Creating a Fair Living Space for Residents with Disabilities

Most HOAs want to do the right thing, and that includes creating a fair living space for disabled residents. What this means is that the environment allows people with disabilities to have reasonable accommodations so they can get around and enjoy their homes and community amenities. But even with the best of intentions, creating a fair living space in a California HOA can be complicated.

How well do you understand the relevant laws? Some anti-discrimination laws apply to HOAs; others do not. And some only apply under certain circumstances. For example, you would be correct in believing that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not apply to your HOA—most of the time. But it does apply if you allow the public to use any of your facilities, such as the pool, community room, or baseball field.

Adding to the complexities of the federal landscape are California’s own anti-discrimination laws (all of which apply to HOAs):

Beyond doing the bare minimum to comply with state and federal laws, your association may also want to provide additional features to enhance the lifestyle of disabled residents. These features can demonstrate to current homeowners and future buyers that your HOA is sensitive to the needs of disabled people.

If you are thinking about adding features to create a fair living space for disabled homeowners, here are some helpful tips.

Familiarize yourself with the law.
It’s important to understand how the law defines “reasonable accommodations,” what qualifies as “unreasonable,” and who is required to pay for any related costs. A fair living space for one person may differ from what it is for someone else. Perhaps a wheelchair-bound resident needs a ramp, or a resident on disability needs their HOA payment schedule to coincide with when they receive disability checks. But if an accommodation goes against your HOA’s aesthetic standards or creates an unwelcoming environment for most of the other residents, you may not necessarily have to heed the request. It’s a good idea to consult with your HOA attorney and your community manager (if you have one) before deciding how to proceed.

Consider how others may benefit from one resident’s accommodations.
Even if only one person requests an accommodation, it may turn out to be helpful to others. Statistics indicate that approximately 18 percent of Americans have some kind of disability. This number goes up to 72 percent for people 80 years old and above. That’s a significant portion of the population! Accommodations you make for one person may turn out to be helpful to other current or future residents.

Put yourself in others’ shoes.
Many of us take our physical capabilities and mobility for granted. Think about how you might improve the community for residents with physical disabilities like mobility issues, upper body limitations, or speech impediments. And don’t forget that some disabilities may be less obvious. Back or joint problems, as well as chronic pain, are not always evident. Neither are brain injuries, psychiatric issues, or cognitive limitations. Also consider the needs of visually or hearing impaired residents. You may not be able to address every condition, but talk to your community management company, as well as your HOA attorney, to determine if there are ways you might be able to make your community safer and more enjoyable for disabled residents.

Be aware of the unintentional ways that discrimination can happen.
Your attorney can help your board and your community understand how they may unwittingly discriminate and how to spot legal issues with regard to creating a fair living space. For example, promotional materials should not target specific groups to the exclusion of others. Language such as “an over-18 community” or “perfect for young families” can get your HOA into trouble. You also should not “steer” prospective buyers to a particular area of the property. One mistake that is sometimes made is failing to show a disabled person some of the outdoor amenities.

Make activities accessible.
Besides accommodating disabled residents throughout your common areas, remember to be inclusive when it comes to your activities and events. Will those with disabilities be able to participate? Plan ahead, and speak to your community management company when putting together your events calendar.

Your board of directors may want to spend some time discussing other ways you can create a fair living space. For more information, check out these resources: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and California Legal Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

To learn how your community management company can help, contact FirstService Residential, California’s leading community management company.


by cwhitfield –

The Governor has release an updated version of his proposed budget originally submitted to the Legislature in December.  Known as the “May Revise,” the budget plan for 2017–18 exhibits restraint on new spending with a warning from the Governor that the economic recovery won’t last and uncertainty in Washington adds to unpredictability in California’s budget outlook.

According to the Governor’s news release, the state’s Rainy Day Fund will end the 2017–18 fiscal year with a balance of $8.5 billion, 66% of the constitutional target of 10% of tax revenues.

By the time the budget is enacted in June, the release points out, the California economy will have completed its eighth year of expansion, two years less than the longest recovery since World War II.

Here are some of the Budget Highlights:

• More Funding for Schools: Due to the slightly improved fiscal outlook, the May budget increases funding for K–12 schools by about $4,058 per student over 2011–12 levels.

