Thursday, April 26, 2007
Editors' Synopsis: Common interest communities ("CICs") include condominiums, gated communities, and cooperatives that are governed by contractually agreed-to covenants, conditions, and restrictions. This Article explains that First Amendment protections of free speech do not likely apply in CICs and expresses concern because of the growing number of Americans preferring CICs over alternative methods of housing. The author concludes that some sort free speech protection in CICs is needed and outlines several solutions to this problem, including a bill of rights in the neighborhood covenant. The Article will be particularly useful to those concerned about the future of speech protections offered under the First Amendment to the increasing number of Americans who choose to live in a CIC.
One out of eight Americans now lives in private common-interest communities ("CICs").1 Whether these communities take the form of condominiums, cooperatives, master planned communities, or gated communities, community residents are contractually bound by covenants, conditions, and restrictions ("CC&Rs") on the use of their property. Some of these CC&Rs even restrict First Amendment activities by prohibiting solicitation "imposfing] a ban on posting signs inside or outside a home,... restricting] public assembly on their streets, [and] prohibiting] the distribution of newspapers on their streets."2
These covenants affect CIC residents and non-residents alike. The First Amendment embraces the right of a speaker, and necessarily the right of a listener, to be exposed to the speaker's ideas.3 This right is undermined when, for example, a CIC denies access to a non-resident speaker or allows access to one political candidate or newspaper yet denies access to another.
The loss of speech rights is one of the most severe constitutional deprivations among free people, yet the courts have limited ability to protect private CIC residents and non-residents against it. Because a CIC is a private (not state) actor for federal constitutional purposes, its restrictions on speech are not proscribed by the First Amendment. The two existing tests of state action that would be most applicable to CICs, the "functional equivalent" test and the "judicial enforcement" test, have limited or no applicability to the CIC. In these changing times, where common-interest communities comprise the primary social arrangement for many Americans, the United States Supreme Court could re-envision its state action jurisprudence so that it is applicable to CICs. This is, however, unlikely. Moreover, while it is true that states may grant their residents greater individual protection under state constitutions than under the federal constitution, formerly expansive court interpretations of state speech rights recently have been curtailed.
The most direct solution lies with CICs themselves. CICs could provide a private bill of rights within their CC&Rs. If these private actors do not undertake to protect speech rights, state legislatures always have the power to extend these protections by statute. In the absence of legislative will, however, protection of freedom of speech requires resort to the courts. Courts could invalidate covenants restricting speech as unreasonable or as against public policy. Moreover, many courts have already recognized that even if CICs are not state actors, they function as "minigovernments" in the lives of their residents and neighboring communities. The power to govern is not absolute and unilateral; courts could demand that the consent of the privately governed comes only with a CIC's concomitant commitment to protecting its residents' basic constitutional rights.
This Article explores the problem of reviewing CIC restrictions on speech under current First Amendment jurisprudence and the possibility of private, legislative, and judicial solutions. Part II provides background information on the rise of CICs in the United States. Part III explores the various tests of state action created by the United States Supreme Court as well as free speech protections crafted by state courts. Further, it concludes that these tests and protections have limited or no applicability to CICs. Part IV recommends that CICs import a bill of rights into their CC&Rs; that legislatures pass statutory protections of speech within CICs; or that courts refuse to enforce covenants that are unreasonable as against public policy, or that do not respond to the needs of individuals within a quasi-governmental social arrangement. Part V concludes that CICs have gained such a foothold in American life that some protection of First Amendment rights within and around them is imperative.
A "common-interest community" is, according to the Restatement (Third) of Property: Servitudes ("the Restatement"):
[A] real-estate development or neighborhood in which individually owned lots or units are burdened by a servitude that imposes an obligation that cannot be avoided by nonuse or withdrawal.
Here's a Link to the rest of the article:
LookSmart's" FindArticles - COVENANTS, CONDITIONS, AND RESTRICTIONS . . . ON FREE SPEECH? FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS IN COMMON-INTEREST COMMUNITIES
Real Property, Probate and Trust Journal, Winter 2006, by Suarez, Adrienne Iwamoto
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Cooperative housing is housing owned by a cooperative corporation, usually a nonprofit corporation. In Minnesota, a cooperative corporation is formed under Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 308A. A housing cooperative is also a common interest community under the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act, Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 515B. In order to create the common interest community, a declaration must be filed when the construction is complete. A cooperative corporation typically is formed by a developer/sponsor, which will build the cooperative housing and sell the completed facility to the cooperative corporation. The developer/sponsor usually controls the board of directors until a certain percentage of the cooperative memberships have been sold (the statute caps that percentage at 75 percent).
