day trip or hourly charges.

In a similar manner, materials for maintenance and routine repairs can be ordered well in advance thus saving on rush-order charges or deliveries that are not properly matched to the availability of the workers assigned to the task.

Most, if not all, reserve studies will suggest or even specify items that need attention in the form of maintenance and repair.  These elements can be translated into a seasonally appropriate time-efficient schedule that includes item-by-item checklists that make addressing each item a matter of a scheduled routine.  In cases where the reserve study provider’s report does not include items that may need attention for maintenance, replacement, or repair in a given annual cycle, most quality service vendors will provide options that include inspections and proposed schedules to address elements that need attention.  Simply make certain that such reports or service providers produce not only a list of needed repairs, but that they also supply the association with items where preventative maintenance would be recommended.

Summary

A preventive strategy in addressing HOA and condominium association maintenance can produce three productive results: a safer environment, lower repair and emergency replacement costs, and more efficient use of time, manpower, and materials.

As stated previously, the current condition of the economy has placed additional pressure on Association budgets. Keeping in mind that it is much more cost-effective to address maintenance issues proactively rather than to instituting repairs after damage sets in can help to save precious human and financial association resources.

When it comes to association maintenance and repairs, it truly is correct that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

By Sean Hughes

Director of Operations, RW Handyman

  • HUB International NW - HOA And Condo Solutions - Web Ad
  • Condominium Law Group, PLLC - General Counsel & Collection Services - Partners Ken Harer & Valerie Oman - Phone: (206) 633-1520 Website: www.condolaw.net
  • Rafel Law Group - Banner Ad
  • Barker Martin
  • The Copeland Group - Banner Ad
  • Newman HOA CPA - Banner Ad
  • Porter Construction Inc - Building With Integrity - www.porterci.com

Search WSCAI


Search Business Partners Directory


Diamond Sponsors

  • RW Anderson Services - Logo
  • CAU - Community Association Underwriters - Logo
  • Columbia Bank - Logo
  • ServPro Of Seattle NW - Logo
  • Newman HOA CPA - Audit & Tax - Logo
  • SageWater - Logo
  • Rafel Law Group PLLC - Logo
  • Transblue - Logo
  • HUB International NW - Logo
  • Association Reserves WA - Logo
  • Agynbyte - Logo
  • Superior Cleaning & Restoration - A COIT Service Company - Logo
  • CIT - Community Association Banking - Logo

Chapter Magazine

Journal July-August 2022

Jul/Aug 2022 Issue

Journal Advertising Partners:

  • Newman HOA CPA Audit & Tax
  • CIT Group Inc. - Logo
  • Rafel Law Group PLLC - Logo
  • The Copeland Group - Logo
  • Bell-Anderson & Associates - Logo
  • Community Association Underwriters - Logo
  • Ruff Construction - logo
  • Charter Construction - Logo
  • Popular Association Banking
  • SSI Construction
  • Sagewater
  • RW Anderson Services - Logo
  • Pacific Engineering Technologies, Inc - Logo

  • Association Reserves of Washington - Ad
  • Pacific Western Bank - Small Ad