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What You Should Know About Going Green - December 2016
You may have thought about incorporating green components
into renovation or new construction projects, as green building is a growing
trend. Many property owners are joining the green movement as a way to lower
energy costs and make their buildings more attractive to potential tenants. In
addition, green building is becoming increasingly more difficult to avoid
because federal, state and municipal governments are starting to mandate it for
new residential construction.
Beyond green construction initiatives, there are several
smaller but meaningful ways that you can incorporate efficiency and
sustainability into the properties you manage.
Green Construction Standards
If you are thinking of updating your buildings or beginning
new construction with green techniques, it is important that you are aware of
federal green building standards.
In the United States, the dominant standard is the
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating, which is
administered by the U.S. Green Building Council. Commercial buildings that are
LEED certified not only have lower operating costs and provide a healthier,
safer environment for occupants, they also allow the owner to qualify for tax
rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives. In addition, owners of
LEED-certified green buildings receive a reputational boost, as they are
publically demonstrating their commitment to the environment and their social
The interesting thing to note about LEED ratings is that contractors and builders have a large
amount of latitude on how they reach the certification. LEED does not specify
what kinds of technologies or green components must be used to reach each
level, and aside from the established prerequisites, points need not be
attained in certain combinations. That means two buildings with identical point
totals and LEED status may use completely different strategies, techniques and
technologies to attain unique green results. One may excel in innovation and
the other may focus on sustainability, but they both could ultimately achieve
the same status.
Hiring a Builder
LEED ratings are important to understand so that you ensure
you are getting what you expect when engaging in a green building project. The
contracting company you hire should have experience designing and building up
to LEED standards. Ask for references and examples of past work that is similar
to what you are requesting.
Be wary of a contractor who promises something that seems
impossible to deliver on given your budget and time restraints. A common
problem in the green building arena is
that the end result may not actually meet LEED standards or provide the energy
efficiency and savings that was expected. This is due to the newer nature of
the green construction field, and contractors who think they can deliver
something that turns out to be unreasonable or impossible. Do plenty of
research before choosing a contractor.
This may seem obvious, but it is essential that everything
is put in contractual form when working with a contractor. That way, if the job
is not completed according to your specifications or up to the standards
promised by the contractor, you can hold that contractor liable. Green building
is quite expensive, so you want to be sure you get the proper return on your
investment. You may want to also make sure your contractor and sub-contractors
are properly insured in case of a future problem.
Other Green Initiatives
If you are not ready to commit to a green construction project,
or even if you are, there are also other ways that you can promote green
strategies in the properties you manage:
- Make recycling the standard at your property. Simply
providing recycling bins for residents isn’t enough—you need to educate and
encourage their use. Educate your tenants about the different materials that
can be recycled and provide bins for each separate material. You may also
consider providing an area to recycle batteries and ink cartridges.
- Education should go beyond what is and isn’t recyclable and
focus on the importance of being environmentally friendly.
- Consider offering areas for tenants to recycle other
unwanted items, like clothing or shoes. You can then donate those items to a
- Install energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances in your
buildings, whenever feasible.
- Use environmentally-friendly cleaning products.
- If you control the heating and air conditioning in your
buildings, keep it at a more moderate temperature and be sure to replace
- Run lawn sprinklers for less time each day, and use
automatic lighting systems for community areas.
- Switch to a paperless billing system and offer online
services for paying rent.
Conducting a Condo or HOA Site Inspection - November 2016
Regular property inspections are an important part of
managing condominium or homeowners association (HOA) risks. Thorough
inspections increase the safety and well-being of homeowners, protect property
values, and reduce the risk of costly repairs and lawsuits.
Why should HOAs conduct regular inspections?
Conducting inspections regularly keeps an HOA on top of
security risks, as well as maintenance and building problems. A thorough
inspection should do the following:
the safety, health and welfare of all association members and guests:
Regular inspections ensure your HOA community is a safe place to live. One
significant area of liability for HOAs is slip-and-fall accidents, which
indicate the need for frequent inspections of sidewalks, driveways, parking
lots and roadways throughout the property. Surfaces should be inspected for
uneven and free of snow and ice during cold weather.
problem areas before they get worse: If deterioration of common amenities
is detected early, it could save the HOA money if repairs are made before the
damage becomes even more costly.
Different seasons bring different property risks.
Season-specific inspections—such as checking chlorine levels in an outdoor pool
during summer, leaf buildup in eaves and gutters in the fall and sidewalks for
ice in winter—should be done along with regular inspections. Inspections show
an HOA’s insurance carrier that it is proactive in addressing exposures and
Can an HOA inspect a
Shared amenities—parking lots, pools and the clubhouse—are
the usual places to inspect, but there may be instances where homeowners are
violating rules on their individual properties. Sometimes the rule violation
simply has to do with maintaining the aesthetics of the property as stated in
the bylaws; but other violations pose serious health and wellness issues or
other costly risks to the HOA. For example, if the condominium is a nonsmoking
building and some residents choose to smoke in their units, they create a
potential fire hazard for all homeowners.