 • Reducing Pension Liabilities: The Governor proposes a $6 billion supplemental payment to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) with funds borrowed from the Surplus Money Investment Fund, part of the state’s short-term savings account. The payment is estimated to save the state $11 billion over the next two decades while continuing to reduce unfunded liabilities and stabilizing state contribution rates.

 • Transportation System Funding: The May revise reflects the first $2.8 billion in new funding from the $54 billion transportation package adopted earlier this spring, plus enhanced oversight of the California Department of Transportation.

 • Restored Child Care Funding: Instead of the one-year delay in providing rate increases to child care providers as proposed in January, the May revise proposes restoring the funding and maintaining the $500 million child care package from the 2016 budget.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) reported its estimates of state General Fund revenues and transfers are just slightly above the administration’s – close to $900 million over three fiscal years.

The difference, the LAO said, is due to its higher estimates of personal income tax and sales-and-use tax revenues, offset by lower estimates of corporation tax revenue.

The LAO said the Governor’s proposal for the additional CalPERS payment is a “very new idea” that “has promise,” but suggested the Legislature wait to finalize the plan until later in the legislative session to allow time to make sure the plan works and fully maximizes its potential benefit for the state.

The changes are currently being reviewed by the Legislative Budget Committees.  Click here for full information on the Proposal.

Huge Landslide in Big Sur Poses New Challenge for Reopening Highway 1

A screen grab from a Monterey County Sheriff’s Office video showing the extent of a massive landslide near the Big Sur community of Gorda. (Monterey County Sheriff’s Office via Facebook)

A Big Sur mountainside that had been on the move for most of the winter gave way over the weekend in a landslide that locals say is the biggest along the scenic stretch of coast in decades.

The slide occurred at Mud Creek, just south of the community of Gorda and 25 miles up Highway 1 from San Simeon. The episode is the latest in a series of highway-closing slope collapses triggered by the extraordinarily wet winter along the coast.

Before this weekend, the most disruptive of those incidents involved a mudslide that knocked out a bridge just south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and just north of Big Sur Station.

Caltrans says a new bridge will be in place by the end of September.

The area near Mud Creek, the scene of Saturday evening’s massive new landslide, had been troublesome for month. Several different active slides had forced occasional road closures starting in January.

The highway agency says the Saturday slide buried a 1,500-foot section of Highway 1 under 35 to 40 feet of rocks and dirt. The estimated amount of material covering the road: 1 million tons.

Caltrans says that right now, it has no idea how long it will take to deal with the Mud Creek slide.

But the Monterey Herald’s Tommy Wright got some local perspective on where the new slide ranks among famous Big Sur earth movements:

Kirk Gafill, president of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce and Nepenthe Restaurant’s owner and general manager, grew up in Big Sur. Gafill, 55, said the only landslide in the area he can remember that was as big as the one at Mud Creek was in 1983 just north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

“That location was closed for 14 months,” he said.

Both Gafill and [Caltrans spokeswoman Susana] Cruz said it would be conjecture to say how long Highway 1 will remain closed this time.

Gafill’s grandparents founded Nepenthe. He said it can be hard to compare the scale of the two events, but the Mud Creek slide was one of the largest in his lifetime along the Big Sur coast.

“If it’s not the biggest, it’s certainly right up there,” he said.

Cruz said the Mud Creek slide is the biggest she can remember since joining Caltrans in 2001. She said a slide near Mud Creek at Duck Pond during the El Niño winter of 1998 caused major damage.

The Mud Creek slide is not the only one currently causing trouble along the coastal highway. Further north, at a point called Paul’s Slide, a massive slide has shut the road repeatedly.

The big slides along Highway 1 have forced Caltrans contractors to stage convoys over twisting, narrow Nacimiento-Fergusson Road to get construction supplies and heavy equipment to the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge site.

Does Your HOA Board Have a Policy for Home Security Systems?

by HOA Manager –

Personal safety and privacy are two ideals everyone wants in a homeowners association community, but they can collide. Association policies made by the HOA board weigh both of these concerns, while also taking local and state laws into consideration.

Architectural Policy

Installing any home security system, including cameras, is considered an architectural alteration of the home’s exterior and therefore requires written approval from the homeowners association. In addition, the installation will only be approved after the neighbors’ right to privacy and quiet use and enjoyment of their property has been considered. An HOA board may also ask the association attorney to review your application.

