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HOAs in the Digital Age: Assessing and Addressing Issues with Social Media and Internet Presence

Farrah Esquer, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Cardinal Property Management, AAMC

Sandra L. Gottlieb, Esq., CCAL
SwedelsonGottlieb

 

If you are like most people, you use the Internet or social media in your daily life on a regular basis, either personally or for business.  From paying bills online to keeping up to date with world and entertainment news via numerous social media outlets, many of us would be lost if we were to lose the holy grail of our Internet connection.  If the average person uses the Internet so regularly, should your community be using these online options as well?  A definite MAYBE!

With technology and social media changing so rapidly, it is often difficult for a community association to keep pace with the newest and most hip forms of communication.  While many communities may already be using websites and social media, there are still pitfalls and legal concerns that should be addressed, proactively, to protect the entity and its board of directors.  This article explores both the benefits and challenges of an association’s internet presence and the planning and decisions that should occur before plunging into the ever-changing digital world.

Before making a decision as to whether the association should have a website and/or social media presence, first consider the demographics of the community and the message or image that will be conveyed.  The decision to have an online presence can be different for each community.  Are the community members asking for more online options? Does the association have extensive recreational facilities or other amenities unique to your community?  Remember, the association is a corporation and as such, the board of directors should consider the image or “brand,” as well.

Also consider who will be maintaining the website and/or social media sites.  If the board intends for the management company to maintain the sites, be sure to address this obligation in the management contract, including association protections for the ownership of the sites, and be sure that the manager or company is comfortable maintaining these sites.  The board may also consider a board member or other community volunteer, or even a third-party provider, to create, update and maintain the various sites.  There will likely be a charge to maintain the sites whether the work is performed by a third party vendor or by the association’s managing agent.  A fee for these services is warranted and can be budgeted, considering the brand of the corporation.

Websites can be a beneficial tool to provide communication and resources to the membership, if used properly.  The association may choose to include online assessment payment options on the website, as well as the association governing documents, non-compliance reports, and a mechanism for maintenance request submittals.  The website can also be used to provide updates to the membership on upcoming or ongoing projects and schedules, including maintenance or construction work, and to notify residents of other community events, such as annual meetings, community garage sales, etc.  Documents can include meeting agendas, community newsletters, rules and regulations, meeting minutes (general session and committee minutes, as applicable), CC&Rs, Articles of Incorporation, and Bylaws.  We strongly recommend that documents such as minutes, CC&Rs, Article of Incorporation, and Bylaws be watermarked with either “Draft” or “Not for Escrow Use.” The purpose of this watermark is to ensure that official documents are requested through the normal escrow process and to ensure that the documents presented in escrow are complete.

Websites should not be used in place of current delivery methods that are required by the Davis-Stirling Act.  For example, Civil Code Section 4045 provides that certain documents can be sent by “general notice” or “general delivery.”  This code provision includes that the association can post “the printed document in a prominent location that is accessible to all members.” The question becomes: does posting a notice to the website constitute proper notice under this section?  No, it does not at this time because the code specifies that the notice must be a “printed document” and that it must be placed in a “prominent location.”  However, posting the notice to the website, in addition to posting the printed document on-site, complies with the Civil Code and provides ease of access to those who wish to view the document electronically on the association’s website.

An association website can also be used to reflect a positive image of the community and to show off the brand attributed to the community along with favorable aspects of the community, such as the common area facilities – pool, spa, clubhouse, or other amenities that make the community unique and desirable.  In this way, a well-maintained and planned website can potentially increase property values.

With the benefits of websites also come potential challenges and legal pitfalls.  If the website is used for online payments, even if through a third-party provider, it is important to ensure the site is secure, to the extent possible, to prevent identity theft.  Additionally, board members should be cautious when opening up a message board or other posting board on the association’s site. Message boards can quickly become a place for posting of disparaging comments, which could potentially place the association in the midst of a lawsuit for defamation if it does not act quickly to demand the removal of the offending comments. There have been a number of cases in California in recent years that have shown that, even if the association is successful in a lawsuit with an owner regarding defamation, infliction of emotional distress, or other claims related to the use or misuse of association internet resources, the benefits of these platforms may be far outweighed by the potential costs to an association if they are misused.  For this reason, it is highly suggested that message boards or other similar posting boards not be available on a community website.