The media has recently drawn increased attention to hoarding
behaviors and the dangerous health and environmental problems hoarders can pose
for themselves and those around them. This may also be an issue of concern for
However, an HOA cannot enter a homeowner’s private unit to
investigate potential violations or conduct inspections without his or her permission,
unless due to an emergency. In some cases, the HOA may have to obtain a court
order, which could be difficult, as the HOA must show probable cause as to why
the residence must be entered.
What is the property manager’s role in inspections?
An HOA property manager is responsible for carrying out site
inspections according to a schedule determined by the bylaws or the HOA board.
Not only do they conduct formal inspections, but they serve as the HOA’s eyes
and ears, finding and correcting hazards, and ensuring members and their guests
follow the rules for both individual properties and shared amenities.
If your HOA does not have a property manager, the board or
another appointed person should conduct the inspections. Keep in mind that
inspections should always be fair, especially when it comes to individual
Six HOA Site
Whether inspecting communal areas of the HOA or a
homeowners’ properties, take a comprehensive approach to examine all areas of
risk. This may take extra time and effort in the beginning, but will become
easier and routine over time:
1. Check the HOA’s bylaws and state statues: The
HOA’s bylaws may have inspection requirements, including the minimum for what
should be inspected and how often. Also, look at state statutes regarding
inspections; for example, HOAs should check local fire codes and conduct
inspections of fire alarms and extinguishers a certain number of times per
year, depending on the state. An HOA’s insurance company may also have
recommendations for what to inspect and how often.
2. Document the inspection: Documenting
the inspection results is critical, as it serves as a written record of
problems, issues and violations. As with any HOA document, the inspection
documentation should be clearly written and professional, as it may serve as
evidence in case of a claim against the HOA.
3. Create an inspection checklist: List
all areas and amenities of the association’s property and define the items to
check in each area. It’s important to revise or add to the checklist as new
issues emerge; but the same checklist should be used for every inspection.
4. Update the checklist with corrective measures:
It’s important to identify problems, but it’s just as important to fix them—either
on the spot or in a timely manner. Serious problems should be addressed
immediately, but there should also be a timetable for correcting problems of
other varying priority levels.
5. Present site inspection results to the
board: Outcomes from site inspections should always be communicated to the
board, as the results may require action from the HOA’s leadership and or
affect the annual budget. For example, if the inspector notes that the pool is
beginning to deteriorate and will need repair, the board should keep this in
mind when they discuss the annual budget.
6. File the checklist with the HOA’s records: Inspection
checklists should become a permanent record of the HOA. They serve as a record
of maintenance, how problems were addressed and when, and may serve as evidence
in a lawsuit.
Inspections are a major component of an HOA’s risk
management plan. For more information on inspection basics and insurance for
your HOA, contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. today.
Avoiding Premise Security Liability - October 2016
Security can be a scary prospect for property managers.
While you want to provide your tenants with a safe location to live or work,
the level of security you need to provide is not always clear cut, and if it is
lacking could potentially make you liable for damages in the event of a crime.
Whether you deal in commercial or residential rentals, premise security claims
are on the rise and you need to do what you can now to avoid costly litigation
in the future.
Increasingly, tenants are looking to receive compensation
from their property managers after they fall victim to a crime on leased
property, and more and more often courts are ruling in favor of the tenants.
While property managers are not responsible for the damages caused by every
criminal act, they do have a duty to provide tenants and their guests or
customers with reasonable measures of security. When managers fail to do this,
they can potentially be held liable for some or all of the damages.
Providing reasonable security measures does not mean that
you have to guarantee your tenants 100 percent protection from criminal activity.
Even the most elaborate security systems can be beaten by criminals who are
properly motivated. The simplest way to avoid liability is to reduce
opportunity by eliminating conditions that attracted criminals. Some of the
best security features are those that deter criminals from ever attempting to
commit a crime. In the event of a premise security claim, it is important to be
able to show the court that you have taken the proper steps to eliminate any
security concerns that could encourage criminal activity around your property.
