Question: Our homeowner association's landscaping is looking pretty ragged and needs renovating. Our landscape contractor has offered to put together a design that he will install. Do you think this will work?
Answer: Landscaping is one an HOA's biggest assets. Renovation should be done thoughtfully since you will live with the results, good or bad, for many years, A landscape plan is something normally provided by a landscape construction and design consultant, not a landscape contractor. In designing the plan, there are several critical considerations:
ease of maintenance
planting bed to turf ratio
The landscape design plan should strive to include drought tolerant and pest resistant native species to reduce maintenance costs. Reducing the turf area will significantly reduce water needs and cost. The landscape plan and execution will cost a fair amount of money but the end result will be increased home values and livability. Don't chintz. Hire the best landscape designer you can and spend the money. If you have limited funds, after the basics like irrigation and drainage are covered, phase in the plan over several years starting with curb appeal.
Question: Are there any ethical guidelines with respect to HOA managers accepting gratuities from vendors?
Answer: It's not uncommon for vendors to drop off gift baskets and the like at Christmas. These often get shared with office staff and there are no strings attached. Vendors view them as advertising. But a manager accepting things like gift certificates, money, free golf and airline tickets crosses the ethical line. If it's around contract renewal time or if there is a competitive bid process the vendor is participating in, any form of gratuity would easily be construed as a kickback. Even worse is a manager that requires vendors to "pay to play". This is fraud in sheep's clothing since the manager has breached the fiduciary duty owed to HOA clients.
Question: We live in a condominium. Several of our members have requested approval to paint their front doors a different color then the other units. Should the board grant their requests?
Answer: Common wall communities derive value from consistent design and look. Glaring variations detract from market appeal and value. But, as time passes, so do consumer tastes. That all-the-rage chocolate brown paint color of the 70s is now a sales detriment.
Rather than have the board or Architectural Design Committee play political football with exterior colors, why not hire a color consultant to update the HOA color schemes and offer some compatible choices? Most paint supply companies offer this service free of charge in anticipation of selling their product. The consultant will provide options while maintaining a unified curb appeal. Have the consultant put together color boards with a number of trim and body color options which the members can vote on. That makes them part of a democratic process on a highly volatile subject. Punt this issue to the professionals and members.
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