What are HOA Governing Documents?

A common question in the property management business is, 'What are the documents an HOA needs?'. HOA governing documents are a set of documents that are used to guide the day-to-day operations and rules within a community.

Quite often the governing documents will include articles of incorporation, bylaws, covenants, and rules and regulations but these documents can vary from one HOA to the next and are also partially determined by state laws.

 What are HOA governing documents and which ones are needed in Georgia?

HOA Governing Documents in Detail

 

 

State Laws 

Almost every state has statutes governing condominiums and homeowner associations. In addition most associations are subject to the state corporations’ code. If you are on a board or establishing a new community, make sure you check your state laws to determine which documents are required.

 What documents should an HOA have?

Association governing documents are almost always trumped by state law. But, when association documents conflict among themselves, the declaration or proprietary lease carries the greatest weight, followed by the bylaws and then the rules and regulations.

Declaration, Master Deed, or Proprietary Lease and Their Covenants and Restrictions

Planned communities are created by declarations (also known as master deeds). Cooperatives are created with proprietary leases (also called occupancy agreement). These contain the restrictions that regulate residents’ behavior, they define owner’s rights and obligations, and establish the association’s responsibilities.

Articles of Incorporation

Most associations, and all cooperatives, incorporate and have articles of incorporation which is a document that establishes the existence of a corporation. They are generally filed with the Secretary of State.

 What are governing documents?

Bylaws

Bylaws address association operations such as procedures for meetings and elections and specifying the general duties of the board. They may also specify such things as the number of directors and their terms of office.

Resolutions—Rules and Regulations

Board members adopt rules and regulations, and sometimes members have to approve them. Rules and regulations are recorded as board resolutions. Resolutions must be consistent with the declaration or proprietary lease, the bylaws and state law.


Do you have more questions about your HOA Governing Documents?

Contact us!

Labor Day 2018 Events Across Atlanta

With the heat index so high lately, it's hard to believe Labor Day is just around the corner. Fortunately, Atlanta has an abundance of Labor Day weekend events this year to occupy every personality type. Whether you are active, adventurous or just looking to relax, we've rounded up a list of the very best Atlanta area Labor Day weekend events.

 

 

Soul Rise 5k : Mercedes Benz Stadium
September 1, 2018

 Labor Day 2018 Events in Atlanta

Feeling energetic? The annual Soul Rise 5k might be just the thing to kick start your Labor Day weekend. The race begins just across from the Mercedes Benz stadium and runs through historic downtown Atlanta. Not only is this event good for your heart, it's good for the soul. Proceeds from race registrations will help support early childhood development at the YMCA and local community non-profit organizations.

For more details and registration visit the Soul Rise 5k website.


Decatur Book Festival : Decatur Square
August 31 - September 2, 2018

 Labor Day 2018 Events in Atlanta

Calling all bibliophiles. The annual AJC Decatur Book Festival is the largest independent book festival in the country and one of the 5 largest book festivals in the world! The event takes place in Decatur Square where visitors can mingle with their favorite authors, collect autographs, listen to author readings and children can enjoy an interactive play area, live music and much more.

This year's keynote speaker at the Book Festival will be Kenny Leon, 'internationally acclaimed director and actor of stage, film, and television."

Read more about the event at the AJC Decatur Book Festival website.


Hot Air Balloon Festival : Callaway Gardens
August 31 - September 2, 2018

The Hot Air Balloon Festival at Callaway Gardens is quite possibly the most beautiful way to see the summer out. On Friday night hot air balloons will light up the dark sky and through the weekend you'll be able to enjoy the balloons, live music, and a kids zone. If you're looking for a quiet retreat you can head off to the many miles of hiking and biking trails surrounding the area.

Don't miss the classic car show and dog frisbee demonstrations as well! You can see a full schedule of events at the Hot Air Balloon Festival website.


Dragon Con : Downtown Atlanta
August 30 - September 3, 2018

 Labor Day 2018 Events in Atlanta

Pop culture convention, multigenre party, or sci-fi mega party, whatever you call it, Dragon Con is sure to leave you amazed. Founded in 1987 this annual Atlanta event fixture is returning for its 32nd year and certainly won't disappoint fans with an extensive list of guests. Highlights include appearances by Evangeline Lilly, Jennifer Morrison and Mitch Pileggi of X-Files fame.

Come as you are or come in cosplay (ie. costume). Either way, it's going to a party to remember! For full details and tickets visit the official Dragon Con 2018 website.


