The Cloister as A Business Operation


In early years management and bookkeeping for the Cloister at St Henry facility was simple, collect HOA monthly fees, pay bills relating to ongoing operations and pay the monthly Comcast fee.

But now we have two categories of expenditures, routine operating expenses and capital expenses(such as new roofs, street repaving, retaining walls and other repairs to our infrastructure) This leaves us with challenges in budgeting, and supervision and monitoring of outside contractors.

The value to The Cloister property is approaching Fifty Million Dollars ($50,000,000.00) The property was developed in 1984, some buildings are 32 years old with the newest building built 25 years ago. Original Cloister homeowners did not face expensive maintenance and repair projects  such as roof replacement, street paving,  and exterior repair and painting during the first 10 years of the life of the Cloister complex. Thus we relied upon unpaid volunteers from among residents.

Initially a small group of, sometimes reluctant, mostly inexperienced volunteers formed the Architectural Review and Maintenance Committee to manage the simple housekeeping matters. We have reached a critical point in  budgeting with management of large infrastructure maintenance and repair projects like jacking up and supporting an entire Cloister Condo building, replacing sunken driveways, rebuilding walls, and maintaining the storm water drainage system.

We home owners have been hit with huge monthly HOA fee increases. Yet we assume that management of this major facility can still be conducted with unpaid volunteers on what we call the ARMS Committee.

We are sadly mistaken……

ConstructionManagement

It is time that we reduce the responsibilities of the ARMS Committee and hire on-site management and monitoring for our large, expensive infrastructure repair and maintenance projects and capital spending. Or should we idly stand by while the ARMS committee attempt to manage a $50 million dollar facility and a one million dollar per year budget?

Why I Don’t Attend Cloister HOA Board Meetings


Cloister residents have asked why I don’t attend HOA Board meetings. There are three reasons….

  1. The Board does not tell us in advance what will be covered during the upcoming HOA board meeting.
  2. As the result  residents don’t have the opportunity to comment on the agenda items.
  3. Residents don’t have the opportunity to comment on an issue prior to a vote by the board.

What should be done

Board to Provide a Published Agenda Several Days Prior to HOA Board Meeting

Board to allow an Open Forum at Beginning of Each HOA Board Meeting

Although the law may not require the board to provide an open forum for the unit owners to speak about their concerns, it is the custom and practice of most associations.

Strict time limitations should be imposed by the board (subject to the requirements of applicable law) and these limitations must be enforced. Each unit owner should address the Chair and must speak courteously and to the point.

Board members may question the unit owner about the problem or concern. Other unit owners are not entitled to be recognized or to comment or question the speaker, except with the permission of the board..

Once the open forum period is closed, the unit owners are not allowed to participate and may not seek to be recognized unless the board specifically requests input or information from a particular unit owner. This restriction must be strictly enforced because the purpose of the board meeting is for the board members to conduct business and this cannot be done if there is interference from the unit owners. All disruptions by unit owners must be addressed by the Chair and repeated violators must be removed from the meeting.

Allow Opportunity for Resident Comment Immediately Prior to a Vote on an Issue

A unit owner or a guest may be recognized to speak only if a board member wishes to obtain input from a unit owner and the board agrees. When possible, allowing a unit owner to participate in the deliberations should be done by acquiescence of all board members. Formal voting on the question is only necessary where it appears to the Chair that there is a disagreement.

Using the Official Cloister Website


Part of the official Cloister Website is available to the general public and potential purchasers of a Cloister home. Another part is password protected and available only to residents holding a personal password. The public website looks like this….(Click on the image below)

CloisterSite1

Once a resident obtains a password the private website looks like this…..
CloisterSite2
The above page announces yet another $1000 increase in the cost of purchasing a Fee Simple interest in a Cloister Condo home to $16,000, otherwise the menu bar on the left is identical for both public and owner access to the website. Unfortunately if a Cloister owner clicks on the “Financial” section in Documents there is an absence of useful Financial information in that section. A list of available documents is indicated below….

CloisterSite3
The only report posted in 2014 is a report called the February Summary Report looking like this…….

CloisterSite4
The above is incomplete and useless. Below is the listing of everything in the Financial section. Please notice that it does not include a 2014 Annual Budget or a useable monthly financial statement for any month in 2014.
CloisterSite5
Cloister residents deserve better treatment and communication than they are now receiving.
Visit the website and make your own decision….. http://www.cloisteratsthenry.com/

Reduce spending before increasing HOA Monthly fee.