Another potential pitfall can occur when, through use of a website or social media account, the association unintentionally burdens itself with the requirements of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance by inviting the public to the community.  How can this happen?  Does your community use the clubhouse as a polling place for the community and surrounding areas? And do you use the association website to announce the polling place to the community?  If so, this could potentially require the association to comply with ADA regulations since the public is invited into the community.  As a note, “public” as used here does not mean personal guests, family or invitees of owners.  For these reasons, the association should consult with the association’s legal counsel to address any potential legal pitfalls associated with the community website, both before it is launched and when there is a stated claim against the association.

After the board has evaluated the issues referenced above, the board will need to identify who will be responsible for maintaining the site. The next step is to decide in advance what will be posted to the website and who has the authority to post to the website.  Sample recurring items that should be updated on the website would be meeting agendas, meeting minutes, and newsletters.  These documents should be updated regularly, in addition to the association’s documents such as rules and regulations, architectural guidelines and application form, etc. The board should also consider having a standing policy that any notice that is sent by “general delivery” or “general notice” to the community should be added to the website.  This may seem like a fairly simple task, however what happens when a disgruntled committee or board member demands that their statement be posted to the website? Setting the standard postings in advance with a requirement that all other items require board approval at a noticed board meeting can help avoid placing the website administrator in a difficult situation trying to balance requests from owners with competing interests and avoid airing the association’s dirty laundry to the community.  Remember, online postings should be positive and used as a tool to communicate information to owners and provide resources to the community.

The association needs to ensure that the website is kept up to date and timely. There is nothing worse than a website was last updated two years ago. Association members will quickly become disinterested in a site that provides no value, which makes it difficult to re-gain interest.

While websites generally are the most common form of online presence for communities, other social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have also become options for increased communication to owners.  If you use these social media sites in your personal life, you are probably familiar with the negative postings and rants that can sometimes be overwhelming.

The same cautions and predetermined posting rules for websites apply to social media sites, as well.  However, postings change more quickly on social media than a website page.  The postings that can be made by others to, for instance, a Facebook page must be addressed quickly by the association if they are negative in nature.  The party authorized by the board to maintain and monitor the site should have appropriate notifications in place so that postings can be monitored and addressed promptly.  Additionally, if the board will be posting photographs from a community event, a disclaimer should be included with the event invitation notifying the residents that an association photographer will be taking pictures of the event and posting to the association’s website.  This will allows guests the opportunity to notify the photographer if they do not want their pictures posted.

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to launch and maintain an association website or social media presence including the association’s brand or image, maintenance responsibilities, security issues, and potential legal pitfalls like defamation and harassment claims.  Even if the association does not intend to establish web or social media presence, the board should consider claiming the association’s name for websites and social media accounts to prevent other parties from opening sites potentially leading to their posing as official association communications.  Those domain names and pages should be owned and controlled by the association, when possible, rather than individual volunteers. Always consult with legal counsel before making the leap into the digital world because once association content is on the Internet, it may be there forever.

 

Reprinted with permission from Connect Magazine, Issue Four 2016, a publication of the Community Associations Institute of Greater Inland Empire Chapter. 

Reprinted with permission from O.C. View, January/February 2017 issue; copyright by CAI, Orange Country Regional Chapter, all rights reserved.

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Don’t Let Your Brush Get Your Goat, Let Your Goat Get Your Brush

goats 009

Smokey Bear may be the spokes-animal for the prevention of wildfires but it’s the goats who actually do the work. Before and during fire season, these four-legged fire abatement “machines” can be seen throughout Orange County munching and lunching on our behalf.

More than 6,000 wildfires sweep through California annually. At the time of this writing, our state is engulfed in flames from north to south. Fueled by a lethal combination of dry brush and dry weather, Orange County has had more than its share of deadly wildfires in the past five years. It is understandable that homeowner associations are concerned during this unprecedented drought. One spark can ignite an entire hillside in minutes. As there are many canyons in Orange County, the winds that whip through these ravines feed the fires and drive the flames straight to the brush.

