Condo, Strata and HOA News

Tag Archives: saftey

Criminals Treat Condo as Giant Living Piggybank, Owners Attempting To Respond

The Estates at Westbury, Bluffton, South Carolina has a couple of issues. The first is crime, and the second appears to be a failure of the management company to respond.

The 300 unit complex is riddled with crime and negligent owners and tenants. And I get the feeling that criminals are treating the site as a giant piggy bank. Two (news, news) units have recently been home invaded by armed group of men – both times forcing the owners to lay face down while they rifle through the home for valuables.

Less heinous, one resident describes the building on goings as:

the Estate could be a beautiful and serene place to live, there are a number of facts that make this a less than desirable home. With a number of armed robberies, muggings, residents who are permitted to move in and hold drunken parties until the middle of the night, fist fights breaking out at said drunken parties, carloads of people coming in to the community who do not belong here, people driving at undesirable speeds through the community that are a threat to the children playing here, drug dealings going on that are known to both the Association Manager and to the maintenance team, and music so loud that it shakes entire buildings – the lifestyle and feeling of “home” at the Estate is in sharp decline

It is so bad that one elderly couple fear even their walk to collect mail.

Ouch. That means it’s time for the management to step up.

To their credit, it appears the management is improving lighting and putting in brontosaurus in size speed bumps to limit vehicle speed. Where they fall down is communicating with the owners, and supporting their actions.

Most importantly, when it comes to supporting a proven method to reduce crime in an area – creating a neighborhood watch – the management has been resistant to at each step. The residents put up over 500 flyers to communicate with the community, the management tore them all down. Owners and tenants try to engage the Association Manager; she has banned tenants from her office because they are not owners. Tenant Jennie Krogulski has gathered about 30 tenants and owners volunteers to start a watch; and the final message from the manager – the residents are not allowed to set up a Neighbourhood Watch.

I  would counter with the following: if serious injury occurs to any member of the community – which a reasonable person would deem a neighbourhood watch would have helped prevent – I would go after the resident manager. I would hold her responsible.

Neighbourhood Watch programs have existed for a long time and are supported by the police department. Volunteers receive training and support. Issues of liability have all been resolved over the 50 years the program has been in place. USAonWatch even has a copy of the Neighbourhood Watch Manual free for download.

A Neighbourhood Watch program for a complex with these issues is reasonable, accessible, and empowering for the residents. It is a great and awesome program to support, and should be seen as a progressive action to combat the real and tangible threat of harm and danger these residents have.

For up to date information, the active residents have a Facebook page for the complex that can be seen here.

Half Floor Residential Units Designed To Withstand Floods, Electromagnetic Pulses, and Indirect Nuclear Strikes For $2 Million and Up

For those that have that inside knowledge that the world will end in nuclear strife, people are building the perfect home for you. In the prairie fields of the US Midwest there are many missile silos now being converted into the most hardened condo you could ever live in.

20th Century Castles, LLC, Vivos Group, Survival Condo Project, Hardened Structures all are vying for your hard earned dollars to build you reinforced structures.

See this article for a highly comprehensive look at all the options available, and a great run down on the history of old silo conversions.

HOA Literally Does a Crappy Job Whitewashing Hate in Their Neighbourhood

In Parker Colorado partners Aimee Whitchurch and Christel Conklin get to receive free community presents. One day it is “Kill The Gay” painted across their garage door, and another it is a noose laid at their front door.

Most HOA have rules about the appearance of garage doors. So when the HOA came over and painted (I use “painted” very loosely here) over the words in white paint (link to news video showing crappy whitewashing), where the garage door is otherwise brown, and obviously paid no attention to the work (there’s paint splatter all over the driveway, and the coverage is a mess) – it’s the little detail that says “this HOA are a bunch of shits”.

The HOA has a responsibility to make everyone’s lives safe, secure, and supportive. When a unit is targeted by hate (it is hate, plain and simple) – the board should be the first out there to offer whatever they can, and they should step up to the plate. The message should always be tolerance as an HOA is a communal living agreement, with many people, of all walks of life. If you fail to give up on one, you give up on all.