The primary distinction between a housing cooperative and other forms of homeownership is that, in a housing cooperative, the owners do not own real estate. The real estate is owned by the cooperative corporation. Each member of the corporation owns a share in the corporation. Each membership share represents a unit of housing in the cooperative. Each membership entitles the member to an exclusive right to live in a specific unit (established through an occupancy agreement or proprietary lease) for as long as the member wishes. It sets forth the rights and obligations of the member and the cooperative to each other. Legally, it is viewed as a lease by the member with the housing cooperative.
Ownership of a share and the ability to occupy a unit may not be separated. Each unit carries with it the right to one vote in the business of the corporation. A cooperative operates for the benefit of its members on a not-for-profit basis in order to provide the goods and services members need at the lowest practical cost. Each month the members pay an amount that covers their share of the operating expenses of the cooperative corporation.
The interest on the financed portion of the price of a share is deductible by the member for federal income tax purposes and, in Minnesota, for state income tax purposes. Real estate taxes are also deductible. Other benefits include lower turnover rates, controlled maintenance costs, and resident participation and control.
A purchaser of a membership share in a housing cooperative is paying for a share of the cooperative housing corporation. The purchase price will vary depending on amenities, the location, the size of the unit, whether the cooperative limits resale prices, and whether the cooperative has an underlying mortgage for the entire property.
There are two common methods of financing in Minnesota. One is through an FHA-insured mortgage that is made to the cooperative corporation and secured by the real estate owned by the cooperative corporation. The other is through a construction loan from a conventional lender followed by individual loans to the purchasers of the shares in the cooperative corporation. The proceeds of these individual loans are used to pay off the construction loan.
Loans made to individual members to purchase shares in the cooperative corporation are commonly called share loans. A share loan is like a mortgage. It provides the member with borrowed funds to buy the share from the cooperative corporation. The member makes monthly payments on the share loan to the lender and monthly carrying charge (maintenance) payments to the cooperative corporation.
A loan made to a member of a cooperative is evidenced by a note payable to the lender. security for repayment of the share loan is a pledge of the share in the cooperative corporation. This share and its attendant rights are pledged by a security agreement. Instead of recording a mortgage, a UCC Financing Statement is filed with the secretary of State. The lender will also take possession of the stock or membership certificate evidencing the ownership of a share in the cooperative corporation. The occupancy agreement or proprietary lease (the contract between the cooperative corporation and the member that sets the conditions for the right to occupy a particular unit) is conditionally assigned to the lender as additional security for repayment of the share loan.
The lender will also sign a recognition agreement with the cooperative corporation. The recognition agreement is an understanding between a cooperative and the lender that provides share loans to the cooperative's members or shareholders. The recognition agreement outlines the responsibilities between the cooperative corporation and the lender and the courses of action that must be taken by each party if a shareholder/member defaults on the loan. It should also provide for notice to the lender of any default by the member under the occupancy agreement. In particular, it should require the corporation to notify the lender if the member misses a monthly maintenance payment.
If the member defaults in repayment of the share loan, the lender may enforce its rights under the collateral assignment of the occupancy agreement and under the uniform commercial code with respect to the share in the cooperative corporation. Both these actions must occur in order for the lender to sell the share and assign the occupancy agreement to a new member. This process is significantly quicker than foreclosure of a mortgage. Any purchaser of the share must meet the criteria in the cooperative documents (particularly the declaration, the occupancy agreement, and the bylaws) for membership in the cooperative corporation and occupancy of a unit. Written by:
SHERRILL R. OMAN
Bank & Finance Group
Monday, April 23, 2007
CAN YOUR ASSOCIATION AFFORD NEEDED CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS?
Townhome Association, Minnesota Townhouse Association
The decks are falling apart, the siding needs paint, and the roof is due to be replaced. Does your community association have enough in its reserve fund to pay for these necessary projects? Unfortunately, many associations do not have adequate reserve funds for capital improvements. There are generally three primary solutions to this problem: increase annual assessments, impose a special assessment, and/or finance the project(s) with a bank loan. This article provides legal guidelines for addressing the problem of inadequate reserve funds.