When we moved to the Cloister 9 years ago the Cloister Home Owner Association had over $1 million in the HOA reserve account. Within several years this was spent down to a $96,000 balance.

During that time:

  • all the roofs were replaced
  • the streets were repaved
  • underground ground water drainage was installed
  • a number of large walls were rebuilt
  • A few homeowners decided to upgrade basements constructed of breeko brick walls and concrete floors to living room condition at considerable expense. Although these basements were the responsibility of the homeowner, the HOA paid to replace water-damaged finished basements at no cost to the individual homeowner.

DOW DJIA Snake Oil

A great deal of money was wasted on projects.

  • The Arms Chairman and HOA Board insisted that roof shingles be hand nailed instead of using air nailers resulting in twice the cost for each roof.
  • Underground drains are being clogged with leaves for years because the board failed to install rain gutter leaf guards where trees overhung the roofs.
  • A contractor failed to rebuild a major 12 foot wall according to specifications resulting in a wall with only 60% retaining strength. The HOA Board did not force the contractor to build according to the specifications or reduce the invoice amount but simply paid the invoice in full.
  • Many projects have not been put out for competitive bids, the board simply used a sole contractor and paid whatever the contractor decided to charge.

Now this recently elected HOA Board has decided to raise association fees without any effort to control and reduce costs. There is one item of expense that should be cut before any increase in HOA monthly fee.

DOW Fat BankerThe greatest single expense we pay every month is for Basic Comcast Cable for every Cloister unit. We even pay for cable service to units that have been vacant for years. Cancelling cable service would save enough that an increase in HOA Monthly fee would not be necessary and represents a saving of over $100,000 per year based on the 2013 HOA Budget.

Good management requires that all cost control efforts should be made before any increase in association fees.

 Can we residents ask any less then that our elected Board practice good management through cost control before increasing HOA monthly fees?

We homeowners should insist that the HOA Board cancel Comcast service and allow homeowners to negotiate for the cable, internet or phone services they desire. Times change and keeping a 30 year old agreement with Comcast is simply stupid and wasteful and prevents us from negotiating the best price for services when prices for have declined significantly for cable, phone and internet services over the last 30 years while we have paid increasing amounts over and over and over for decades. And we pay for unused cable services for some home units that have been vacant for years.

It is time for the HOA Board to become responsible and take smart financial decisions

HOA Fee.

Locating for Retirement


Most of us have done what this news piece suggests……RetirementLocating0001

  1. No state tax except the Hall Tax.
  2. The HOA Board has done a good job holding down Monthly Association Fee
  3. Many Realtors suggest making home improvements before selling. The problem is that the seller cannot recover the cost of major improvements in increased selling price of the Condo. Most buyers want to redo what they buy anyway.

Congratulations! I think all of us made a fine decision by moving to The Cloister at Saint Henry

Are We Paying Too Much For Cable TV Service?


Comcast has continuously increased the cost of our cable service by 7% every year for the last 30 years!Comcast Price Chart0001Cable service for Cloister residents is the largest single spending item in the 2013 Cloister Budget at a whopping $120,000 for 2013 with a $8,000, 7%, increase over last year. This price increase is equal to a total month’s HOA Association fee paid by 32 homeowners!

Preliminary results of the recent survey of homeowners at The Cloister at Saint Henry suggests that Cloister homeowners may be paying too much for Cable and other services because of the “lock” Comcast has as the result of a 30 year old arrangement between Comcast the Cloister Home Owner Association. Unfortunately, over that period, the cost of our monthly cable service has risen from $4.95/month to $41.49/month.

Meanwhile I received a promotion offering CableTV, Phone, and Internet for $71.94/month locked in for 2 years. A second provider offers CableTV, Phone, and Internet at $89/month locked in for 2 years …and they even give $300 via a promotion card!

Cable Service ProvidersThe Cloister at Saint Henry is a major business opportunity for any of the players and we should use our buying power to get the best deal for our homeowners! We are now spending $120,000 a year for Basic Cable TV service while being individually charged for various devices including Digital Video Recorders, HD boxes, and modems which are provided with no additional cost by some other services.