As a bonus gift, they are under constant surveillance from a neighbour who continually keeps a video camera pointed to their house! With such supportive neighbours who are so worried about the two women’s home and health, it should only me a matter of time before the footage is turned over and the culprits captured.

Little Sympathy for Residence Fighting Development for Mentally Challenged Homeless

As a start, I have a condo that is 2 block from a stroll for prostitutes, 4 blocks (the other way) to a homeless shelter, and there’s a long term facility for homeless going up as well within that distance. And I’m ok with that.

Hang with me then, when I indicate little patience for residence who fight the inclusion of a shelter for mentally challenged homeless in their community – and let’s be clear – Astoria, New York, is a large community. Even in Council Member Peter Vallone Jr. challenge to the development he indicates that there are at least 8350 residence within one block. The shelter will house 50. That’s a .006% population increase. It’s nothing.

Having .006% of your population requiring special needs because of being mentally challenged should be considered part of your civic and community based care and support network. It should be something the community says “we live in our community, and every day our community supports and assists people a little less fortunate”. Civic pride, not civic shame.

HOA President Has Bomb Set Off In Mailbox

I often start a course for new board members with “it’s often a thankless job to be on a board, but it can be very rewarding”.

One of those rewards is not, not, a bomb.

Gerard Esposito – the Pinellas County, Tampa Bay Florida, Home Owner Association President had his mailbox filled with a bomb and exploded. Thankfully nobody was hurt. The cause is assumed to be related to a program by the HOA to bring illegal mailboxes into compliance.

Video can be found here.

Banning People with Criminal Records from Condominium Residence

I recently wrote that US Home Owner Associations wield an inordinate and improper amount of ability to pry into the private life of purchasers. Potential purchasers providing inch think stacks of documents to boards, just for the right to purchase a property, seems to becoming (sadly) the norm.

There is a wedge issue would that, if supported, allow Canadian condominium boards the same sort of access to purchaser (and ongoing access to owners) personal information – that condominiums can ban residency and board participation based on a criminal record. Being able to ban on a criminal record would allow boards to start intruding on personal privacy in order to enforce the ban.

Denise Lash of Heenan Blaikie closes in a recent article that –

It is time for condominium corporations to look at taking more extreme measures to ensure that the safety and security of residents is not compromised and put into place restrictions in condominium documentation.  Of course, the documentation will have to be carefully drafted to avoid any potential argument as to its enforceability.

This is a direct call to bring rights of intrusion to privacy into the hands of a board. We all have stories of our boards  with the  powers they currently have abusing privacy, position and status already. Adding additional fodder – and more significantly – responsibilities that are more prone to court challenges and civil suits is a recipe for disaster.

Most importantly, Ms. Lash takes singles out condominiums to go after because they offer an additional level of legislation and rules – the corporation bylaws – as a wedge to invade privacy. At a condominium’s heart is that it is housing. We wouldn’t be able to argue that a community association (single detached housing) could deny the right to residence in their community based on a criminal record – but we do for condominium only because there are additional levels of rules around the management of the shared or common property.

That’s what “extreme” and “carefully drafted to avoid any potential argument as to its enforceability” is all about – it’s the caution that what she suggests is a strong warping of the intention and scope of condominium legislation. I would say she suggests a perversion of condominium legislation and pushes in into a realm of social engineering.

Condominium Fires – Is it Safer Living in Single Detatched Housing

As I prepare for each blog posting, I inevitably come across stories of “man dies in condo fire” and “One dead in Tampa condominium fire.” It seems that every evening I’m learning of more fire related deaths in condominiums.

The US Fire Administration has some amazing numbers, and they provide good news and bad news in a recent report.

Multifamily residential dwellings (apartments, townhouse, row houses, condominiums and other tenement properties) are generally safer than one and two family dwellings when it comes to fire – with only 3.0 deaths/1000 fires compared to single/two family dwellings with 6.5 deaths/1000 fires.

The downside is, if the fire spreads (isn’t confirmed to its point of origin) multifamily deaths reach 9.6/1000 fires, with injuries reaching 82.0/1000 fires. That’s about 1.5 times as many deaths, and 3 times as many injuries.