Community associations suffering from inadequate reserve funds are put in that situation for a number of reasons, including the following:
Increased assessment delinquencies causing a budget shortfall;
Increased maintenance costs due to pricing increases or demand for improved maintenance;
Inadequate initial assessments by developer;
Inadequate assessment increases by prior boards of directors;
Reserve requirements imposed by the Declaration or Bylaws;
Reserve study implementation requirements;
IRS reserve allocation requirements;
FHA Recertification; and
Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act ("MCIOA") reserve requirements under Minnesota Statutes section 515B.3-114).
While other reasons exist, the above lists some of the most common reasons for inadequate reserve funds - all of which require action by the association's board of directors.
The board of directors has a duty to maintain the financial viability of the community association. The first step in meeting this duty is to understand the current financial situation by evaluating current and future financial needs to meet the obligations imposed on the community association by the declaration. Community associations often analyze their current financial situation by conducting a reserve study, which provides an analysis of the current capital items, determining each capital item's age and expected useful life, and then estimating the timing and amount of future capital improvement expenditures. The reserve study further analyzes current and future financial resources to determine whether any inadequacies exist now or in the future when capital improvement expenditures come due. Reserve studies are available from a variety of sources including management companies, independent consultants, accounting firms, certified public accountants, and through software packages.
If the board of directors determines that a reserve fund shortfall exists (or will exist in the future), it must take action to meet its fiduciary duty by using reasonable and good faith efforts to implement a financially sound plan for the growth and use of the association's financial resources. In short, the board of directors must take affirmative action to correct the inadequate reserve fund situation.
The first method for increasing reserve funds is to increase annual assessments and the amount of those assessments being deposited into the community association's reserve fund. While governing documents generally allow the board of directors to make increases to the annual assessments without homeowner approval, most place a limit on such increases without homeowner approval. Assuming that the association can increase annual assessments by a sufficient amount with or without homeowner approval, and the association has sufficient time to increase its reserve funds before capital improvements become necessary, an annual assessment increase is an effective solution to the inadequate reserve fund problem.
The legal method for implementing an assessment increase is primarily determined by the governing documents, including the declaration, bylaws and articles of incorporation. Although many associations have similar provisions concerning assessment increases, specific provisions must be carefully reviewed prior to increasing the annual assessment.
The same principles are generally applicable whether or not the community is a planned unit development (townhouse) or condominium. However, there are some important differences between planned unit development (townhouse) and condominium documents. For example, there is generally no homeowner vote required to increase annual assessments or impose a special assessment in a condominium association, but there may be limits on the amount of the increase. In any case, the association and its counsel should carefully review the governing documents prior to proceeding with the annual assessment increase.
If capital improvement items are required now or in the near future, the association must look at alternative solutions, usually a special assessment or bank loan financing. A special assessment is a one-time assessment to the affected units, which is used to pay for the necessary capital improvement project. While a special assessment may be an effective solution, many governing documents require homeowner approval of any special assessments, and the homeowners may not support the proposed special assessment. In these situations, a board of directors cannot force homeowners to approve the special assessment, even if there is a recognized need. Nevertheless, the board of directors must undertake efforts to correct the inadequate reserve fund issue by affirmative action to meet its duty to the association.
If an annual assessment increase or a special assessment is not possible or feasible under the circumstances, an association facing inadequate reserve funds for capital improvements may attempt to finance the capital improvements with a bank loan. Again, the governing documents must be analyzed to determine whether the board of directors has the power to obtain financing - either with or without homeowner approval. In situations where the other alternatives are not available, bank loan financing provides the community association with a means to accomplish the required capital improvement projects, and the bank loan is paid out of future annual assessment revenue. Since additional revenue will be required to meet the loan payment requirements, the association must have sufficient revenues in its budget to repay the loan, or the association must be able to increase its annual assessments to meet these new obligations.
Whenever an annual assessment increase or special assessment becomes necessary, there are many commonly applicable legal principles involved in the process. The declaration creates a lien for annual assessments (usually payable in equal monthly installments) and special assessments (usually for capital improvements in the year imposed). The declaration fixes an initial annual assessment and sets forth method of increasing the assessment. The declaration typically allows discretionary increases by the board of directors without consent by the owners. The most common discretionary increase is limited to five percent (5%). The board of directors is required fix any annual assessment increase at least thirty (30) days prior to calendar year end by resolution, and written notice to the homeowners is commonly required.