Historically, Boards of Directors wrestle with the ever-present issue of fire prevention and brush abatement. One answer is catching on like well, wildfire. Goats.

Why goats? Goats can be employed effectively on almost any terrain, especially slopes. Man and machines are just not made to hop and navigate steep slopes; whereas, those same slopes are all in a day’s work for a goat. George Gonzales, owner of Ranchito Tivo Boer Goats, based in Chino, said that he has seen men on tractors topple and slide down a slope of sandy soil while attempting to clear browning brush. The potential for human injury and medical costs in addition to equipment damage is high.

This summer, Gonzales and his goats were hired by Window Hill Homeowners Association in Anaheim Hills to create a firebreak clearing on a steep slope. In the past, a landscape crew has been able to clear only 100 feet up the slope due to the steepness of the hill. This year, the goats cleared 300 feet of the slope (all the way up). That is two-thirds more terrain than humans were able to clear. The landscape costs for 100 feet of human clearing were $14,700. The cost for the goats doing the job all the way up the 300-foot slope was $6,500.

Cardinal Senior Account Manager and Director of Property Management Karen Holthe worked with the Window Hill board to procure the goats. “Using the goats was so much safer, and the fire break is a great deal wider than humans could accomplish,” said Karen. “In addition, using the goats greatly enhanced the safety of the community.”

As with any new project or process, one anticipates a few glitches or homeowner complaints. “Homeowners loved the goats,” said Karen. “They told the board that the goats were quiet and they liked watching them. All comments to the board were positive.”

Goats eat a wide variety of plants. “They consider poison ivy and oak to be a salad bar,” said Gonzales. His wife Liz is co-owner and a veterinarian. She keeps abreast of the health of their herds and the potential effects of specific plants on goats. While a human work crew can certainly cut down poison ivy and oak in a day or two, they are off the job for the next two weeks scratching and recovering.

Goats simply eat the problem brush and weeds rather than chopping them down like humans and machines. Hence, there are few to virtually no dump fees. And who wants to haul away poison oak and ivy among the other prickly plants that goats love to eat?

Goats also munch the brush to within four or five inches of the ground before the herdsmen move them along. This ensures the integrity of the slope when the rains return. Sheep pull grasses out by the roots, actually promoting erosion and mudslides later in the year, resulting in a completely different category of damages and cleanup.

Earlier this summer, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency throughout California, as wildfires raged in our parched state. Brown said that the severe drought and extreme weather “have turned much of the state into a tinderbox.”

Community associations can be highly risky environments during wildfire season as the brush on communal slopes and hillsides becomes crispy, and homes are densely arranged. “The use of goats is one of many ways to accomplish the required defensible space fire departments need to help defend homes from an oncoming wildfire,” said Nick Pivaroff, Assistant Fire Marshal for the Community Risk Reduction Department of Pre-Fire Management for the Orange County Fire Authority.

Boards sometimes consider herbicides and pesticides to clear plant material from associations. This does work. However, the cost to the environment is high. Consider that multiple varieties of insects make their homes in the brush and weeds. Spraying kills the weeds and the insects. Next come the birds that swoop in for a worm or a cricket. The birds eat the insects full of deadly chemicals and they die as well. In addition, herbicides and pesticides have the potential to render the ground infertile. This abatement option can be expensive and unhealthy.

As the book title tells us, “Everyone Poops.” Oddly enough, goat pellets do not have the malodorous effect that sheep or cow dung have. The droppings are small, odorless, and biodegradable. They enrich the soil and do not have to be cleaned up or hauled away.

If you would like a lawn worthy of a golf course green, don’t look to a goat to get the job done. However, if you need to clear acres of heavy brush infestation safely and efficiently, you might consider putting the kids to work.

Before and After. A moveable electric fence divides the tall crispy brush (on the left) before the goats are turned loose to eat in the Window Hill Homeowners Association in Anaheim Hills from the chomped brush after the goats completed their job (on the right).

Before and After. A movable electric fence divides the tall crispy brush (on the left) before the goats are turned loose to eat in the Window Hill Homeowners Association in Anaheim Hills from the chomped brush after the goats completed their job (on the right).

A dinner-plate sized solar panel powers the battery that electrifies the moveable fence that keeps the herds on the right path.

