Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Keeping Homeowners Informed, Part 2: Protecting Your ASSets

This is a follow-up to and expansion of a previous post, Keeping Homeowners Informed and Happy. Ensuring that homeowners are aware of developer decision-making and even developments in the actual planning process is not just an admirable goal for developers; in a time of economic recession, rising foreclosures, and mounting homeowner unease, it is a vital necessity. Developers concerned about lowering their risk and minimizing their liability in an environment of change and upheaval should communicate to homeowners not only regarding decisions involving the board of directors or homeowners directly, but also regarding planning and development decisions such as reducing density, the size of units, and price points. Although owners may have no direct say in any of these decisions, keeping them informed of the issues, considerations, options, and possible outcomes facing developers will go a long way toward enhancing developer-homeowner cooperation, building trust, and reducing developer exposure to unhappy residents in these uncertain times.

If you have any questions about how to keep homeowners in the loop on a regular basis, or how to navigate communications with homeowners generally, please contact us. As always, questions and comments are encouraged and greatly appreciated.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hyatt & Stubblefield and CSOs featured in Houston Business Journal

Today’s Houston Business Journal features an article by Teresa Talerico entitled Building Roots into the Master Plan. The article discusses the creation and success of community stewardship organizations, or CSOs at Telfair and Ladera Ranch, two communities in Sugar Land, Texas, and Orange County, California, respectively. Both of these communities were developed with the help of Hyatt & Stubblefield. As noted in the article, “these social and philanthropic nonprofit organizations complement traditional homeowners’ associations, or HOAs. While HOAs handle deed restrictions and other matters, CSOs can enhance quality of life for residents and foster a greater sense of neighborhood — both inside and outside the community.” If you have any questions about CSOs or would like information on how we can help you establish CSOs, or what CSOs can do, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’re more than glad to help.

Jo Anne Stubblefield is quoted in the article.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Renters Are Your Friends

Renters have long been perceived and treated, rightly or wrongly, as negative forces within a community. Because of anticipated problems relating to property maintenance and upkeep, the behavior of renters generally, and the negative impact of rentals on property values in the community, many communities have included provisions in their governing documents which limit or prohibit rentals in the community. The secondary mortgage market also has contributed to this perception of rentals by encouraging owner-occupied communities.

Given the current economic and housing downturn, it is appropriate for communities to rethink such strict restrictions on rentals. Permitting renters in a community may help financially, by allowing non-occupying owners to pay assessments. Also, people occupying units or homes in a community, whether as renters or owners, creates a vibrancy within the community that, ironically, may help stabilize or increase values. As such, while targeting the negative behavior associated with renters should remain a priority, loosening restrictions on rentals within the community may provide some short or long term assistance in distressed environments.

Now is the time for communities to analyze their governing documents and their practices to determine whether policies and provisions relating to renters are appropriate in this environment and to consider how to encourage responsible renting while continuing to discourage the negative behaviors associated with rentals. Please contact us to discuss this. We would be happy to help.

Keeping Homeowners Informed and Happy

During tough economic times, while it may prove necessary to reduce operating costs by, for example, limiting access to amenities or even shutting them down altogether, it is also imperative that the association keep homeowners informed throughout the decision-making process. Although excluding homeowners from decision-making may seem like the easiest, most conflict-free way to go, overlooking homeowner opinion may turn out to be the worst possible course of action, as angry homeowners may react very strongly and negatively to such lack of communication and involvement. Keeping owners informed is your best bet to limit conflict and your legal exposure in a weak economy. Who knows? As homeowners themselves retrench and tighten their own budgets, they may be able to come up with creative ideas and solutions to help the association survive the recession as well.