Applications to Install

Applications to install a home security camera must include a plot plan showing the camera’s location in relation to neighboring structures, a property survey and specifications on the size, shape and angle of view of the camera. The HOA board may require a new application if there are any changes made to the initial application, such as altering the location, equipment or field of view of the camera.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Before deciding to install a home security system, think about why you want to monitor particular views.

  • What do I achieve by installing a home security camera?
  • Are the lighting conditions (night and day) good enough?
  • How much video do I want to store before the system records over itself?
  • Do I want to monitor cameras myself, access them via the Internet or keep a recording for investigative purposes?

If you chose to install a home security camera, the camera needs to be placed in the least intrusive or visible location, and it can only be focused on your property—never directed at windows of adjacent structures, neighboring or common property.

Many homeowners are going beyond motion-detecting lights and in-home security systems, and installing a home security camera for safety. However, an HOA board must balance member’s desires to feel secure and neighbor’s need for privacy.

Top 12 Tools Every Homeowner Needs

By  –


Top 12 Tools Every Homeowner Needs

Here’s What Every Homeowner Needs in Their Toolbox

If you’re planning on doing a DIY job (and what homeowner isn’t?) it’s important to have the right tools for the job.

Not sure how to stock your own toolbox? Here are 12 DIY tools that every homeowner needs.

1. Philips Screwdriver

A Philips screwdriver is the one with an X-shape, and it’s a tool every homeowner should have.

2. Flathead Screwdrivers

Yes, you read that correctly — every toolbox needs a few flathead screwdrivers. You’ll want at least three different size flathead, or straight, screwdrivers. Small, medium and large will be good to start, though you may want additional sizes down the line.

If you want to avoid a mess of different screwdrivers, opt for a handle that works with interchangeable tips.

3. Allen Key

You aren’t done with screwdriver-type tools yet. Some projects require a tool with hexagonal sockets, such as “some assembly required” furniture pieces (we’re looking at you, Ikea.)

That made-to-assemble furniture often comes with an allen key (aka an allen wrench), but you might want your own for other projects, like bike repairs. Grab a jackknife-style, all-in-one tool with multiple sizes for maximum efficiency.

4. Locking Pliers

Whether you’re wiring something or tightening and loosening pipes, a solid set of locking pliers is a must-have.

You might even want to pick up two sets: needle-nose and adjustable groove-joint pliers that can be used for a variety of different projects.

5. Adjustable Wrenches

Purchase some adjustable wrenches in different sizes so that you can work with hexagonal nuts and bolts (not to be confused with hex sockets, which is what your allen keys are for.)

6. Hammer

Heavy hardcover books can do in a pinch, but when you need to hammer a nail, you’ll probably prefer a trusty hammer. Head to your local hardware store to test different sized hammers out, because it’s important that you find one that feels good in your own hand.

An all-purpose hammer that can handle a variety of tasks is a great start. But, if your hammer of choice is on the smaller side and you only use it for simple tasks like hanging pictures, you may want to pick up something more substantial for bigger DIY projects.

7. Level

When you’re using your hammer to hang those family photos you also want those photos to be level. When you’re testing out hammers be sure to pick up a level for your toolbox.

8. Measuring Tape

You’ll use your measuring tape more often than expected. The next time you head to Ikea to purchase that frustratingly difficult to assemble furniture, you’ll be glad you pre-measured your living room.

9. Utility Knife

Whether you’re opening a box or cutting carpet, a quality utility knife is absolutely necessary in any homeowner’s toolbox.

10. Power Drill and Drill Bits

Now it’s time for the power tools, and a drill is the first one you should purchase. This is one tool you shouldn’t skimp on, because a high-powered model will make easy work of many common DIY jobs. You’ll also want a robust set of drill bits so that you can handle any project that comes your way.

Some homeowners prefer cordless drills, and others hate remembering to charge yet another device. The type that you choose is completely dependent on your own preference.

11. Electrical Cord

An indoor-outdoor power cord will get more use than you ever imagined. Purchase a well-insulated cord that can handle high-amp tools.

12. Tool Box

You’re going to need a place to store all of your new tools, so don’t forget the tool box. Unless you want your tools scattered throughout random drawers and other corners of your house, that is.

Before you get some DIY projects under your belt, think about protecting your home and its appliances with an affordable Home Warranty Service Agreement. Visit to find out how a Service Agreement can protect you from financial surprises at home.