Annual assessment increases in excess of the discretionary amount or special assessments usually require consent by vote of the homeowners. Whenever homeowner consent is required to increase annual assessments or to impose a special assessment, the first step in the process is to call a meeting of the homeowners. Notice of the homeowner meeting are typically controlled by the bylaws, requiring written notice a specific number of days prior to meeting date, and including a statement of proposed meeting action. At the homeowner meeting, a quorum (the required percentage of all homeowners) must be present in person or by proxy to conduct business at that meeting. Once a quorum is established, the homeowners may vote on the annual assessment increase or the special assessment, but approval of the requested action must comply with the approval requirements of the association�s governing documents, regardless of meeting the quorum requirements.
The above information should prove helpful in analyzing your community association's assessment rights in dealing with inadequate reserve funds. However, it is important to note that each association's documents are unique, and the board of directors must look to the governing documents to determine the applicable legal requirements for dealing with the inadequate reserve fund issue. If the board of directors is uncertain as to the association's assessment rights and procedure, it should seek competent legal counsel prior to implementing an annual assessment increase, special assessment or bank financing.
Deepest gratitude to: Liz Hersey at 952-746-2158
© 2006 Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC - 10400 Viking Drive, Suite 500 - Eden Prairie, MN 55344 - Ph: 952-941-4005 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Found on site www.townhome.pro Contact Steve Hoogenakker at Steve@Landscape.Pro Taylor Made Landscape Management
Thursday, April 12, 2007
It was held at the Ewald Center on April 11th given by Marj Peterson of Creative Transitions. Here are my thoughts about the session and the high points. You can join CAI by going to http://www.cai-mn.org/
The seminar covered many principles of property management and strategies for dealing with townhouse association boards. Here is the short version of the top traits. I'll cover in more detail below.
1. Effective Communicators
2. Present themselves well
3. Are organized
4. Follow through
5. Don't procrastinate
6. NEVER give an answer they're unsure of.
7. Value vendor relationships
8. Admit mistakes and fix them
9. Maintain a professional distance
10. Stay current with the townhome and property management industries
11. Deal with Change
12. Have a sense of Humor
13. Value Integrity and Credibility above all else.
The most important traits were Integrity and Credibility. I can vouch for Integrity being important. When designing a mission-values statement for a company recently, I came up with 7-8 goals or principles to live by. Listening to Jerry Porras' Success Built to Last, he made the point that if you don't have integrity, then who can believe the rest of the mission statement? Who can believe you? Pretty simple and powerful point. So Integrity seems to be the #1 trait for any professional manager or business. Next, she talked about the 3 steps that people use to judge these two traits:
1. Judge people by first impression
2. When we open our mouth, they start to judge us
3. The Test of Time.
Next, Marj talked about Communication. She said the three C's of great communication are "communicate, communicate, communicate". Frequency of communication are certainly important, but we all know that.
More interesting was her thoughts about talking with multiple people on the board. Paying attention to the styles of one person on the board, who might be a visual, driver (director) is a small challenge, but communicating with an entire board that consists of kinesthetics, auditories, influencers, conscientious, etc... might be like communicating with Sybil.
Even though she listed "present themself well" separately, it fits in with communication and judging by first impression too.
Great Managers Follow through. Follow through by returning phone calls and emails, visiting the owner and finishing projects.
Great Managers admint (whoops, sorry)mistakes and take responsibility, then FIX the mistakes.
Don't give answers your unsure of. Marj points out that as a manager, you are a "generalist" You are not an expert on everything, even if a board expects you to be.
Maintain a professional detachment. Something I find very difficult to do, but I know the wisdom of it. She had a manager that sent emails to every one of the residents in association and they were'nt nice emails.
Mangers stay current with changes in the industry. Joining CAI and Multi Housing are two great organizations and resources for managers. The fellowship with other peope in the industry is always worth the price of membership. You just have to commit to getting involved.
http://www.cicmidest.com/, http://www.cai-mn.org/. Click on these links to get more information.
Organization is obviously important. One of the managers uses a program called Filmaker Pro to organize everything. She said it tracks all tasks, sends them to email and files everything.