It’s a complex report (please read it) – and it appears that multifamily dwellings are more prone to fires (being 27% of the reported fires), but this might be due to higher reporting. In multifamily dwellings there is generally a more active and monitored smoke and fire response system, often tied into the city fire system. The stove top fire (57.5 of all multifamily fires) may be reported more often because of neighbours experiencing smoke.  This reporting likely happens less frequently with single family dwellings.

The big issue to me is regarding non-confined fires. As soon as that fire leave the stove, the garbage room, the mechanical item breaking down, death per 1000 fires jumps from 0 (seriously, zero deaths with confined multifamily dwelling fires) to 9.6. It means if a fire gets going, it gets going bad.

For large multifamily dwellings it might seem inconvenient to run fire testing every year – gaining access to all units, running that annoying bell over and over for a day or two. But it’s really important to ensure rapid response of the fire department, and the evacuation of the residents, if that fire ever spreads from the kitchen, or the bbq, or wherever the originating source is.

Condo Pools and Hot Tubs Can Be Difficult To Maintain

One of the condominiums I have lived in (I was renting at the time) included an amazing pool that was underutilized. It always felt clean, maintained, and well kept.

After reading an article from the Toronto Sun about a condominium hot tub with 75 infractions in two years, and reading that it can sometimes take weeks for cryptosporidium to make one sick (a parasite that can survive in poorly treated pool water), I kind of go ugggh.

I do believe that a well maintained pool adds significant value to a condominium – not only in price of the units, but more importantly lifestyle and easy access to a great physical activity. If a pool is indoors, it is even better for inland and Prairie Provinces with harsher climates and little access to public beaches.

Especially for seniors housing, access to an onsite pool can do absolute wonders in maintaining and bettering the health of the owners – if the pool is used. While city run pools may be plentiful, transportation and mobility issues for seniors may make an at-home pool truly valuable to them.

Thankfully for pool and hot tub maintenance, most indoor facilities only exist in condominiums that can also afford a full time maintenance or janitorial person.  Having a person who’s dedicated to the building will allow easy, regular scheduling of water and pool equipment testing. It also allows for dedicated training or education programs to ensure your maintenance person is qualified to maintain the facilities.

If you live in a condominium with a pool, always feel free to request the most recent inspection report from the board. Don’t take any refusal to share the report for an answer. Your condominium fees go to support the pool, and you should always feel good about any issues that could impact your health.

The Problem with Conversion Neighbourhoods and New Residents

When we bought our first condo, the building came with an unofficial escort service on one of the corners of the building. If I’m being a little vague, what I mean to say, the building was at the corner of a popular hooker stroll.

We bought knowing what the situation is. The exiting companionship business (ok, less colloquialisms) was there before we bought into the condominium. The neighbourhood was on the cusp of redevelopment with 5 new high-rise condominiums going in within 2 blocks of our new home. We also benefited from the prostitutes – it was a very affordable unit near the downtown core and multiple public transit stops. It was a great buy for our first condo.

In Montreal, a similar neighbourhood is drawing attention. Known as the Gay Village, an onset of condominium buyers and young families is bringing forward a clash with the local homelessness and beggars established in the community.

I’m bugged by people who move into an existing neighbourhood and then demand changes for their lifestyle. They moved into an area with a known homeless situation, and now want them all deported from their new home. Relax. Take it easy for a couple years. There are two stories I want to tell you.

First off – there was a burglary in one of the commercial units in our condominium. The entered through the residence, made their way though the service hallway and raided a store. While making their escape they passed by several of the working ladies and departed. When the police showed up to investigate, the ladies provided details and descriptions of the culprits and their manner of escape. They proved to be a reliable set of witnesses to the crime.

Second – give the city a few years. With new development, especially higher density, new tax revenue will come through to the city. After giving the pre-existing inhabitants of the community time to realize that the community is changing (and they will, street revitalization with new shops and other revitalization events always follow high density redevelopment), you can approach city hall with a strong tax case for enhanced community initiative (including police) that will push out the pre-existing community. You just have to give it a few years, and don’t come into an existing community just to push your weight around.

Our first condo is now hooker free (not by far, they popular streets only migrated a few blocks), but they have moved. It happened relatively naturally and without the need for new residents to build conflict with the old.