TOSA Festival : 10 Northside Drive, Atlanta
August 30 - September 2, 2018

The sister music event to the Soul Rise 5k Run, the TOSA Music Festival is FREE and features an impressive lineup of talented musicians. You'll find a variety of items from food, music, art, and games all paying homage to classic soul. 

For more details visit the TOSA Festival website.


Stone Mountain Lasershow Spectacular : Stone Mountain
Varied times/dates

 Labor Day 2018 Events in Atlanta

If you've never been to the Lasershow at Stone Mountain you're missing out! Many families have made this spectacular fireworks and laser/music display part of their annual tradition. Labor Day weekend shows will also feature epic flame cannons to add even more wow factor. You know it's major when the FAA has to be consulted prior to show scheduling to avoid interfering with air traffic!

Visit the Stone Mountain website for more information about the Lasershow.


How ever you choose to spend your Labor Day please make it a safe one. Have fun and enjoy!
 

3 Last Minute Atlanta-Area Staycation Ideas

As the end of summer draws nearer and the school supplies start to line store shelves you may want to consider squeezing in one last little break before the latter half of the year begins. With only a few weeks left in the summer traveling too far afield may be out of the question. Why not consider an Atlanta staycation?

Here is a list of some great options in and around the Atlanta area for a fun-filled vacation-vibe day out.

Atlanta Area Staycation Destinations


1. For the Family
Ponce City Market: The Rooftop

 Image : Ponce City Market

You can easily make a full day out of visiting Ponce City Market. They recently opened Rooftop has old-fashioned carnival games, mini golf, rides and a beer garden with breathtaking views of the city. Not into beer? No problem at Ponce. Just take the elevator down to the food hall to explore a foodie's paradise with unique quick food options to satisfy the picky eaters all the way through to the most adventurous palates.

Ready to walk off that meal? Check out the one of a kind boutique shops with items from local Atlanta-area artisans (psst, they make wonderful gifts for family and friends).

 

2. For the Couples
Mandarin Oriental Buckhead

 Image : Mandarin Oriental

With an indoor pool, full-service spa and surrounded by the famous nightlife, shopping and dining of Buckhead, a night at the 5-star Mandarin Oriental will definitely make you feel like you've left town. 

The best part? You might just be able to justify the expensive room rate since you're only staying one night and you don't need to buy plane tickets or rent a car!

 

3. For the Nature Lovers
Serenbe

 Image : Serenbe

Take a day or overnight trip to Serenbe and you'll feel miles away from the busy city life. Hidden away in the farm fields of Chattahoochee Hills, about an hour south of the City, you'll find a surprisingly unique self-sustaining community, unlike anything you've ever seen.

Taking farm-fresh to a whole new level, Serenbe is becoming well known nationwide for it's leading example of new urbanism design. A peaceful town with a few shops, a lot of character and nature surroundings, it's just the thing if you're looking for a bit of downtime. Check out the fried chicken at The Inn, it's amazing!


What is a Reserve Fund and Why Your HOA Needs One

Ever wonder what a reserve fund is for and why your community needs one? Equipment, major components (like roofs in a condo community), and everything from private street repairs to pool maintenance must be undertaken from time to time, regardless of whether your community has planned for the expenses.


A reserve fund, which is similar to a savings account, is a financial fund that sets aside the difference between the income and expense of an hoa.

The Reserve funds should be used on expenses that will last longer than 3 years or cost greater than $10,000.

 What is an HOA reserve fund?


Most HOAs prefer to plan ahead and set the funds aside now to avoid increasing dues or issuing special assessments when the money is needed later. Nobody likes surprise special assessments! Reserve funds are not an extra expense to your community—they just spread out expenses more evenly.

If a reserve study is obtained for an association, the planed expenditures will be listed out and explained how much should be going into reserves vs. how much should be going out and when.

There are other important reasons your HOA will put association monies into a reserve fund every month, read on for more details. 


Why HOAs Need a Reserve Fund

 Why HOAs need a reserve fund.
  1. Reserve funds meet legal, fiduciary, and professional requirements. A replacement fund may be required by:
    • Any secondary mortgage market in which the association participates (e.g., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA).
    • State statutes, regulations, or court decisions.
    • The community’s governing documents.
       
  2. Reserve funds provide for major repairs and replacements that your HOA knows will be necessary at some point in time. Although a pool may need repairs every 5-10 years, every home owner who is able to use the pool should share its replacement costs.
     