Another manager color codes file folders and a couple of people talked about color coding their calendars.
Work on only one thing at a time. Marj brought up the term "Paper Chicken Pox" The question is: If you had to put a dot of your pen on a piece of paper every time you touched it, would it look like it had "Chicken Pox"? Touch papers only once, or preferably, keep everything electronic.
These are my opinions only and not the opinions of the speakers or CAI.
You can subscribe to this feed, comment on this posting, contact me about other questions you have, or send me articles that other professional managers might find useful.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
A great explanation of basic townhouse and condominium association facts and answers to common questions by Maury Beaulier - Minnesota (612) 240-8005
Condo & Townhome Association FAQ's
1. What is a Community Association?
Community Association is a generic term used to describe residential developments in which each owner is bound to a real estate organization by a set of governing documents that require adherence to a set of rules and payment of assessments. The money collected in assessments is used for the operation of the association. Membership is automatic when a unit is purchased. There are typically three types of Community Associations, including:
Typically, high rise style buildings where the exterior of the building and the grounds are owned and maintained by the Association. In this style of property, an owner typically owns the property within the four walls of their individual living unit. An owner has an undivided ownership interest in the common elements (typically including the roof, exterior building surfaces and grounds).
b. Planned Unit Development (Townhouses)
Townhouses developments generally consist of platted properties where each owner typically owns the living unit and land under and/or directly adjacent to the living unit. There are usually party walls between units which are the joint responsibility of the owners adjacent to such surfaces. There may or may not be common areas and the Association is typically responsible for maintenance of exterior building surfaces. Generally, the Association owns all common areas.
These are the least common (in Minnesota) of the various types of Community Associations. In a cooperative, a corporation holds title to the real estate, including the units and common areas. Typically, the share interests and/or leases gives the owners exclusive rights to a unit within the building.
2. What laws are Community Associations subject to in the state of Minnesota?
Generally, all associations formed after June 1, 1994 are governed by Chapter 515B of Minnesota Statutes, known as the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act. Community Associations are also generally governed by Chapter 317A of Minnesota Statutes, known as the Non Profit Corporation Act. There are a number of other statutes which may govern or apply to Community Associations. For specific guidelines with respect to your Association, you should consult with competent legal counsel.
3. What documents typically govern Community Associations?
Generally, there are four major documents that govern associations. Each document has a different purpose that is typically, as follows:
a. Declaration (of Covenants…, for Condominium…)
The Declaration governs the real estate forming the Association. Generally, the Declaration contains assessment provisions, real estate definitions, maintenance obligations and other information. This is the primary document establishing the Association and subjecting the land to Association governance.
b. Articles of Incorporation
The Articles of Incorporation are filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State to form the Association. The articles define and establish the non profit corporation. Often, the articles contain powers and duties relating to the Association.
The Bylaws are the operational guidelines controlling the Association. The Bylaws typically contain guidelines concerning meeting notices, quorums and voting and other operational issues. The Bylaws also define the Board and the roles of officers and directors of the Association.
d. Rules and Regulations
Rules and regulations are generally specific guidelines and policies relating to the day to day operation of the Association. Common topics covered by the Rules and Regulations include pet rules, collection policies, storage and property use restrictions, parking and other property issues.
4. How do Community Associations Operate?
Associations typically operate through a volunteer Board of Directors who oversee the operation of the Association. Community Associations may be self managed or may hire a management company to perform this role. The Board typically meets on a monthly basis to decide all issues involving the Association. On an annual basis, the Association holds an owners meeting to elect new board members and to update all owners as to the status of Association operations.
5. What Resources are Available to Community Associations?
There are a number or resources available to Associations. This web site contains links to helpful information about community association related topicsor for a consultation with aleading Townhome & Condominium Association lawyer call 952-746-2153.
Thanks to Maury Beaulier http://www.minnesotalawyers.com/ who provided this article.
He can be reached at (612) 240-8005!