Consider the following measures as you try to increase
It may seem simple, but lighting can have a big impact on site security, as
criminals prefer to target places where their actions can be easily concealed
by darkness. Make sure entrance ways, walking paths and parking lots are
Both commercial and residential tenants need a way to properly secure their own
spaces. In residential properties, keyed entry should be in place for common
areas as well as individual units. Laundry rooms, exercise facilities and
lobbies or entrance ways should have automatic locks that prevent unauthorized
After locks are installed, they must be checked regularly to make sure
they stay in working order. Also, keep an eye on the condition of doors. If
they fall into disrepair, their effectiveness as a method of protection will be
A well landscaped property can be an attractive selling point, and if done
properly can also improve security. A well-maintained property gives the
impression that the premise is under the supervision of attentive management,
so show your presence by keeping the grounds well groomed. Additionally, an
overgrowth of bushes or trees can create blind spots that can be used to
conceal criminal activity. When choosing plants to be placed around windows and
doors, pick ones that will remain relatively short, and trim them regularly.
cameras or on-site security personnel: The decision to employ security
guards or install security cameras depends on each individual situation. Often
times, such measures are not needed to provide the reasonable amount of
security required of property managers, but they can be beneficial in
situations where a specific security concern may need extra attention. If the
property is located in a high-crime area, security cameras or on-site personnel
may be necessary.
Security can be a big concern for prospective tenants, and
the security features of a property can be the incentive needed to close a deal.
It should be noted that you should never promise more security than you can
actually provide. If you make an exaggerated claim about the security features
of a premise, you raise the standard of security a tenant can reasonably
expect, even though you are not actually making the property any safer. If a
crime were to occur, you would be at an increased risk for legal action.
Consult with the experts at CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. for more
Potential Environmental and Regulatory Liabilities at Real Estate Entities – Commercial, Industrial and Habitational - September 2016
The most common
environmental and regulatory exposures encountered by real estate entities
from known and unknown historical usage/operations or neighboring properties.
and defense due to local and regional soil and groundwater contamination.
emissions from ammonia-based refrigeration systems.
debris containing hazardous materials (e.g. paint cans, tars, etc.)
Building Syndrome (i.e. carbon monoxide, mold or bacterial air releases from
faulty heating, ventilation or air conditioning systems).
chemical storage including laboratory chemicals, medical wastes from doctor and
dentist offices, dry cleaning solvents, pesticides and herbicides used both
indoors and outdoors, etc.
containment at loading/unloading areas.
containment for hazardous materials, waste and process areas.
asbestos, PCBs and radioactive material.
contamination from buried tree stumps and construction debris.
- "Midnight dumping" on vacant land
landfills, lagoons and other solid waste disposal areas.
is not an exhaustive list of environmental exposures. It represents the most
common environmental exposures for this industry. [Bc_Fname] [Bc_Lname] will
work with you to identify environmental exposures that are unique to your
business to help you reduce risk.
Property Management Professional Liability Insurance - August 2016
managers wear many different hats in the course of their jobs. In addition to
overseeing the maintenance, security and overall welfare of the properties they
manage, at times they may also function as leasing agents, real estate agents,
appraisers, consultants or construction managers. To do so, they must be
knowledgeable and up to date on zoning regulations, tenant laws, tax
information and property values. In addition, they are responsible for making
sure lease agreements, purchase and sale agreements, and work orders are
complete, accurate and submitted to the proper authorities when necessary.
Due to the
wide array of duties and responsibilities they have and the tight deadlines
they operate under, even the most thorough and meticulous property managers
inevitably make errors. Whether it’s an error of commission, such as entering
the wrong information into a purchase agreement, or an error of omission, such
as failing to disclose known pollutants, the result is often the same—a
Without the right type of insurance, the cost of
defending a lawsuit can be financially devastating for a property management
company. Property managers often mistakenly believe their Commercial General
Liability (CGL) policies will protect them from lawsuits stemming from a
negligent act, error or omission, but a typical CGL policy only covers bodily
injury, property damage, personal injury and advertising injury claims. To protect
themselves from claim—such as negligence, misrepresentation, inaccurate advice,
and violation of good faith and fair dealing—property managers must instead
turn to property management professional liability insurance.
professional liability insurance, also known as Errors & Omission (E&O)
insurance, is supplementary liability insurance designed to safeguard a
business against a catastrophic loss in the event of a lawsuit due to a
negligent act, error or omission by the property manager or someone in his or
her employ. The policy covers the sizable legal defense costs incurred during
the course of a lawsuit as well as the final judgment if the business owner
does not win the lawsuit. In addition to claims of error, omission or
negligence, this type of coverage can also be designed to protect against
slander, libel and breach of contract. Policies typically do not provide
coverage for non-financial losses or for intentional or dishonest acts.
Property management professional liability insurance policies
generally have both a claim limit and an annual limit, which is based on the
insured’s exposure. The claim limit is the maximum amount that will be paid for
any single event, and the annual limit is the maximum that will be paid in any
one year. Typical limits range from $250,000/$500,000 to $2,000,000/$4,000,000
and differ depending
on the individual business. Because there isn’t a standard policy, an
experienced agent who understands your needs is invaluable.
today at [B_Phone] to learn how property management professional liability
insurance fits into your unique risk management portfolio.
