Posts Tagged ‘Property Management’



May 15, 2010

By Lorraine Cyr

Refrigerant: Household refrigerators and freezers manufactured before 1995 typically contain chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerant. Most window air-conditioning units and dehumidifiers contain hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant. CFCs and HCFCs are ozone-depleting substances (ODS) that, if released to the environment, destroy the protective ozone layer above the earth. Moreover, CFC and HCFC refrigerants are also potent greenhouse gases, meaning that their release contributes to global climate change. Refrigerators and freezers manufactured since 1995 contain ozone-friendly hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants; however, these refrigerants still need to be carefully handled since they are greenhouse gases.

Foam: Refrigerators and freezers manufactured before 2005 are insulated with foam that contains ODS—either CFCs or HCFCs. If emitted, CFCs and HCFCs contribute to both ozone depletion and climate change. Only units manufactured since 2005 contain foam blowing agents that are ozone and climate friendly. Air-conditioners and dehumidifiers do not contain foam.

What are the Dangers of Used Oil, Mercury, and PCBs?

If improperly disposed, used oil from refrigerated appliances can result in the release of dissolved ODS refrigerant and groundwater contamination. In addition, short-term exposure to used oil can cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritation; in the long-term, it can cause cancer and damage to the liver, brain, immune system, and reproductive system.

When released to the environment, mercury accumulates in the tissues of plants and animals and, when consumed by humans, impairs neurological development and causes other problems associated with the nervous system.

PCBs are toxic substances with carcinogenic and non-cancerous effects on humans, including effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system.

Hazardous Components: Household appliances may also contain hazardous components, including used oil, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and mercury. For example, the cooling circuit contains oil that can be contaminated with ODS refrigerant. Some refrigerators and chest freezers manufactured prior to 2000 have mercury-containing components (i.e., switches and relays). Appliances manufactured prior to 1979 may contain PCB capacitors. For this reason, appliances should be recycled by facilities that safely remove these components prior to shredding and recycling. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) has more information on mercury and PCBs contained in home appliances.

The diagram below provides approximate quantities and locations of substances contained in refrigerators manufactured prior to 1995.


Radiant heating systems

April 27, 2010

 By Lorraine Cyr

This is a very old idea that is becoming popular again.  A long time ago the Greeks and Romans heated the floors of the baths with wood fires.  This made perfect sense heat rises.  Today we use several different methods to run heat through our floors.  In some areas of our country solar heat is not enough to heat a home in the winter but it can reduce your energy consumption from 10% to 90%.

There are two common types of heating systems.  Solar radiant air and solar hydronic floors both use the sun to heat the fluid (air or liquid) in the collectors and then feeds it through the flooring system.  In the air systems the solar collectors heat the air and then send it through air passages which are set in the concrete floor.  This type of system can be added to over the top of your current floor with just a few minor adjustments.  With the hydronic (water) system the solar collector heats the water which is sent to a storage tank and then it is pumped through the pipes in the floor.  The storage tank system provides easier control over floor temperatures and can be supplemented with a back up heating source such as on demand water heater, heat pumps or even a wood stove when solar energy is not enough.   

When choosing to use solar energy systems the initial cost is always higher.  In this case a radiant heating system for an average home will cost about $15,000 and a non-solar heating system is $4,000 to $7,000.  Many families ask why spend the extra money?  But now there are lots of rebates that make the cost less than a non-solar system. The Federal government is offering a 30% rebate, most States are offering a 5% and the utility companies are offering 15% on solar systems.  Families can now install a new solar system for less cost than a non-solar system.  Solar energy also reduces our dependence on foreign oil, reduces our carbon foot print and is good for our planet.  Radiant heat does not blow dust, pollen or other allergy causing bacteria around your house which a good health reason to make the change.  A solar heating system will last 2 to 3 times as long as a non-solar system.  In some cases with the proper maintenance the solar panel has lasted 50 years and the pump 25 years.  With this in mind even without the benefits of rebates solar is a good investment.

Why are you waiting???  NOW is the time to make the change.


Pros and Cons of Wood and Synthetic decks

April 22, 2010

By Lorraine Cyr

If you’re thinking of a new deck or perhaps rehabbing your old one by replacing those worn deck boards, you have no doubt noticed that you have a whole lot of choices these days.