A dinner-plate sized solar panel powers the battery that electrifies the movable fence that keeps the herds on the right path.

The Morning Commute. Several herds of goats are on their way to their assigned hillside for breakfast in a community association in Orange County.

The Morning Commute. Several herds of goats are on their way to their assigned hillside for breakfast in a community association in Orange County.

Hey, Look At Me! As goats munch their way through acres of crispy brush, they sometimes take a moment to head butt and frolic. The kid in the upper left corner photo bombed the center of attention.

Hey, Look At Me! As goats munch their way through acres of crispy brush, they sometimes take a moment to head butt and frolic. The kid in the upper left corner photo bombed the center of attention.

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“Cardinal on the Go!” Debuts on Tablets and Phones Everywhere

smartphone-and-tablet

You live your life on the go. Cardinal-Online can go with you and is available any time you are. We are proud to announce that Cardinal Property Management’s website, www.cardinal-online.com, is available on smart phones and tablets.

Cardinal on the Go! is active now, just as you are.

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Too Many Hats, Not Enough Heads: Common Misconceptions of a Manager’s Role

By:      Farrah Esquer, CCAM, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, President, Cardinal Property Management,             AAMC/ACMF

So often we may jokingly discuss the wide array of hats we, as community managers, must keep at close hand when managing our communities.  Sometimes we may find ourselves blurring the lines of a manager’s role and doing ourselves and our fellow community managers a disservice by playing a part in common misconceptions of our duties.

Those that find their way into a customer service-oriented profession are typically helpers.  We want to help our homeowners and client directors in any way possible to meet their customer service expectations.  This may at times blur the line between what is and what is not our role.

Homeowner Misconceptions

Generally speaking, typical homeowners within a community do not understand the difference between the role of the association and its board of directors and the role of the manager.  Homeowners often  believe that assessment payments are paid directly to the management company to manage the community and authorize and pay for community repairs and services.  These same homeowners believe that since they are paying a fee to live within the community the manager should address each and every need, like mediating a disagreement between two neighbors that is unrelated to the Association.  These homeowners do not realize that the board of directors, elected by the homeowners, has the decision-making authority, not the manager.  Therefore, the manager cannot take action without authorization granted by the board of directors via a written contract or resolution of the Board.

Director Misconceptions

Newly elected directors may believe that they can authorize or direct to the manager to complete tasks that require board approval.  These directors may incorrectly assume that any task assigned to a manager falls within the scope of the management contract and must be completed by the manager.  Additionally, directors may also look to the manager to provide expert opinions or advice in an attempt to reduce the association’s expense for truly expert opinions.

What is the Role of Community Manager?

The community manager acts as an agent to the association in carrying out its duties to the corporation.  Managers are professionals who act as facilitators and provide guidance to the board of directors.  In addition to managing the day-to-day activities of the association (e.g., addressing phone calls and inquiries from homeowners, residents, and vendors, and preparing correspondence on behalf of the board) the manager also assists the board in understanding its roles and ensures the directors are familiar with and abide by the association’s governing documents and laws governing community associations.  Most importantly, community managers assist the directors in locating the appropriate experts in specific fields to provide expert opinions so the board can make informed decisions.  Although community managers are generally familiar with all aspects of a community, such as landscape, roofing, construction, etc., they are not experts in any of these fields.

How to Overcome Misconceptions

Community managers and board members should work as partners and have open communication on the expectations of the manager and the management contract.  Directors should strive to become familiar with the details of the management contract and to understand the roles and expectations of the manager and management company.  More importantly, the community manager should have a good understanding of his or her role as well, and not deviate from that role.  The manager should also clarify and explain his or her role to directors and homeowners when the lines start to become blurry.  Managers can avoid burnout by not taking on tasks that do not fall within his or her role and by balancing the “hats” that do.

This article was printed in the September/October 2012 edition of the OC View, a bi-monthly magazine published by the Orange County Chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI-OC) and was re-printed with permission.  To learn more about CAI-OC visit their website at caioc.org. 