How to Become a Proactive Property Manager (& Fix Issues BEFORE They Arise!)

by  –

If you don’t think managing rental property is a tough job, you probably haven’t been doing it long enough. Most seasoned buy and hold investors have a generous handful of interesting, provocative, and absolutely absurd stories about their properties and their tenants. The fact is, when you are dealing with people, you are bound to come across situations and scenarios that are impossible to predict. That being said, your success as a buy and hold investor is dependent upon your ability to remain agile. You must prepare your business for the potentially outlandish, yet almost inevitable, worst case scenario.

It may seem like a small thing, but having a solid rental application is the first step in finding great tenants. Since BiggerPockets is all about helping you succeed in real estate investing, we’ve put together a complimentary Rental Application for you to use. Download it today and go find some great tenants!

Click Here For Your Free Rental Application

Stay on Your Toes

There are two distinct categories of property managers: proactive and reactive. Unfortunately, the vast majority of investors fall into the “reactive” category. This means that they are simply waiting for something to happen before deciding how to act. On the contrary, the proactive property manager has a plan. This is the manager who has a playbook for how to react when things go wrong. This is also the manager who takes the initiative to recognize problems that are brewing and acts to fix things before they actually break.
Being a proactive real estate investor is the same as being “on your toes” in a sport. For those with experience in organized team sports, you know you never want to be “caught flat footed” on the  field. Instead, you were always instructed to “stay on your toes.” This simply means being ready for and anticipating the next move of your opponent. The “flat footed” athlete is slow to react and is often beaten by an unforeseen maneuver.
We need to be on our toes in business as well. In the world of buy & hold real estate investing, our job is to prepare for what can and will go wrong with our properties.
So what does it mean to “stay on your toes” in real estate?

Related: The 5 Levels of Property Management Expertise

Investors should anticipate the common issues that arise with our properties and our tenants. There are several common and likely scenarios that are relatively easy to predict. There are also those more obscure situations where we tell ourselves, “That will never happen to me.” Even for the low probability crisis, documenting your business processes is the first and most crucial step in preparing your business to handle adversity.

Build Your Playbook

In a previous post, I introduced the concept of creating a business process framework. Your business process framework can also be viewed as your business  playbook. It should provide instruction for how your business prepares for and responds to various situations.
I like to break each of my business processes down into these four main attributes:
  1. Trigger
  2. Accountable person
  3. Appropriate action
  4. Tools
The majority of the time, your business works on relatively mundane and predictable problems. For example, consider the instance where a tenant decides not to renew a lease for the upcoming year. Here is what this scenario would look like in my business process framework:
Trigger Accountable Person Appropriate Action(s) Tools
Tenant notification that she will not renew lease
Property manager: Tenants & Leasing
1. Market vacant unit Podio/ Craigslist
2. Manage rental inquiries and show unit Podio/ Google Voice
3. Fill vacant unit and sign lease Podio/ Right Signature
4. Coordinate tenant move out Podio/ Email
5. Coordinate tenant move in Podio/ Email
Even if a process is rather intuitive, there is still a huge benefit to having it well documented and readily available to your team. Documenting and executing your business protocol inspires a consistent level of service across your organization. This practice becomes even more useful when we consider the potential of bigger and more serious problems.
Dealing with maintenance requests is an area in which most investors are decidedly “reactive.” Maintenance requests come in all shapes in sizes, but you should follow the same process no matter how serious the issue.
Do you have a consistent process documented for dealing with maintenance requests?
Ask yourself or your property manager the following questions:
  • How do your tenants notify you? Do they call/text you? Do they email? Do they fill out an online form?
  • Who is responsible for fixing the problem?
  • How do you ask for/receive permission to schedule work?
  • What is a typical/acceptable response time?
  • How do you notify the tenant that the problem is fixed?
Most landlords just wait for problems to happen and figure it out on the fly. This strategy can actually work quite fine for a while. The problem arises as you begin to scale your business. More units mean a higher probability and frequency of maintenance issues. If your processes are not clearly defined, you’ll find yourself getting behind while your properties slowly deteriorate.
I always advise investors to act as if they are preparing to franchise their business. You would want to ensure that your franchisees follow standard policies and procedures to maintain consistency across the organization. The only way to ensure this consistency is to have your business processes thoroughly documented.