Natural wood, treated wood and synthetics abound, with some pros and cons to each choice.

So here’s a basic rundown on some of things you might want to consider when making your selection.

Also, remember to ask about fasteners when you make your decking choice. Some types of both natural and synthetic decking materials require specific fasteners to prevent staining, “mushrooming” around the screw head, and other possible problems, so be sure to select the right fastener for the job.

WOOD (not a good choice for a green planet)

Until relatively recently, natural wood was the only option you had for a deck. Today, even with all the choices, wood is still extremely popular, and it has lots of things going for it.

First of all, some people believe that nothing can match the natural beauty of real wood.  The warmth, color and grain variations found in wood enhance a deck, and seem to flow more readily into the outdoor surroundings.  

On the downside, there is no denying that wood requires some maintenance to keep it looking nice. To keep that new-deck appearance, a deck stain or other treatment should be applied at least every other year. Even if you want to allow the wood to weather naturally to the soft gray color that most wood takes on after a few years, you need to apply some type of moisture and UV protection to help keep the wood from prematurely deteriorating.

When selecting wood for use on an exterior deck, you want to select one that is both weather- and insect-resistant. There are several good choices, with cedar and redwood being the most common and the most affordable. At the upper end of the price spectrum, other beautiful, long-lasting deck woods include mahogany, teak and plantation-grown South American hardwoods such as Ipe (also called ironwood).  Think of the disappearing rain forest!

Another choice for decking is pressure-treated lumber. Pressure-treating woods such as fir, hemlock, and pine will greatly improve the wood’s resistance to weather and insects, so it lasts considerably longer. The treatment process gives the wood a green or brown tint, which some people find attractive and some don’t. And while this is still natural wood with all its inherent grain characteristics, there are also small slots at regular intervals along the face of the wood where the treatment chemicals are injected.


Within the last decade or so, the number of synthetic decking materials on the market has exploded. Synthetic decking, like wood, has some advantages and disadvantages that you need to look at carefully before making your final choice.

Synthetic decking is made from different types of materials, depending on the manufacturer, but is basically a mixture of plastic and wood fiber. The material is pressed and formed into boards, and during the molding process the face and sometimes the edge of the board is given a wood-grain appearance. Synthetic decking materials are available in several different grain patterns that range from fairly heavily embossed to almost smooth, as well as in a variety of different colors. Some types look remarkably like natural wood, while others retain more of an imitation wood appearance. Virtually all synthetics can be cut and machined with normal woodworking tools.

One advantage that synthetic decking has over wood is a reduced amount of maintenance. However, that does not mean that once the material is installed, you can just forget about it. In fact, synthetic decking was touted as being “maintenance free” when it first came on the market, but those claims proved to be a little optimistic.

Today, you will see synthetics marketed with terms more along the lines of low maintenance, and that’s really a more accurate description. The decking needs to be washed periodically to remove dirt and dust, and many types are prone to staining from grease, oil and other materials. As such, it’s a good idea to use some type of protection under and around barbecues and other cooking areas.

One type of synthetic deck material that works well is Ecodek which is made from hardwood fibres and ultra-tough polyethylene, this makes Ecodek a synthetic decking that is as hard wearing as plastic decking and yet as beautiful as hardwood decking.

Ecodek is engineered for life in the great outdoors. The composite material has an inherent resistance to UV light and wood worm. Because it’s moisture resistant, it endures the elements without rotting, warping or splitting. 

Environmentally friendly decking Ecodek recycled decking products are 95% recycled and 100% recyclable.  This time, choosing a superior product won’t cost the earth. Ecodek composite decking is constructed from reclaimed hardwood and a polymer recovered from recycled plastic milk cartons. Less energy is required to manufacture Ecodek than is required for recycled plastic decking therefore producing less carbon emissions.

And as if that’s not green enough, Ecodek’s in-built resistance to moisture eliminates the need for stains or sealants so there will be no nasty chemicals to leach into your soil or pond.