  3. Reserve funds minimize the need for special assessments or borrowing. For most home owners in an HOA community, this is the most important reason. Surprise assessments and increases in dues are not a pleasant measure to take.
     
  4. Reserve funds enhance resale values. Lenders and real estate agents are aware of the ramifications for new buyers if the reserves are inadequate. Many states require associations to disclose the amounts in their reserve funds to prospective purchasers.
     
  5. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) requires the community association to disclose its reserve funds in its financial statements.

 

How Do You Set Up a Reserve Fund for Your Community?

In our discussions with boards, Heritage Property Management, Inc. constantly emphasizes the need to build the appropriate level of reserve funds. One question that comes up frequently is how best to invest the reserve funds. The three main goals of investment for associations should be to:

  1. minimize risk
  2. make sure funds are liquid
  3. earn a decent rate of return 

Associations can minimize risk by taking the appropriate steps.

 How to set up an HOA reserve fund.

The community's board of directors is responsible for choosing its investments. A good property management company can help your HOA navigate the investment options available. Heritage, for example, provides a list of institutions we deal with frequently and their current rates, but the ultimate decision lies with the board.

Once the board makes a decision on investing money, this decision should be communicated in writing to your property management company. At Heritage, when our clients notify us that they want to invest money in a reserve fund, we attempt to do as much of the leg work in getting the account set up as possible. Once an account is set up, the statements should always be addressed to the property management company so that all transactions can be properly recorded in your community's financials.


Would you like to know if your HOA has sufficient reserves for your community's needs?

Drop us a line, we'd be happy to speak to your HOA board members about their current reserve situation.

Safe Pool Water Tips for Summer

Your backyard swimming pool or neighborhood pool may look refreshing, particularly on a sweltering hot day. But if it’s not properly monitored, the water can harbor bacteria, viruses and parasites that can cause what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) call recreational water illnesses. Instances of these ailments, which include ear and eye infections and respiratory, intestinal and skin diseases, are dramatically on the rise according to the CDC; reported cases have more than tripled in the past 20 years.

 Pool water safety tips for Atlanta residents of HOAs

If your home or community includes a swimming pool, hot tub or wading pool, take the following steps to minimize outbreaks of infections and angry homeowners:

  • Be diligent about hygiene. If you're part of the HOA, consider a sign near the pool to remind residents.
  • Change diapered children well away from the pool and its surrounding deck, and make sure all swimmers take frequent bathroom breaks. 
  • Remind swimmers not swallow pool water and to shower with soap each time they enter or leave the pool. 
  • Don’t allow pets in the water.
  • Don’t allow anyone who has an infection or illness to enter the pool area. 

Be Aware. Check the water pH and chlorine levels regularly—or have it monitored regularly by a professional pool service—particularly during times of heavy use.

If you're looking for a pool service company in the Atlanta area, check out our list of vetted pool vendors.
pool-safety-tips.jpg

Clean Pool Water = Happy Residents All Summer!

The CDC website says the following signs can indicate whether or not pool water is safe:

  • Water should be clear enough that you can see any painted stripes and the bottom of the pool.
  • The sides of the pool should be smooth and not sticky or slippery.
  • A well-chlorinated pool has little odor, while a strong chemical smell indicates a maintenance problem.
  • Make sure the pool pumps and filtration systems are in good repair and operating as they should.

Be Informed. The chemicals used to sanitize pool water are themselves toxic if used, stored or applied improperly, so make sure you know how to handle them or have a professional pool service do it for you on a prescribed schedule. 

Swimming pools are a great source of recreation, exercise and relaxation, and a little vigilance on your part can help ensure that you and your guests don’t get sick.

Visit the CDC website for more information about pool water safety. And have a fun summer!

HOA Due Process : Why It Matters

Inevitably, from time to time, community rules are broken. When this happens, the association informs residents about the problem and follows what is known as due process procedure. If it seems like it's taking longer than expected to receive a response on a specific issue, the important due process procedures may be the cause of the delay.

 What is an HOA's due process?

Simply stated, this means that the association always notifies residents of alleged violations before taking any action. Many times the HOA board will employ a management company, like Heritage Property Management, to send written notices describing the possible rule violation and ask the residents to correct the problem voluntarily by a specific date. These notices also explain any action the association may take if the violation isn’t corrected. 