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Maury can be reached at http://www.minnesotalawyers.com/
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Some thoughts on my townhouse associations's new list of dangerous dog breeds
I just re-upped for another year of my townhouse association. They have a new list of "dangerous and restricted dog breeds."This year's list is:
Pit Bull Terrier
First, some thoughts about the dogs NOT on the list: Dobermans didn't even make the list. Perhaps they haven't re-run some of those Doberman--Evil Vicious Killer Dog movies that were so popular in the 80s; perhaps a whole generation has no idea that they are Evil Vicious Killer Dogs and in league with Damien The Omen Child. Have pit bull terriers have replaced Dobermans as the Evil Vicious Killer Dogs? I noticed that Rhodesian Ridgebacks were on last year's list but not this year's. I guess the stories about the woman who supposedly was attacked by a vicious "gang" of Rhodesian Ridgebacks have faded. Come to think of it, I haven't seen as many Rhodesian Ridgebacks as I used to. Perhaps the pit bull terriers ate all the Ridgebacks.
Second, St. Bernard's????? Who has ever heard of a dangerous St. Bernard? Perhaps one might drown you in a pool of drool.
Third, Border Collies????? What will they do, herd you to death?
Fourth, what about those of us with rescue dogs of unknown parentage? They used to have a Mixed Breed/Unknowncategory with a size range. My old dog was a Mixed Breed/Unknown--Shorthair(60-80 lbs). That was about as accurate as a person could get with any certainty.
My present dog, Buddha, would fall into the same category except at the 50 lb. range. But, no, no, no, this year I had to choose a category for him. Underdog Rescue of St. Louis Park's best guess for Buddha was German Shepherd and Boxer. It may well be accurate; it also may be totally wrong. I didn't dare choose German Shepherd because that's on the association's "dangerous" list. I didn't want to choose Boxer because if he were lost and wandering around the complex, Boxer is not the description that would come to anyone's mind. So I took the latest guess from people at the dog park and listed Buddha as a Cattle Dog mix. Next year, the association will probably put Cattle Dogs on the list.
I think to label any dog breed as "dangerous" is ridiculous. There are specific dogs who are dangerous, and a lot of owners who are incompetent and/or abusive and neglectful. But it's wrong to label an entire breed this way.
For the record, I love Dobermans and my favorite part of the movie "The Omen" is when the nanny brings the Doberman to the house, and Gregory Peck is a bit bemused by the fact that a non-family member would bring a large dog into the house.
Written by ari_1965
Steve Hoogenakker Steve@Landscape.pro
By Leigh Maisenbacher
So, what is the difference between condos, townhouses and cooperatives? The following explanations will help you sort out the differences and similarities in ownership of these three types of real estate properties.CondosAn individual condo owner holds title to the condominium unit only, not the land beneath the unit, so condos may be stacked on top of each other. All condo owners share title to common areas. Common areas include land, the exterior of buildings, hallways, roofs, swimming pools and any area used by multiple owners. Condo owners pay property taxes on their individual units. A property owners' association usually manages the complex and collects fees from all condo owners in order to maintain common areas.
Townhouses are usually a series of single-story or multistory units that are linked to each other horizontally by common walls. Townhouse owners hold title to their units and the land beneath them, so townhouse units cannot be stacked on top of each other. As with condos, common areas are owned jointly by all townhouse owners. Townhouse owners pay property taxes on their individual units. A property owners' association usually manages the townhouse complex and collects fees from all owners in order to maintain common areas.
Cooperatives or Co-ops
If property is a cooperative arrangement, a corporation holds title to all associated real estate. Buyers purchase stock in the co-op corporation and are considered shareholders, not owners of real property. Each shareholder holds a lease to their unit that runs for the life of the corporation. The corporation pays taxes. Any mortgages are normally held and paid by the corporation. All costs to operate the building are shared by shareholders. An administrative board must usually approve new cooperative shareholders. Cooperative ownership is not common in most states of the United States.If you're informed about all of your obligations as a condominium or townhouse owner before you sign the contract and are agreeable to them, you just may have found yourself the home you've always wanted. As with every major financial commitment, though, you'll have to weigh the pros and cons of the agreement you're preparing to enter. Perhaps the most important thing to remember as you make your decision is to take your time. Demand full disclosure of condo or townhouse association fees and exactly what they cover. Know upfront what your monthly expenses are expected to be; they can vary considerably among different condominium and townhouse developments. Shop around and get some perspective on how different properties approach their residents. Ask your real estate agent if they have sold units in this development before, and what kind of feedback they have gotten from their clients after they moved in. First-hand reports are important tools during your home search process, and it would be prudent to take them to heart.