Owners and Contractors Protective Liability - July 2016
construction projects, project owners and general contractors can often face a
significant amount of liability from the actions, omissions and general
supervision of others—such as contractors and subcontractors. If they cause an
injury or other damage to a third party, owners and contractors can often also be
cases, these liabilities can be covered by obtaining an owners and contractors
protective (OCP) liability policy. However, it’s important to know the
advantages and disadvantages of OCP policies, as well as other coverage options
that may provide more protection.
Obtaining an OCP policy is similar to being
added as an additional insured to a commercial general liability (CGL) policy,
but with some important distinctions.
For example, if a project owner wants to
obtain an OCP policy to be covered for the actions of a contractor, the
contractor would purchase the policy with the owner as the named and primary insured.
The OCP policy would then provide coverage for the owner separate from the
contractor’s CGL policy, and the two policies would have separate insurance
premiums and limits.
OCP and CGL policies also have different coverages. While
CGL policies are designed to cover a wide variety of liabilities, OCP policies
instead have a more limited scope and are designed to supplement other policies
in certain cases. Specifically, OCP policies
cover the named insured for the following:
- The vicarious liability for the acts or omissions
of contractors or subcontractors
- The liability for acts or omissions in the
general supervision of the operations of contractors or subcontractors
separate insurance policy, OCP plans offer a number of advantages:
- OCP policies offer separate limits that are unaffected by
the liability policies of contractors or subcontractors.
- Triggered losses under an OCP policy usually do not lead to
increased premiums for CGL policies.
- The named insured enjoys additional benefits, such as
advanced notice of plan cancellations.
the limited coverage of OCP policies can also have some disadvantages:
- OCP policies will not provide coverage if the named insured
is found to be solely at fault for a loss involving a contractor or
- The coverage for “general supervision” in OCP policies is
usually left undefined and can lead to a lack of coverage.
obtain an OCP policy or are added as an additional insured to a CGL policy, you
should ensure that your coverage meets the insurance requirements and
provisions of your construction contract. Call us today at [B_Phone]; we can
help you find the coverage you need to ensure your success.
Focus on Safety When Using Pesticides - June 2016
As part of your job, you handle, use and work around
herbicides and pesticides. While these products are very effective in repelling
pests, they can also pose serious health hazards. The good news is you can
prevent exposure to yourself and others by following these simple safety
Read the Label
If a chemical is new to you, always read the full product
label to learn about safe and proper use.
- If the label warns against exposure to the eyes,
lungs, skin or clothing, wear the right gear to protect your body.
- Follow the directions on the label regarding how
to apply the product and what equipment must be used.
- Notice the first-aid instructions in case of an
- Follow directions regarding how to store and
dispose of the product after usage.
Protect Yourself and
Your best line of defense against exposure to chemicals is
wearing the right protective clothing for the job. This typically includes a
long-sleeved shirt, long pants, non-absorbent gloves (no leather or fabric),
rubber boots (no canvas or leather), a hat, eye protection, a mask, an apron,
face respirators and/or dust mist filters. Also:
- Check your clothing for defects and holes before
wearing it while handling chemicals. Do
not smoke, eat, drink, apply cosmetics or use the restroom directly following
or while you are using herbicides and pesticides.
- Be mindful of where other people are located
when applying chemicals.
- Do not use herbicides and pesticides when winds
are stronger than 10 mph to avoid blowing the chemicals to unwanted areas or
onto other workers or passersby.
- Post signs when you spray an area, so others who
visit the building are aware.
- After application, rinse your tools and
equipment three times. Then pour the rinse water into the pesticide container.
- During application, chemicals may settle on you
and your clothing, and can be carried into your vehicle and your home.
Immediately wash areas of your body that came in contact with the product, and
shower promptly after completing cleanup and storage procedures.
- Assume that clothing used while working with
pesticides and herbicides has been contaminated, so take the following
- Always remove contaminated gear prior to leaving
- Place clothing in a plastic bag and wash it
separately from your street clothes.
- Boots, gloves and goggles used at the
application site also need to be cleaned prior to leaving the site.
Storage and Disposal
- Keep all chemicals in the original manufacturer’s
- When chemicals are not in use, store them in
designated areas only.
- Disposal requires special handling. Check the
label and follow our safe handling procedures. If you don’t know how to dispose
of something safely, ask before you toss it! Improper handling is bad for the
environment, and poses fire and health hazards.
Above all, always be smart as you apply or spray. Employee
safety is [C_Officialname]’s top priority, so we expect you to do your part in
following all safety procedures when working with herbicides and pesticides.