The association understands that things aren’t always as they seem. So, any time notices are sent to residents, the board wants to hear the resident’s point of view. As a property management company and liaison between homeowners and HOA boards, we can arrange for residents to meet with the board before imposing any type of penalty.

In fact, imposing penalties isn’t the goal at all!

 HOA due process and appealing a decision by the board.

It’s more important that residents comply with the association rules for the good of everyone in the community. These meetings give residents and the board an opportunity to discuss rule violations informally and arrive at a solution. 

After they’ve had a chance to talk to a resident about a rule violation, board members will discuss the situation among themselves and make a decision. Residents generally receive the board’s decision in writing in about 10 business days. For those who may disagree with the decision, most HOA boards have an appeal process.

So next time it seems like you community is moving slower than an iceberg with their communications, keep in mind that there is a process in place to ensure consistency and fairness in every situation that arises.


Do you have more questions about HOA Due Process in your neighborhood? Drop us a line!

HB 410 Is Vetoed by Governor Deal

In the most recent legislative session, HB 410 was on the agenda. House Bill 410 was introduced to provide a list of information that home owners associations, property owners associations, and condominium owners associations would be required to provide upon request for a closing. The proposed legislation, if passed, would also cap the fees the association or management company could charge for preparing and providing the closing documents and information.

 HB 410 is vetoed by Governor Nathan Deal

House Bill 410 was designed to set the fee below the average of any state that is currently regulated. The proposed fee was arbitrarily low and below the cost to perform the services needed to effectuate closings on behalf of the association. The association management industry and lobbyists worked diligently all session to educate legislators on the negative impact this proposed legislation would have on the industry, associations, and owner of homes and condos in associations.

Earlier this month, Governor Nathan Deal vetoed House Bill 410. In his press release Governor Deal stated,

 Governor Nathan Deal vetos HB 410 in Georgia : photo credit the aha connection
“House Bill 410 provides a list of information that home owners associations, property owners associations, and condominium owners associations would be required to provide to a homeowner upon request and caps the fees the association could charge for producing and transferring that information. 
First, the cap provided by HB 410 is, to my knowledge, lower than that of any other state in the nation with such a cap and may not be sufficient to cover costs of providing the information required, which could result in increased costs to association members. 
Second, such associations often contract with private parties to provide these services so that association members need not complete the tasks personally, on behalf of the association. 
Consequently, it appears that HB 410 could impose burdensome responsibilities on associations and their members and, regardless, absent sufficient justification, parties should generally be left alone to dicker the terms of their private agreements without government intrusion.  For the foregoing reasons, I VETO HB 410.”

Common Georgia Insects 🐜 and How to Deal with Them

Whether you’re attacked while working in the garden, enjoying a picnic in the park or lounging by the pool, bug bites and stings are an inevitable summer annoyance. At best, bites and stings can be uncomfortable for a few days; at worst, they can be a serious, life-threatening hazard. 

There are nearly 600 common bugs and insects in Georgia. Below are just a few of the most common (and pesky) ones you should be on the look out for both inside and outside your home.

 Common Georgia insects and how to keep them out of your home.

A List of Common Georgia Insects


  • American Dog Tick
  • Asian Multicolored Lady Beetle (aka Ladybug)
  • Black Carpenter Ant
  • Black Horsefly
  • Black Widow Spider
  • Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
  • Dobsonfly
  • European Earwig
  • Mosquitos

And that's just to name a few! While many of these insects native to Georgia are actually helpful around the backyard, most homeowners would prefer they stay outdoors. There are plenty of things that can be done to create a barrier between your home and Georgia insects to keep them on the outside where they belong.

Check out our list of Georgia Pest Companies who can help your community and homeowners get control of the insects this summer.

Alternatively, local home supply stores sell a wide array of sprays and deterrents for those who don't mind spraying on a regular basis. 

But what about the insects that you just can't control while you're enjoying the beautiful Georgia weather? Well, here are some tips on how to relieve the itch or sting and when to know if you should seek medical attention.

How to Treat a Bug Bite or Sting

 How to treat a bug bite from a Georgia insect.

If the bite or sting is mildly painful or itchy, apply over-the-counter medication that contains Benadryl or cortisone for topical relief. Other home remedies, like a applying a paste made from baking soda and water, dabbing on ammonia with a cotton ball, soaking in oatmeal baths or even applying toothpaste to the site may also provide relief. 

Whatever you do, don’t scratch! This can cause an infection and leave a scar. And it won’t relieve the itch or sting. 

