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robb baerIn the first quarter of 2010 we are met with two important issues; the economy and an increased focus from our legislators in Raleigh. Many of you are aware of the recently formed and active House Select Committee on Homeowners Associations. This committee has put forth that there are “still significant issues that need to be addressed concerning the protection and participation of homeowners in the governance of their homeowner associations, particularly as to assessments and record keeping of the associations” This committee will be conducting hearings and will be using the results of these meetings to craft new legislation on North Carolina communities. As President of the NC Chapter of CAI for 2010, I am honored to help lead our industry in productive dialog with the Committee.

The impact of the economy comes up in nearly every conversation I am involved in whether at work or socially. All of us know someone who has suffered financial losses and/or job cuts. Community associations can not avoid this reality. Members who cannot pay there fee or, Special Assessments and Foreclosures, and Bankruptcies are expected to be the norm when it comes to community finances.

Traditionally, there have been two types of delinquent homeowners; those who will not pay and those who cannot pay. Traditional methods must continue to be used to work with those who will not pay, but for those who cannot pay the Board needs to consider working with the member for the greater good of the community as a whole. If the Association is willing to work with those who cannot pay, make sure to create a plan that protects the Association and that homeowners are likely to keep. All payment plans should be in writing, and should clearly specify when money is due, how it will be allocated, and what causes termination of the agreement, so there will be no confusion of the outcome should the plan not be adhered to. A written policy on payment plans will help keep these plans consistent even as board members change. The Board should also track the plans effectiveness and whether adjustments are needed for future situations.

During this time, living together and/or owning property together harmoniously in a community can be a difficult task. The importance of paying assessments and complying with association rules cannot be stressed enough. Assessments and rules are developed and enforced so the Board can meet the accepted expectations of all the homeowners.

As community leaders how can anyone expect commitment to be built or maintained if there is a constant “us vs. them” atmosphere? To avoid creating division it is important to care and demonstrate mutual respect. Communication and education are critical elements and the best way to eliminate misunderstanding and uncertainty. Open communication and a willingness to work with those who are struggling is the best way to resolve issues before they become problematic to the individual and your community.

As CAI National has stated aptly; “We reap from our communities what we are willing to put into them, in terms of both quality of life and our financial investment.” In 2010, I believe it is essential to keep focused on the big picture as we collectively and individually adjust to a changing environment.

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