Here are preliminary results of a recent Cloister Cable Survey (I have removed names)…

Actually I pay LESS than $119 a month for phone,internet and cable BUT it’s always good to try to negotiate a good price if it hasn’t been done in awhile.

..they should also see what A, T, and T has to offer. We started out when we moved here with comeast tv service, but were not satisfied, so got A. T, and T. Bottom line we are paying the maintenance fee but also paying for a, t, and t.

There is no way I can pay beyond the fee. I do not have unlimited funds. I do want cable service and I am satisfied with what i have. A rebate is a one time thing and the fine print ALWAYS says that after the “special deal” the cost will return to whatever the going rate has been, is, will be. None of the offers are a deal for the customer–ONL Y THE COMPANY WILL PROFIT. Don’t be fooled by the offers of any of them …

I am extremely happy with Comcast and their service. They come out when they say and give get CS. At&t is known to raise their prices often.

I pay for one Hi Def box and do not get any premium channels. I do use netfiix for most movies. I have expanded basic and hi def. I know of some residents who do not use hi def and who may not want to pay for it. A good survey is certainly the right place to start. I do not use a land line phone and my internet/cable package runs about $92 per month including wi-fi. If you do negotiate, and can make the land line an option, I would be interested, Otherwise I would save nothing.

Yes/No – that’s really up to the majority:)

I use One Suite (http://www.onesuite.com/faq)formylongdistancephone service (started when numerous family members lived overseas). I also use Skype (http://en.wikipedia.orgfwiki/Skype).

I’m perfectly happy to pay the $29.95/month to Comcast for internet access. Whenever AT&T calls to ask if I want to switch, I tell them we get TV in the development from Comcast & wish to stay wI them for internet access.

Actually, I’m a little bit confused wI the message you sent us 🙂

I pay $150 a month with no telephone or premium channels. I do have wireless and DVD recording. Funny, I was thinking last week about looking into a dish or some other cable service. I know a dish would require a variance (Ha!) Take $50 off of our COA fee and let everyone get their own cable service! This service hasn’t been looked at since beginning when, at the time, it was a convenience and probably a deal. In addition, I’ve seen cabCould everyone negotiate their own cable deal? Please keep us posted

Why don’t we obtain competitive quotes. Does the Cloister HOA have a copy of a contract or agreement with Comcast? What about having competitors present a proposal for a neighborhood-wide Dish or AT&T program? As Comcast what they can do for us?

I am satisfied with the service that I presently have.  Based on the cost you cited for both Comcast and AT&T my fees would increase.  I do not bundle the cost of TV, Internet and phone and don’t want to.  I have my internet and phone services through AT&T and basic cable with Comcast and don’t want any additional costs for cable

They are constantly offering specials see if they will work with you. All they can do is say no.

Recent News Article about Comcast Rates……

Cable Price Trends

Cable Price Trends

Comcast’s cable rates rise for second time this year

By Arielle Kass

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Posted: 5:00 a.m. Monday, Sept. 10, 2012

http://www.ajc.com/news/business/comcasts-cable-rates-rise-for-second-time-this-yea/nR6fN/

Exerpt…….

Most of Comcast’s cable-only plans will go up $3 a month; the price of packages will increase by $5 a month. Comcast’s highest cable-only level — Digital Preferred, with two premium channels — will cost $104.70 a month with the new rates. Its Digital Preferred package will cost $83.90 monthly, while Digital Starter will be $65.95 a month. The price of Digital Economy television will rise $5 a month, to $34.95.

The Cloister pays $41.49 per month for Basic Cable for each homeowner and I have seen nothing but Comcast price increases since I have moved to The Cloister.

I receive promotional materials from Comcast and other competitors offering much lower prices, some with 2 year price guarantees, free digital video recorders, and many more channels along with lower cost and package options for phone and internet services.

Is our arrangement with Comcast the best deal for us? Or can we do better? Leave a reply……

.

About Cable, Phone, and Internet Services at The Coister


CableWallStreetCrookCable service for Cloister residents is the largest single spending item in the 2013 Cloister Budget at a whopping $120,000 for 2013 with a $8,000, 7%, increase over last year. This price increase is equal to a total month’s HOA Association fee paid by 32 homeowners!

Preliminary results of the recent survey of homeowners at The Cloister at Saint Henry suggests that Cloister homeowners may be paying too much for Cable and other services. 64% of the residents surveyed say that the Cloister HOA should look into this matter.

