Thank you, Phase I at EDM, for trusting me to represent you on your Surveillance Committee. I am ready to take my turn at HOA management… something that everyone should put into their rotation of things to do. You can’t complain if you don’t serve.
And I had some complaints. There is a light that shines into my bedroom. There are folks in the hot tub with naked babies. I haven’t had my neighbor ripping up his floor but if I did, I would be concerned.
But you know, now that I am here, I see much bigger issues. Our bubble is in transition. The days of doing pretty much what you’d like are gone. There is a new reality and we must accommodate it. Happy Days are giving way to Dias de Alegres, and that’s great. But there’s a catch… Catch Number 23.
As North Americans, we are used to having our cake and eating it too. It’s true. We, who are affluent enough to live here in Paradise, have our very own culture and culture is a really hard thing to change. We have tried to keep a distinctly Over 55 Culture in place here since the inception of Phase I and have been largely successful. We, owners, spend a lot of time here; the majority of owners never rent out their condos. We love our bubble. While we are split 50/50 politically, we are civil about it. We are united in the concept of an orderly universe; one whose inhabitants conform to our societal norms. That’s a lot to ask, as ex-patriots. But asking we are.
For example: Now that we have a handle on the budget process, we are able to learn from past mistakes. We can budget for pool chemical usage, water usage, cooling tower expenses; no more seat-of-the-pants budgeting. We have come an incredibly long way due largely to a small group of dedicated committee members, to whom we are forever indebted.
But if you look at the data, the budget increases are due in large part by a few line items; pool chemicals, pool maintenance, water, security and electricity.
The 2017 Budget reflects a sharp increase in these line items, especially during the summer. It’s a Jekyll and Hyde thing. What during the winter is a sedate, orderly, civil community, in the summer becomes a Spring Break type playground. Not that I ever went to Daytona Beach, I know what it looks like and have trouble imagining our orderly Movie Nights against a backdrop of beer pong playing, half-dressed, partying, college kids. These extremes define the ends of the spectrum of potential resort behavior.
How far do we, as an HOA, need to go to control the variation of extremes? We are in the position of using the excuse of budget line items to try to change a culture. I am not saying this isn’t warranted or possible. But we need to appreciate the enormity of the request. Making rules in a culture that has its own rules on the other end of the behavior spectrum is tough. We need to pick and choose what it is we are trying to defend here and not reach for a bridge too far.
To protect our investment here, we need to know what direction the Gerencia is moving. Are we to be a southern El Cid with homes crushed up against each other and music blaring till all hours of the night? Or are we more like Emerald Bay, exclusive, buttoned down? (Stuffy!)
We are not actually able to make this decision of course, but I think we ought to realistically bet on one or the other before we enact draconian measures to preserve our Culture (that we will have to pay for, one way or another).
The issue at hand is why do the majority of owners enable those who rent to take advantage of the HOAs lax enforcement of existing Rental Rules? We are not a hotel. There is not one person in charge who can call shots so we are sort of forced to cooperate. A recent comment caught my attention. Someone recommended that I reread Lord of the Flies. To that suggestion, I would add Animal Farm. We are facing a restructuring of things as we know them and we better get used to it.
But back to the pool chemicals. Because of the increased pool usage during last summer, we spent much more than we thought we might. So what do we do about it? We raise the HOA Dues. And it’s not like we can’t afford it. It’s our Anglo-Saxon roots that object to being taken advantage of. (What a horrible sentence structure!)
Reports are trickling in about exactly why “we”, the HOA, had to close the pool twice over the summer for chemical treatment. Not only did we have to spend a lot of money on chemicals, and cleaning, we had to drain the pool; replacing the water pushed us far beyond our water budget. This is not just due to more than a normal number of people immersing their sandy, sunbalmed, sweaty bodies in the pool waters. It was also due to the extremely hot ambient temperatures, the aging pool filters and water pumps and the lack of proper water treatment on Sundays (to say nothing of naked babies in the hot tub).
So, how do we legislate ourselves out of this one?
There was an extended discussion during the recent marathon annual meeting on just this subject. There were a lot of suggestions and I volunteered to corral these suggestions, mold them into a mutually acceptable, coherent policy and take it to the Gerencia. In pursuit of this goal, I would like to open the discussion further to everyone in the Phase I community. We all have friends who rent out their condos. Many are super particular; many are not. The data show a spike in expenses during the summer months when most owners are not in residence. The 16A regime charges the Homes and Lots people to use our pool, should we also charge renters to use the pool? It seems those renters in the summertime approach resort living differently than we do and, more importantly, their reckless and insensitive behavior hits us where we notice… in the pocketbook.
The other, unseen expense of summer renters is that that they tend to run the air conditioning flat out with all the windows open. I can’t tell you how many times I walked by condo 109 in a perfectly air conditioned outside passageway. This not only costs all of us money, it’s a waste of precious carbon units (see I snuck climate change references in twice!)
I have some suggestions… partial ones. I would like to hear more suggestions.
- We can depend upon our current HOA Manager to enforce the Renter’s Rules.
- We can appeal to our renting owners to enforce the Renter’s Rules.
Or we might take a different tack. Let’s hire a summertime Lifeguard/security guy. His sole mission will be to police the area for drowning children, rampant AC users, unauthorized sun bathers, diaperless toddlers and sand covered people heading for the hot tub. He can also put in some pool chemicals on Sundays. He could also be a sort of a concierge. And he can help out the tortuguero when no one is here to police. This will cost real money.
So how do we pay for said Lifeguard? One proposal is to surcharge renters (sorry). We will need to subsidize this salary but I think our savings in chemicals and cooling tower expenses alone will cover it. So how do we charge? Maybe a per head/ per day fee, not to exceed $x? OK that might work, but who’s counting? We need to come up with a way to count renters. Right now, a handbasket has a better chance in Hell than do we getting an accurate head count on renters.
We heard today that the Gerencia is going to upgrade security around here, which is good, given the recent alert over handymen. Let’s couple the two issues and help the EDM Security people vet resort entrants by giving them a list of those to whom we have rented our property. You rent your place? Fine. They have to stop at the gate to gain entrance. If their name is on the list, that’s great, they get to come in. Keys to the condo must only be available from [fill in the blank] who will review Renter’s Rules and Regulations with the incoming Renters in an appropriate language. Perhaps we can collect a damage deposit? (I think I’m going too far on that one). But should we go one step farther and issue identification tags (wrist bands??) that will let the Lifeguard know that these are authorized pool users. The Catch is that each family gets only a maximum five bands for a two-bedroom, three for a one-bedroom, etc etc. Condo packing would be eliminated as a problem as would the issue of guests inviting guests.
I do not have a lot of hope that towels will never be hung from the balconies. I’d rather see that than know the towels were being tumble dried, but that’s just me. I might hope that the lifeguard could prevent the pool furniture from being hauled to the beach or BBQ fires being set on balconies, but again, I am not hopeful on that last one.