 

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“Smart” Irrigation Controllers – What You Need to Know

By: Danny Smith, Water Manager, Park West Landscape Management

With summer heat comes the responsibility of keeping your landscapes healthy and attractive. But what steps are your landscapers taking to make sure your thirsty plant palette is being satisfied? As water districts throughout the region begin rolling out tiered-rate structures for commercial landscape customers it is becoming a top priority to not only water efficiently, but to design your irrigation system to conserve water.

Why should we care so much about our water usage here in California? Because watering our landscapes, filling our pools and enjoying lavish water features account for more than 50% of all water usage in California.  Some customers will now be subject to strict tiered-rate structures. The new water rates will separate the water conscious communities from the inefficient wasteful users and will financially burden the community until the irrigation deficiencies and wasteful practices are resolved.

When it comes to your irrigation system, replacing worn leaky sprinklers is the most common practice to reduce excess run-off but may not be the best solution to obtain long-term results. For example, have you ever driven into your community and seen the irrigation running while it’s raining? Have you ever had to call your landscaper on the weekend about irrigation that will not turn off? These are common problems associated with worn irrigation controllers and their attachments.  New technology designed for the cellular communications industry is making its way into the landscape industry via “Smart” controllers. These devices will allow users to become more involved with their watering needs while staying within the budget.

Several of the top landscape equipment manufacturers such as Rain Master, WeatherTrak and Calsense have developed controllers that will not only modify their programs (watering days and station run times) on a daily basis but also apply only enough water for sufficient plant health. That means your controller will gather weather data based on your specific microclimate and just accordingly. Would you like the controller to email you and your landscaper notifications if the pre-set parameters have changed? It can do that. If you choose to add sensors such as a flow meter or master valve, you will have full control of your irrigation system including real-time water usage reports, weather data and excess usage alerts. The controllers can even determine how many days to shut down after a rainfall event and will turn on automatically before the landscape begins to show signs of stress.

Water districts such as El Toro, Moulton Niguel and Irvine Ranch have already implemented tiered-rate structures.  Depending on which water district’s website you visit, the new rate structure is designed to reward the customers with low water usage and penalize those whose water usage exceeds their monthly allocation. For most service accounts the customer is allocated irrigation water based on evapo-transpiration (a measurement calculated by relative humidity, solar radiation, rainfall and other factors) and the square feet of landscape irrigated by each water meter. If you are unsure of how your water bill is calculated or whether your property is billed based on an allocation, you can view your water bill or contact your water district. Overall, if you wish to reduce your water usage by up to 30% annually, “Smart” controllers can prove to be the best long-term solution. In addition, if you wish to have a “Smart” controller that can adjust its parameters per real-time weather data, but you choose not to run all capabilities, there are products designed specifically for your community. However, due to the complexity and endless capabilities of these “Smart” controllers, it is recommended you consult with a landscape professional to determine which controller type will be the most beneficial to the community.

This article was printed with permission from Park West Landscape.  To learn more, please visit their website at http://parkwestlandscape.com/.  This article was also published in the July/August 2012 issue of the OC View Magazine published by the Orange County Chapter of the Community Associations Institute.  Visit their website at www.caioc.org.

 

 

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How To Stay Pest Free This Summer

Guest post by “Termite” Terry Singleton

We are in the midst of summer and many homeowners are having problems with pests of all types. Insects and rodents can do a great deal of damage to a home and its contents. They can also be serious vectors of disease.

No one wants to live in a home that is infested with these pests. But, here’s the big question;

How can these pests be controlled without compromising the safety of your family?

This may surprise you, but there are many ways in which you can control many of these pests without using pesticides. And, if you’re the type of person who likes doing your own work around the house, you’ll find that a lot of these items can be taken care of easily and at little or no costs to you. Here are ten tips to help keep your home pest free this summer:

1. Start by controlling moisture because water is like a magnet for insect and rodent problems. Check for plumbing leaks, roof leaks, leaky rain gutters, etc. Take a look at the ground around your home and make sure that you aren’t overwatering your lawn and plants. Check your sprinkler system and adjust it if needed. Insects and rodents need a lot of water so your home needs to stay as dry as possible.

2. Keep all plants and trees cut back away from your home. Trees need to be cut back at least 4 feet away from your home and none of the tree branches should be left hanging over your roof. This one simple step can really discourage pests from entering your home and can make a huge difference!