Related: The Dirty Truth About Property Management Only Experience Will Teach You

Preventative Maintenance

My experience as a supply chain consultant has given me a glimpse into the fascinating world of manufacturing. While analyzing the operations of major production facilities, there was always a clear distinction between leading organizations and those falling behind: The manufacturers that focused on preventative maintenance were far more efficient than those that simply waited for things to break. These companies instilled an environment of proactive thinking to anticipate problems and take action to optimize production uptime.
Being a proactive investor means anticipating problems and taking steps to mitigate risks before they transform into crisis. As property managers, we can take steps to understand the overall health of our properties and the relationship with our tenants. This helps us to understand where our resources are best allocated to ensure we have a solid defense against adversity.
Nothing prepares your business like data. Historical data is an amazing predictor of what can and will go wrong in the future. I recommend having a system to record key information related to all work done on your properties, as well as key communication with your tenants.
For example, our business tracks the following information for every maintenance request that comes into our office:
  • Date of request
  • Tenant/unit making request (also have a category for “management request” — this means that the tenant didn’t call us, but we noticed something was wrong)
  • Urgency (minor, intermediate, urgent)
  • Reference images
  • Target completion
  • Actual completion
  • Explanation of resolution
  • Vendor(s) contracted to fix
  • Additional notes and files

This allows us to keep records on the overall health of our units. If we notice that we’ve had four maintenance requests related to a furnace in one of our units, we can prepare ourselves for the inevitability that we will need to replace the entire furnace within a short period of time. This data becomes even more crucial as you scale your business and take on additional units.

Our business uses Podio to receive and track maintenance requests. But your system doesn’t need to be fancy! Your database can be as simple as a spreadsheet. Your business will be prepared to scale as long as you track and act on historical information.

No matter what stage your business is in, it’s essential to build the habits of a proactive investor. As your portfolio grows, you’ll be able to adapt to the growing list of potential problems and crises. Even if you are not looking to scale, you’ll certainly sleep better at night knowing that you have the systems and processes in place to tackle any adversity that comes your way.

HOA wins $13.5M in arbitration against DR Horton 


This is a construction and design defect case that boggles the mind.

A D.R. Horton subsidiary homebuilder in Colorado constructed a 1200 home subdivision roughly one decade ago. Apparently, the homes were built on land with a high water table, so home designs included sump pumps and a drainage system designed to carry ground water away from basement foundations. According to the news release below, excess groundwater from the sump pits was supposed to be carried out to the streets, where it would then follow stormwater flow paths out of the community.

But when the underdrain system was constructed, drain clean outs were covered over by asphalt roads, hidden from view. The HOA, of course, had no idea that the clean outs existed, and that it was their responsibility to regularly maintain them to prevent clogs and malfunction of the system. In 2014, the HOA discovered the problem when a homeowner reported voluminous amounts of water flowing into her basement from her sump pit.

How in the world did this plan ever get approved by the local building code inspector? Who, if anyone, was responsible for signing off on construction and issuing certificates of occupancy?

What was the homebuilder thinking? How were the homeowners supposed to know there should be vertical clean out points on a drainage system they did not even know about?

Of course, the HOA had to retain attorneys when D.R. Horton failed to take responsibility for the problem. The case recently went to Arbitration, where the HOA was awarded more than $13.5 million to redesign and rebuild the system.



Benson, Kerrane, Storz & Nelson receives $13,572,000 Arbitration Award Against National Homebuilder D.R. Horton for Faulty Underdrain

AURORA, Colo., April 26, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A single-family home HOA has received a final arbitration award of $13,572,000 against a subsidiary of Texas-based homebuilder D.R. Horton related to improper design and construction of the community’s underdrain system. The HOA’s attorneys, Benson, Kerrane, Storz & Nelson (“BKSN”), of Golden, Colorado, believe this it to be one of the largest residential construction defect arbitration awards in the state’s history.

In 2014, a homeowner reported to the HOA that hundreds of gallons of water were coming up through her sump pit and flooding her basement. While investigating the damage, the HOA learned for the first time that the homes in the ten-year-old community were connected to an underground drainage system. This underdrain system was intended to collect groundwater from the foundations of the homes and carry the water under the streets and out of the community, but was failing due to improper design, construction and lack of maintenance.

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