If you feel faint, nauseous, dizzy or disoriented, or if you experience rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing or your lips, tongue or throat swell, call 911 immediately. These symptoms indicate a severe allergy to the insect’s venom. Administer an Epi-pen (injectable epinephrine) if one is available and administer CPR if symptoms worsen before emergency personnel arrive. After the episode, follow up with a physician who can determine an allergy prevention treatment. 

 Don't scratch those bug bites!

Stay alert for delayed symptoms around the bite or sting, like redness or swelling, which could indicate an infection or other condition. And see a doctor right away if you have a headache, fever or joint pain within a few days of being bitten. Some insects, like ticks and mosquitoes, can infect their victims with serious, flulike illnesses, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease and West Nile virus, which only a physician can diagnose and treat. 

Most important, use insect repellant when outdoors and wear light-weight, light-colored clothing over arms, legs and feet to keep insects off your skin. And avoid wearing perfume and fragrances, which can attract bugs.

What are the Responsibilities of an Architectural Committee?

Spring has finally sprung in Atlanta! If you're anything like many of the other area homeowners, you've been assessing the state of your yard, house and landscaping. With the warmer weather and fresh blooms many of us are starting to consider new home projects.

Maybe considering a new shed or fence? Some fresh landscaping or tree removal? Before you break out the miter saw, make sure to get your plans approved by our association’s architectural committee. Here's why it's important...

 What are the responsibilities of an architectural committee?

What are the responsibilities of an Architectural Committee?


  • Review plans for moderate to major exterior modifications to your property (check your community bylaws and regulations for details on what requires approval).
     
  • Approve plans for modification, and if it doesn't meet requirements, help find alternative options.
     
  • Assist in keeping the community beautiful and well maintained.
     
  • Helps to keep the property values high and the area desirable for residents and prospective new residents.

While it may seem arbitrary from an individual homeowner’s standpoint, the architectural committee looks out for the entire community. Aside from stopping residents from painting pink polka dots on their houses, the committee’s job is to make sure that the size and style of the project, the type of building materials being used and the overall look of the new structure adhere to the association’s design requirements.

Not only does this keep the community looking cohesive, it also helps to keep property values up by preventing individual structures from standing out. Of course, it’s also important to note that unapproved structures might legally have to be removed at the owner’s expense and/or may incur fines if implemented without approval, so save yourself money and headaches by getting approval before building.


Ready to start a home project?

 What does an architectural committee do?

When you’re ready to start your new project, or if the design of your project changes midway through building it, send your plans to the architectural committee first so that they can make sure the plans are in compliance with the association’s design standards.

If any issues are found, Heritage or your Architectural Committee will let you know what they are and try to help you come up with other options. HOAs appreciate all the hard work residents do to make and keep their homes and community beautiful—help everyone in your community keep the neighborhood looking great and property values high by keeping your HOA and Architectural Committee in the loop of all your building projects.


Have a question about how your specific Architectural Committee operates? Drop us a line. We'd be happy to help.

Georgia Elections Coming Up : May 22nd

With the Georgia Primary Elections just around the corner on May 22nd, we wanted to remind homeowners that whatever your political philosophy, you should exercise your individual right to help choose the people who will lead our government—at the federal, state and local levels.  Casting a ballot is an American right that people in many other countries don’t enjoy.

 Georgia Primary Elections 2018 :: © GA Tech

Just as we elect our government officials, many homeowners also have an opportunity to elect and vote for their HOA board members. If you are not happy with your current board, vote for change! If you are happy, vote for them to stay! Either way, each person's vote counts both at the national and local level, even in your own community.


When is the Georgia Primary Election in 2018?

The Georgia Primary Elections for both the Democratic and Republican parties is coming up on May 22nd. 


 When is the Georgia Primary Election 2018?

Before you can vote, you must register. You can register to vote in the State of Georgia online by visiting the online voter registration site. You can also register by filling out a paper application and mailing it in via the DMV's website. The site also included information on who is eligible to vote in Georgia elections.

And remember, if you’re an owner in good standing, you have the right to vote in our own association elections. Our campaigns aren’t covered by the worldwide media, and we don’t have bumper stickers and buttons, but they are important and do make a difference in your life.

Reach out to your Heritage Property Manager or your community HOA to find out when the next election is being held in your community.


Want to learn more about the upcoming Georgia Primary Elections this May?

Check out the Ballotpedia website for more details about who's running in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

 

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