3. Remove plants that attract insects and rodents because of their fruit. You may also want to remove other plants that harbor honey-dew producing insects (e.g. fig trees, cherry laurel, bamboo, oleander).

4. Clean up leaf piles and debris from around your home.

5. Keep firewood off the ground and store it away from your home. Be sure to check it for pests before bringing it inside your home.

6. Seal up cracks and holes in your home’s exterior walls. This will eliminate harborage for many pests and help keep them out of your home. Installing weather stripping around doors is a good way to help keep pests out, too.

7. Check the screens on your doors and windows. Well maintained screens are really great for keeping out insects of all types. Look at the screens on your attic, garage and subarea vents, too. These vent screens are especially important for keeping birds, rodents and small animals out of your home.

8. Guard against pest invaders by checking incoming materials for “hitchhiking” bugs. A lot of pests can be brought in with luggage, laundry and groceries. Take a close look before you bring any flowers or plants into your home because you’ll often find insects living in them.

9. Ensure good ventilation in attics, garages and subareas. This will help to reduce many of your insect problems. This will also help to keep these areas dry and reduce mold and mildew problems.

10. Keep food and garbage in tightly fitting containers. This is especially important to do at night because that is when many pests are most active.

Start with these ten steps first. If you still need to use a pest control product, you’ll usually find that you won’t need very much. In fact, you may even be shocked when you see how little pesticide is needed!

Article reprinted with permission from Termite Terry Pest Control, Inc. For more information on pest control services visit their website at www.termiteterry.com or call (949) 631-7348.

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Is Your Roof Warranty too Good to be True?

Guest post by Mari Fontaine Binder, Fontaine Weatherproofing, Inc.

Roofing Warranties can be complicated, confusing, and downright tricky at times, but understanding your warranty doesn’t have to be so difficult. The extra protection a roof warranty offers is quite valuable, but will be meaningless if the warranty is voided. So, it is important that you carefully read the limitations and restrictive provisions in your warranty. Also, don’t forget that there are different types of warranties that provide different types of guarantees. Confusing types of warranties can often lead to misconceptions about the protection your warranty is offering.

There are two main types of warranties: Labor and Material.

A labor warranty guarantees the specific work performed by the installer for a period of time.

A material warranty is provided by the manufacturer and guarantees the product for a period of time.

A No Dollar Limit (NDL) warranty covers any cost necessary to fix the roof. These warranties can be purchased from the manufacturer (not the installer). The manufacturer will make sure that the roof meets their specifications before providing the NDL, and they only work with reputable installers. Although these warranties can be pricey they provide a better guarantee.

When looking at warranties, ask yourself these important questions:

  • If the company doesn’t exist who will honor the warranty? A warranty will not be backed if a company goes out of business or a product used is discontinued. The stability, reputation, and reliability of a company should be a major factor when looking at a warranty.
  • Is it too good to be true? Some companies give highly inflated warranties, but won’t always back them.
  • What are the limitations? It is standard that a warranty should have limitations. Commonly a warranty will not cover natural disasters like fires. Also, damage caused by other vendors such as satellite installation is not covered. Basically the warranty protects the client from a bad installation. If the warranty requires that the roof receives preventive maintenance—which is pretty standard—don’t forget to do your roof maintenance!

Read the terms of your roof warranty very carefully. It is important to remember that a warranty provides extra security, but this extra protection is meaningless if the warranty voided or not honored.

This article was printed with permission from Fontaine Weatherproofing.  To learn more, please visit their website at www.fontaineweatherproofing.com  

 

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Replanting Slopes

Many businesses and associations throughout Orange County have slopes around or in their property. These areas can be problematic for both Landscapers and Property Managers. These slopes are usually very boring to look at and require quite a bit of water to keep all the plant material alive. Slopes are hard to water effectively simply because the water wants to run down to the bottom of the hill without percolating into the soil. This can leave the plants at the top without enough water and the plants at the bottom with too much. Adjustments in the irrigation system will help correct this issue, but there are also plant alternatives that require very little to no water, have long life spans, and will help reduce erosion.

Here is a small selection of plant material that you can consider adding on your slopes…

Rosemary-This plant can be very fragrant and blooms with small blue flowers. There are a few different varieties that will provide you with different growth habits for your site’s needs.