Secure Parking Facilities - May 2016
Whether an organization owns a parking structure or provides
parking facilities to employees through a third party, there are a number of
associated risks that must be addressed. In addition to slip and fall hazards,
those utilizing a parking structure could be vulnerable to auto accidents,
theft, harassment and assault. To compound the issue, parking lots and
structures typically have lax security, which can make protecting employees and
patrons all the more difficult. Thankfully, there are a number of measures
parking structure owners and property managers can implement to mitigate the
above risks—measures that employers should also look for when utilizing a third
party for their parking needs.
Reducing the risks associated with parking structures and
parking lots can begin as early as the initial design phase. There are a number
of elements to consider to promote overall safety.
For instance, stairwells and elevators should be located in
areas where they are readily visible to an attendant, on-site security officer
or the general public. If possible, elevators and stairwells should have glass
incorporated into their construction for improved visibility. That way, in the
event of an incident, onlookers can easily assess the situation and provide the
In addition, installing cylindrical concrete supports
instead of square ones allows drivers to more easily see around corners, thus
reducing the number of auto accidents. Speed bumps placed on long straightaways
can prevent drivers from accelerating to dangerous speeds.
Overall, a strong parking structure design will encourage a
pedestrian’s natural surveillance—one’s ability to observe and assess his or
her surroundings. Ensuring that patrons and the general public can easily view
everything that’s going on in the structure can help prevent auto accidents and
deter potential criminals.
While full visibility is generally easier to achieve in open
parking lots, there are a number of tactics that can improve natural
surveillance in a parking structure. Some strategies include constructing high
ceilings, trimming back any shrubbery that obstructs views, creating sightlines
from the parking structure to the street, and limiting the number of entrances
and exits to the parking structure.
Posting different types of signage in and around a parking
structure can bolster overall safety in a variety of ways. For instance, stop
signs that are strategically placed around turns or long straightaways can
limit accidents by slowing down drivers.
In addition, signage can help clearly direct pedestrians to
important safety items—exits, elevators, emergency phones, fire extinguishers,
etc.—or away from the path of vehicles. It’s important for each floor of a
parking structure to be clearly labeled to further direct pedestrians, allowing
them to move in and out of the structure quickly and safely.
In general, signage should utilize a large font and bold
colors. This ensures that signs will catch the eye and be easy to read.
Lighting is one of the most important aspects of parking
structure and lot safety. This is because proper lighting practices can reduce
the risk of theft, harassment and assault, as it eliminates potential hiding
places from security or passersby.
In general, parking facilities should have no major dark
spots, and heavily trafficked areas should be well-lit. Most experts suggest
that areas in the structure or lot be illuminated by at least two sources of
Specifically, lighting in a structure or lot should take
into account the following:
• Intensity. Avoid soft lighting whenever possible. Most
parking facilities utilize metal halide lighting, as it is both bright and easy
on the human eye.
• Uniformity. When lighting a parking facility, keep in mind
that overlapping areas of light is recommended. This will help ensure that
there are no major shadows. For added safety, the perimeters of garages and
lots should also be illuminated.
Many employers look for access control measures—automatic
gates, card access, etc.—when considering parking structure and lot safety.
Commonly, parking facilities utilize a ticketing system that
requires patrons to purchase access to parking. While this does not completely
eliminate access of the parking facility to the general public, it does provide
a paper trail that law enforcement officials can follow in the event of an
Fencing placed around the perimeter of a lot or in private
areas of a structure can also be a particularly useful access control measure,
as it reduces the potential for trespassing. It may also be a good idea to
fence off potential hiding areas, like gaps under stairwells or dark corners in
elevator lobbies, for would-be attackers. These barriers typically consist of
concrete blocks or chain-link fencing.
In general, the above measures are best implemented in the
initial design and building of the lot or structure.
For ongoing, 24-hour safety, active security systems are
often the best option—especially for parking structures. There are a number of
surveillance and security measures to consider, all with their own unique
benefits, including the following:
• Security personnel. Simply having a uniformed security
officer on site can be enough to deter potential criminals. To be effective,
patrol officers will have to vary their routes and schedules to avoid creating
predictable gaps in security coverage.
• Closed circuit television (CCTV). CCTV is a strong method
of surveillance, as it creates an instant record of incidents such as theft,
assault or auto accidents. Because CCTV is dependent on visibility, appropriate
lighting measures will need to be in place in order for the surveillance to be
effective. In addition, without a proper response plan in place, CCTV could be
a wasted expense. Ensure that your staff is trained on what to do when an
• Emergency phones and intercoms. Easy access to emergency
phones and intercoms can be critical if a patron is under attack or if there is
another emergency. These systems are best installed in well-lit and
easy-to-reach areas near elevators, lobbies, stairs and parking spots.