The Cloister at Saint Henry is a major business opportunity for any service providers and the Cloister HOA Board may be able to use our buying power to get the best deal for our homeowners! We are now spending $120,000 a year for Basic Cable TV service while being individually charged for various devices including Digital Video Recorders, HD boxes, and modems which are provided with no additional cost by some other services. Those using AT&T standard phone service can cut their phone bill substantially by switching to AT&T U-verse Voice services if we had the new AT&T TV Services.

Here are preliminary results of a recent Cloister Cable Survey (I have removed names)…

Actually I pay LESS than $119 a month for phone,internet and cable BUT it’s always good to try to negotiate a good price if it hasn’t been done in awhile.

..they should also see what A, T, and T has to offer. We started out when we moved here with comeast tv service, but were not satisfied, so got A. T, and T. Bottom line we are paying the maintenance fee but also paying for a, t, and t.

There is no way I can pay beyond the fee. I do not have unlimited funds. I do want cable service and I am satisfied with what i have. A rebate is a one time thing and the fine print ALWAYS says that after the “special deal” the cost will return to whatever the going rate has been, is, will be. None of the offers are a deal for the customer–ONL Y THE COMPANY WILL PROFIT. Don’t be fooled by the offers of any of them …

I am extremely happy with Comcast and their service. They come out when they say and give get CS. At&t is known to raise their prices often.

I pay for one Hi Def box and do not get any premium channels. I do use netfiix for most movies. I have expanded basic and hi def. I know of some residents who do not use hi def and who may not want to pay for it. A good survey is certainly the right place to start. I do not use a land line phone and my internet/cable package runs about $92 per month including wi-fi. If you do negotiate, and can make the land line an option, I would be interested, Otherwise I would save nothing.

Yes/No – that’s really up to the majority:)

I use One Suite (http://www.onesuite.com/faq)formylongdistancephone service (started when numerous family members lived overseas). I also use Skype (http://en.wikipedia.orgfwiki/Skype).

I’m perfectly happy to pay the $29.95/month to Comcast for internet access. Whenever AT&T calls to ask if I want to switch, I tell them we get TV in the development from Comcast & wish to stay wI them for internet access.

Actually, I’m a little bit confused wI the message you sent us 🙂

I pay $150 a month with no telephone or premium channels. I do have wireless and DVD recording. Funny, I was thinking last week about looking into a dish or some other cable service. I know a dish would require a variance (Ha!) Take $50 off of our COA fee and let everyone get their own cable service! This service hasn’t been looked at since beginning when, at the time, it was a convenience and probably a deal. In addition, I’ve seen cabCould everyone negotiate their own cable deal? Please keep us posted

Why don’t we obtain competitive quotes. Does the Cloister HOA have a copy of a contract or agreement with Comcast? What about having competitors present a proposal for a neighborhood-wide Dish or AT&T program? As Comcast what they can do for us?

I am satisfied with the service that I presently have.  Based on the cost you cited for both Comcast and AT&T my fees would increase.  I do not bundle the cost of TV, Internet and phone and don’t want to.  I have my internet and phone services through AT&T and basic cable with Comcast and don’t want any additional costs for cable

They are constantly offering specials see if they will work with you. All they can do is say no.

Recent News Article about Comcast Rates……

Comcast’s cable rates rise for second time this year

By Arielle Kass

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Posted: 5:00 a.m. Monday, Sept. 10, 2012

http://www.ajc.com/news/business/comcasts-cable-rates-rise-for-second-time-this-yea/nR6fN/

Exerpt…….

Most of Comcast’s cable-only plans will go up $3 a month; the price of packages will increase by $5 a month. Comcast’s highest cable-only level — Digital Preferred, with two premium channels — will cost $104.70 a month with the new rates. Its Digital Preferred package will cost $83.90 monthly, while Digital Starter will be $65.95 a month. The price of Digital Economy television will rise $5 a month, to $34.95.

The Cloister pays $41.49 per month for Basic Cable for each homeowner and I have seen nothing but Comcast price increases since I have moved to The Cloister.

WebconfusionI receive promotional materials from Comcast and other competitors offering much lower prices, some with 2 year price guarantees, free digital video recorders, and many more channels along with lower cost and package options for phone and internet services.

Is the Home Owners Association arrangement with Comcast the best deal for us? Or can we do better?

Please Comment Below……