Manzanita-These plants come in a wide variety of sizes from trees to low growing ground cover. Manzanita is known for its dark red branches and green leaves. This is a California native plant and will grow very well with little to no additional water once established.

Ceanothus-This hardy plant has dark glossy green leaves with dark blue blossoms. This plant is ideally suited for slopes and requires only minimal water once established.

Island Snapdragon-This shrub has small light green leaves with bright red flowers from spring till fall. They can be grown in the shade, although they prefer to have some sunlight. Again, this plant will only need occasional watering once established.

All of these plants will provide you with color during their blooming period and are drought tolerant which will allow you to reduce the amount of water required on your slopes.
Reprinted with permission from Vista Del Verde Landscape, Inc. For more information about water management and drought tolerant plant material selection you may visit their website at http://www.vdvlandscape.com or call (949) 713-5800.

 

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Does Your Association Have to Install Pool Lifts?

 Guest Post by David A. Kline of Fiore, Racobs & Powers, A PLC

 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires places of public accommodation to remove architectural barriers to improve access for people with disabilities.  The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design require the installation of pool lifts by March 15, 2012.

Not surprisingly, many companies that install pool lifts have been citing this requirement to convince homeowners associations to comply with the ADA.  This may not be necessary.

Generally, common area recreational facilities, including pools and pool areas, are residential amenities that are available for the exclusive use by owners and their invited guests. These common area facilities are not open to the general public.  Accordingly, the ADA does not apply to most homeowners associations, because their facilities are not considered “places of public accommodation.”  However, if an association opens its facilities to members of the general public, or operates like a hotel, it may wish to seek legal advice about the applicability of the ADA.

Associations are subject, however, to other State and Federal laws which prohibit discrimination based upon disabilities.  So, if a resident with a disability requests the association allow installation of a pool lift or requests other types of accommodations/modifications based upon a disability, the association should seek legal advice, because the Fair Housing Amendments Act may require a reasonable modification to the common area or other portions of the project. Such requested accommodations and modifications would be paid for by the resident, not the association.

This article was reprinted with permission from Fiore, Racobs & Powers.  To learn more, visit their website at fiorelaw.com 

Article update March 16, 2012: For those Association’s that are considered “public” for the reasons stated above, the Department of Justice has issued a 60-day stay to comply.  Read this article to learn more http://p.washingtontimes.com/blog/inside-politics/2012/mar/15/pool-mageddon-avoided-now/.

 

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Keeping Your Pool Ducky

Pests come in all shapes and sizes. One common visitor at this time of year can descend on the surface of your association’s pool like well, like a duck landing on water. They are in fact ducks. On the surface, you might think that hosting these feathered friends could be fun. However, it isn’t. Duck droppings in your pool, around your golf course and ponds are a health hazard. Duck doo can transmit bacteria-borne diseases to adults and children alike. They can also be aggressive, and chase and bite small dogs and children.

In addition, ducks have memories like elephants. Once they choose your pool as a stopping point along their migration route, they tend to come back to the same spot every year—unless you make their visit unhappy and downright scary for them. And pool professionals agree on this one—do NOT feed them. Our web-footed friends will look for food from your association for years to come.

Why do ducks choose your pool out of the blue to have a swim? David Hoffer, General Manager of Aquatrends Commercial Pool Services, said, “When ducks land in your pool, they’re looking for a nesting place. And when they nest, you get ducklings.” While it’s against the law to molest ducks, it is not against the law to wave your arms in public, said Hoffer. That can scare them off if done consistently. However, Hoffer recommends using professionals such as Aquatrends to prevent ducks from staying in your pool. “We use a chemical that is safe for both the ducks and humans. It reduces the surface tension of water so that the water passes through duck feathers and to their skin. Ducks hate that and they leave.”

The chemical should be administered by pool professionals such as Aquatrends so that the right mixture is attained. Aquatrends can be reached through their website at www.acquatrendspools.com or by calling 714- 639-7330.  Aquatrends is one of Orange Country’s largest commercial pool service companies.

Does your association need to pay them in cash? No, they can put it on a bill. That quacks me up.

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