For added safety, consider including signage that clearly
states that the area is under surveillance. This can be a strong deterrent for
Ongoing housekeeping is important for continued safety. When
a parking facility is littered with garbage, it can appear as though no one is
responsible for the area and that surveillance is lax. Regularly inspect the
facility, cleaning debris and removing abandoned vehicles when applicable.
Maintenance crews should also be responsible for trimming
back any shrubbery. In general, it’s important that things like bushes and tree
branches do not block any sightlines in and out of the parking structure. Doing
so will promote natural surveillance and eliminate potential hiding spots for
Prompt removal of ice and snow can greatly reduce the risks
of slips and falls. When removing snow and ice from a parking garage, keep in
mind the following:
• Snow should never be piled on top of a parking structure,
as this can put too much strain on the supports, which, in turn, could lead to
collapse. Experts suggest safely dumping the snow over the sides of the parking
structure or loading it into trucks and moving it off the premises.
• Be careful when using snowplows, as their sharp blades can
damage concrete. Experts suggest leaving the blade at least half of an inch
above the concrete surface.
• Plowing should never be done near any of the parking
garage’s joints or curbs, as damage to these supports can lead to structural
issues. As such, it’s important to clearly and prominently label these areas,
especially if you utilize a third party for snow removal.
• When removing ice, sand is generally preferred over road
salt. This is because many de-icing agents and chemicals are rendered useless
during times of extreme cold.
As snow and ice melts, utilize “wet floor” signage in areas
where fall hazards are especially prevalent. To further decrease the risk of
falls, immediately repair any cracks in the concrete caused by wintery
Starts Early On
In order to implement the preventive safety and maintenance
measures listed above, many parking structure and lot owners have professional
risk assessments done. These assessments can help identify major risk areas,
providing businesses with strategies on how to address potential hazards. Risk
assessments should be done early on to ensure that parking structure and lot
owners are proactive instead of reactive.
It should be noted that risk management for parking
structures and lots is an ongoing process. The key to keeping patrons safe is
knowing what hazards to anticipate and how to address them.
For insight into more industry-specific risks, contact CMR
Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. today.
Be on the Alert to Prevent Violence - April 2016
Workplace violence includes any act in which a person is
abused, threatened, intimidated or assaulted in his or her employment. Whether
it stems from work-related disputes or domestic abuse or personal issues,
violence can occur inside or outside the workplace, and can range from threats
and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide.
Identifying Your Risk
Those working in real estate and property management are at
particular risk because of certain characteristics of workplaces:
- Mobile workplaces
- Working alone or in small numbers
- Working late hours of the night or early hours
of the morning
- Working in isolated or low-traffic areas
- Working near businesses or buildings that are at
risk of violent crime
- Working in high-crime areas
- Working with the public
Workplace violence can include actions or words that
endanger or harm you or your co-workers, including:
- Verbal or physical harassment
- Verbal or physical threats
- Assaults or other violence
- Any other behavior that causes you to feel unsafe
(bullying or sexual harassment)
At [C_Officialname], we’ve taken steps to keep you safe on
the job. As we emphasize in our Workplace Violence Prevention Program, we do
not tolerate threats, bullying, harassment or any other form of violence.
However, keeping our workplace as safe as possible requires the commitment of
all employees, including you.
Although nothing can guarantee that you will never be a
victim of workplace violence, many incidents are preventable. Contribute to the
safety measures and other efforts that we have in place by following these
- Be aware of and report threatening behavior, and
be alert for other signs of aggression or violent behavior.
- Take all threats seriously.
- Follow procedures established by our Workplace
Violence Prevention Program, including those for reporting incidents.
- Learn how to recognize, avoid or diffuse
potentially violent situations by attending personal safety training programs.
- Alert supervisors to any concerns about safety
or security, and report all incidents immediately in writing.
- Avoid traveling alone to unfamiliar locations
The most important thing you can do is stay alert and aware
of potentially dangerous situations or threatening behavior. Make sure that you
are effectively trained in conflict resolution and methods of handling
dangerous or violent situations.
We will do our best to protect you from workplace violence.
Be aware of the risks of your surroundings in order to help protect yourself.
The Role of an HOA and Condo President - March 2016
Similar to the CEO of a company, the president of a
homeowners association (HOA) plays the primary role in decision-making and
overseeing the day-to-day administration of the association. Some HOA
presidents receive compensation, but most are unpaid volunteers, filling a role
that can be rewarding, but often unappreciated.
Whether you’re compensated or not, your role as president
should not be taken lightly. Accepting an HOA board position is serious, as you
are charged with safeguarding the personal investments of all HOA members. Care
must be taken to ensure homeowners’ concerns and matters are resolved to the
satisfaction of all parties involved. Understanding the responsibilities of an
HOA president—and the risks related to the role—is important for anyone serving
in the position.