Steve Hoogenakker Steve@Landsape.Pro http://www.landscape.pro http://www.townhome.pro
Monday, April 2, 2007
That’s right. As a homeowner, you’re responsible for millions of living organisms. You’re the “Jack Bauer” of the show “24” protecting millions of innocent lives!Grass plants, ornamentals, trees, annual flowers and shrubs. Your decisions also affect insect and biotic populations. Most importantly, you’re in control of how your landscape affects you and your family personally. The best way to make the most of your living investment is knowledge and of course, action!
Let’s get started!
We’ll start with the lawn. It’s very important to have a thick, healthy lawn. Why? My daughter plays soccer and I shudder everytime she gets knocked down. (I never cheer when she knocks someone else down.) When kids play on your lawn, or when elderly residents walk in it, a thick lawn protects their skin and joints. A thick lawn also prevents weeds from coming up, reducing the need for pesticides. So, what can we do in the spring to get there?
First, write down your thoughts about last years’ turf. What improvements would you like to have seen? Then “spring” into action. If you have a lawn contractor, discuss fertilization options with him/her. Are they applying 2-3 pounds of Nitrogen per year? Nitrogen has a direct relationship to the color of the lawn. If the lawn isn’t thick and green, ask them to do a soil test, or you can do one using the easy instuctions on the website. (Cost $15.00 plus postage) Do they use slow release or fast release fertilizer? Quick release fertilizers give the lawn a quick greenup and are cheaper, but they lose their color after 2-4 weeks. If you’re getting 3 applications per year, with normal release fert, you get 4 weeks of food and rapid growth followed by 4 weeks of partial starvation. Using slow release feeds gradually, and keeps the lawn growing at a more regular pace. Ask your contractor if he likes double cutting and bagging grass clippings, if he says yes, I owe you a $5.00 gift certificate to Caribou Coffee. When he says no, tell him that using slow release will cut down on rapid flush growth, and cut down the need for a lot of extra labor. Everybody wins!
There is bound to be some winter salt or plow damage too. These areas need to be seeded or sodded right away. I recommend bringing black dirt in if needed and if using seed, use blends, such as kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye for sunny areas, and fine fescue, perennial rye and bluegrass for shady areas. If seeding, expect weeds. Crabgrass control can’t be applied to these areas unless you use Siduron (Tupersan), but broadleaf controls can be used after the seeded area is mowed twice. Seed or Sod, water a couple of times per day for short periods of time.
Shrubs need little care in the spring, but make sure that the leaves left over the winter are removed. If you had roses in your own garden, and did the “Minnesota Tip” , make sure the leaves and covering are removed so the plants don’t heat up under their protection.
Clear any areas where bulbs might’ve been planted.
“Da Garden” If you have a personal garden, ‘tis the season to till it up. Consider doing a soil test yourself for best results. Here’s a little secret: Why does Miracle Grow grow 700 pound pumpkins? I know you don’t actually want a 700 pound pumpkin this fall, but if you want to give your garden every chance of providing pleasure or juicy tomatoes, then the secret is this: Most fertilizers carry 3 ingredients. Even if you ask the U of M, they’ll say. “Buy a 10-10-10”! This is the standard response for anyone in the industry, and it usually works Ok. BUT, there are 16 minerals needed for every plant to survive. Miracle Grow provides all 16! They might not be needed, but if just 1 or 2 are missing or weak your plants will suffer.
“Da Trees” Make sure that the tree wrap is removed from trees, look for split trunks or damage that might’ve happened from the early snow storm or from wind damage. If you know you have Ash Trees, which almost everyone has, there is a terrible menace out there this year. The Emerald Ash Borer. Once it’s on a property, can kill all the ash trees on a property in 1-3 years. There are links on www.Townhome.Pro.
“Da Water” Irrigation system startups need to include replacing broken heads, and resetting the direction of heads so they cover the lawn, making sure they don’t blow over the freshly washed car and into the bedroom window. If you don’t have a system, I would be happy to recommend a professional, or design one myself..
Finally, work with your contractor. It’s in his/her best interest to have a wonderful, living landscape too. If your association does a lot of work itself, or if you’re just curious, call or write a Master Gardener volunteer. This article written by Steve Hoogenakker of Taylor Made Landscape.He has 20 years experience in landscaping. He can be reached by email at Steve@Landscape.Pro or http://www.landscape.pro