Being an HOA president requires a great deal of interacting
with people—homeowners, the property manager, other board members and the
outside community. Patience and flexibility are key qualities for the position.
You must make every decision in a fair and just manner, avoiding favoritism and
making decisions in self-interest.
The HOA’s bylaws usually dictate how often a new president
should be elected. If not, it’s a best practice to re-elect a new president
every few years to get a fresh perspective and also to avoid the potential for
embezzlement of the association’s funds.
The bylaws also outline the president’s responsibilities, which
can vary from one association to the next. As HOA president, some major
over board meetings. Develop the agenda before the meeting and keep the
meetings on track.
accurate records. This is mainly the responsibility of the board secretary, but
the president is ultimately responsible.
local laws before passing rules. HOAs are dictated by state laws; the president
is responsible for understanding the laws that apply to the association.
frequently and consistently with the association. This includes distributing
copies of board meeting minutes and keeping all homeowners informed of changes.
the association’s activities on a daily basis. Carry out day-to-day
administration of association policies set by the board, and ensure that
projects are completed.
with the board to develop a budget and a plan for reserve funds. This is mainly
the responsibility of the board treasurer, but the president is ultimately
contracts, bank documents and other legal documents on behalf of the
association as its agent. As a best practice, obtain three bids for every contract
to ensure that you receive a fair price.
Outside the Scope of
a President’s Role
While HOA presidents have many responsibilities, there are
some matters that fall outside of their scope. Presidents are not property
managers. An HOA usually hires a property management company or a property
manager to monitor the day-to-day activities of the association. In fact, it’s
unwise to have the president also serve as the property manager, as it
increases the chance of fraud or inaccurate bookkeeping. An HOA president
interacts with property managers, acting as a liaison between the property
management company and the HOA’s board.
Presidents are also not “property police,” and should not be
responsible for enforcing swimming pool hours, removing children from the
fitness center, etc.
Risks of the HOA
As president of your HOA, you must identify and address the
risks of your position. You will be the person that homeowners go to when they
have a problem; and with owning property, problems are inevitable. Since
homeowners have a high personal stake in their investments, it’s natural to
assume they will be frustrated if their concerns and issues are not resolved in
a timely manner or in their favor. Your role may come with more liability than
you expected. Lawsuits can result from homeowners who aren’t satisfied or think
their concerns haven’t been properly addressed by the board.
Similar to the director or officer of a corporation, an HOA
president also has fiduciary responsibilities. This means that a good faith
effort must be made to make decisions in the best interest of the association.
Presidents breach their fiduciary duties when they act negligently, commit a
crime or benefit personally at the expense of the HOA.
Poor and infrequent communication can lead to additional
problems when homeowners are uninformed of decisions or changes. You must
ensure that communication between the homeowners, the property manager and the
other board members keeps all parties up to date of the happenings in the
How to Mitigate the
One of the primary ways to mitigate the risks of your
position is to build a solid, knowledge base of the HOA’s governing documents
and applicable local laws. Even if you are fairly new to the position, you will
still be expected to make informed decisions in the best interest of the
Also, familiarize yourself with the history of the HOA,
including past plans by the board and how issues were previously handled. Make
sure you are consistent with handling issues as they’ve been handled in the
past and don’t spring drastic, despotic changes on members. Know your fiduciary
duties and make sure every decision the board makes is made in good faith and
in the members’ best interest.
When working with the board focus on creating and setting
policies, but leave the implementation and enforcement of those policies to the
property management company. As president, you oversee the administration of
the association, but you should not be monitoring day-to-day activities.
You can also mitigate risks in the following ways:
team spirit in the association and encourage team building.
consistently between the property manager and the board.
an attorney before getting involved in legal disputes.
letting personality differences with other board members prevent the board from
getting work done.
money prudently and build a sound financial future for the community. Obtain
advice from a financial advisor, if necessary.
and enhance all common areas, which is one of the reasons people want to join
If you have additional questions about the risks of serving
as an HOA president or as an association board member, contact CMR Risk &
Insurance Services, Inc. today.
Avoid Lawsuits with Good Tenant Relationships - February 2016
Investing the time and money required to maintain and
cultivate a positive working relationship with your tenants can be the
difference between amicably settling differences and a costly lawsuit. Working
on the relationship also creates value by maximizing tenant cooperation with
timely rent payments, property upkeep and longer lease terms.
Screening Potential Tenants
Conducting a background check on prospective tenants is a
wise way to ensure a mutually successful experience for you and the applicant,
and it is an effective risk management tool. Background checks do present some
costs, but the risk of not performing the screening on tenants could have more
serious financial consequences, resulting in lost income, property damage and
litigation costs. Elements of a thorough background check include the
Take Care of Your Property
Taking measures to properly maintain the premises sends a
powerful message to tenants. It proves that you take your role as building
manager seriously and encourages them to take pride in the condition of their
rented space. Better, it could bolster relationships and lessen the probability
that they will take legal action in the event of an incident or dispute. Take
these measures to be prepared for maintenance issues:
a procedure for dealing with maintenance requests that guarantees prompt
service to tenant requests and maintenance issues.
clearly communicate and promptly enforce policies regarding shared spaces.
A good working relationship with tenants minimizes the
likelihood of costly lawsuits and maximizes cooperation with timely rent
payments, property upkeep and longer lease terms.
States and municipalities have differing legislation
regarding the duties of building owners and managers. Although you may not be
expected to guarantee the safety of tenants, visitors and guests, you must
exercise reasonable care to protect them from foreseeable events. What’s more,
security measures make tenants feel safe, strengthening your relationship with
them and lowering the likelihood of a lawsuit. They can also potentially lower
your insurance premiums.
Focus on Customer Service
Taking extra steps to make tenants feel welcome helps to
create a cooperative relationship that is unlikely to end in legal litigation.
Small gestures such as the following can dramatically improve the relationship
you have with tenants:
polite responses to requests
outlined policies and swift enforcement for all tenants
Even with positive landlord-tenant relationships, there are
potential exposures that must be addressed with well-designed property and
liability insurance policies. For more information, contact the insurance
professionals at CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. today.
Keeping Minutes at Condo or HOA Board Meetings - January 2016
meetings—where important homeowner matters are discussed and decisions are
made—contribute to the success of a condo or homeowners association (HOA).
Since HOA board
meetings result in significant decisions that impact community members, it is
necessary to record decisions in official board meeting minutes, which serve as
both a historical record and provide pertinent information to the HOA
Investing the time to record accurate and detailed
board meeting minutes can reduce potential litigation risks for HOA board
members, as minutes could be used as evidence in the event of a legal claim.
minutes are a written record of the official actions taken by the HOA directors
and officers during scheduled meetings. The minutes document the topics
discussed and record the decisions voted on during meetings. The minutes can
also contribute to the efficiency of future board meetings by serving as a reminder
of what was previously discussed to avoid rehashing old business.
There are two
main purposes of board meeting minutes:
- The minutes inform
members of decisions made that impact their living community. All HOA members
have the right to access non-confidential meeting minutes.
- Meeting minutes
could serve as evidence in the case of a lawsuit. In the event that someone,
such as a member, sues the HOA, the minutes are proof of decisions that were
For officers and
directors on the HOA board, meeting minutes are valuable evidence that the
board made decisions in good faith and fulfilled its fiduciary duties to the
association. On the other hand, the minutes can also serve as evidence that a
director did not fulfill his or her fiduciary duties.
Recording accurate board meeting minutes can prevent potential
litigation risks for HOA directors and officers.
the Board Meeting Minutes Include?
minutes should be easy to read and include only essential information. Most
importantly, members should be able to understand what board actions were taken
meeting minutes can be handwritten during the meeting, the final version should
be transcribed into a typed format. At a minimum, the minutes should include
- Name of the HOA
- Date, time and
location of the meeting
- Names of directors
and officers present at the meeting, and the names of those not present
- Names of guests in
attendance, including those invited to speak at the meeting
- Whether or not a
quorum was present
- All board actions
- The signature of the
board secretary or another official designated to sign HOA documents
documentation (attached to the minutes), as applicable
It is the board
secretary’s responsibility to record and certify the minutes, unless another
person is designated. Keep in mind that all of the board directors and officers
may be held liable if the minutes are falsified or embellished.
meeting, the minutes should be made available to all HOA members. Some HOAs
choose to mail or email the minutes to members after the meeting.
A printed copy
of the meeting minutes should be kept in the HOA’s “board minutes book,” and an
electronic copy should be also be stored.
should include substantial details on the board’s actions; however, minutes
with too much detail could be evidence for unwanted lawsuits, such as
defamation claims. Minutes do not need to be a transcript of all interactions.
the following information:
- Names of HOA members
present at the meeting
- All the
conversations and discussions that took place during the meeting
- Owner comments
during the meeting
- Confidential or
HOA boards should discuss confidential or
sensitive information in a separate meeting. Minutes that contain sensitive
information should be kept in a different file from the regular meeting minutes
book. Members should not be able to access confidential minutes.
are a valuable communication tool and may be used as evidence during a lawsuit.
Board meeting minutes—and all HOA communications—should be:
- Neat and organized
- Easy to read
- Free of undefined
acronyms and jargon
- Free of spelling and
Contact CMR Risk
& Insurance Services, Inc. today for additional resources to manage and
protect your HOA.