Communication is key

March 27, 2010

By Lorraine Cyr

Every Community needs some guidelines or rules to live by and get along.  This is why every Association from an apartment complex, to a cooperative to a condo building to an HOA all have governing documents.  There are deeds with restrictions and covenants, By-Laws and House Rules.  But as we all know sometimes it is hard to enforce these rules and it takes time and money, but if one person is allowed to break the rule than it is even harder to enforce the next time.  Here are some simple ways to build consensus and by getting agreement you get voluntary compliance.  In all cases communication is key.

ANNUAL MEETINGS – annual meetings scheduled with advanced notice at least once a year.  Meetings need to be at a convenient time and place with adequate room and time for everyone to be heard.  The agenda needs to be set and published in advance.  The meeting documents need to be sent out in advance to allow time for review before the meeting and time for questions to be sent in before answered before the meeting.  The agenda needs to allow time for the exchange of ideas.  What this means is a smaller agenda with only one or two topics that will cause major discussions and they should be at the end of the agenda.  If you have a lot of problem areas I would schedule semiannual or quarterly meetings with committees working out the details and to help get the information out.  The more people involved the better the results.

COMMUNICATION – a newsletter or other regular communication with the members is key.  The Board needs to take credit for actions taken.  Share information with the members let everyone know in advance.  If the expenses are higher than planned talk about the reasons why.  Ask for help in either cutting expenses or correcting the cause of the overage.  This way when the Board votes to increase monthly fees, everyone understands why and does not blame the Board for not doing its job.  Communities that do not do well and have fierce disputes and drastic changes in management policies are caused by lack of communication.  The Board sees that there needs to be a 10% increase in March but does not share this information, gives the members no options to correct the problem and imposes the high increase and there is mass uproar.  At the next Board election the members vote in members who say that they will reduce cost to fix the mess and the cycle starts all over.  If members were given notice back in March and given options that said if we go ahead with the new sign at a cost of $10,000 and if we do not fix the leaking pipes then our fees will have to increase 10% at least then they would feel like they had some say.  Members would still be upset about the increase but at least they had a chance to work on it.

RULES – The rules need to be the same for everyone and they need to be enforced consistently.  If the rule is no guest parking on the lot then that is the rule for everyone and management cannot let person X bend the rules just because they are on the Board. When setting the rules involve as many people as possible and then let the membership vote on the rule.  At one community the Board made a decision that they did not want to be a gated community and they cited cost and looking like a jail even though the membership had voted that this was a priority for them.  At the next annual meeting the membership demanded that the Board install the fence.  Two years later the crime rate is down in the community and the families are not afraid to let their children out to play in the compound.  Everyone agrees the cost was worth the comfort and feeling of security.  And now they are upset when the gates are broken and do not close.  

GRIEVANCES AND APPEALS – If you have a set of rules that everyone must follow then you also need to have a policy to handle a grievance or appeal that includes members from outside the community.  A local church member, a professional mediator, a lawyer or even the accountant, but the members need to know that there is someone from outside the community that will hear both sides and settle any disputes without taking sides.


Every building could use a rose garden

March 24, 2010

By Lorraine Cyr Management Group

Every building should have a rose garden!

Roses are the perfect hedge row to cut down on unwanted traffic. Roses are not expensive. Roses are pretty and flower from late spring until late November. And they have thorns! This is one of the most economical ways to reduce unwanted foot traffic that adds great beauty to the property. From the time you plant them it will take about 2 years before no one will try to climb the fence or shortcut through the hedgerow.

When thinking of safety we do not always have to think of locks and high fences. A well lit parking lot with a building that looks taken care of does a lot to keep the bad influences away. Security cameras have come a long way and are within the items that most budgets can afford. When a building hires security guards to walk the property they have a set beat that has a set time and even if you try to change the pattern the bad elements will still see them coming. With the new cameras they can see at night. You can talk through them and no one can tell if there is a live person watching or not. Off duty police charge between $35 and $50 dollars an hour, your insurance goes up and this can be a very costly way to try and keep the property safe. With a camera system and a monitoring company you can share the cost with several buildings, have 24/7 coverage with a lot less cost. The security company can give verbal warnings that the police have been called when they see unwanted behavior and if needed there is video tape that can be used in court. Building locks just do not seem to work the way we want them to. If you use a Medico key system which is advertised as the key you cannot copy is not a true statement. Even I have been able to get copies made without the proper authorizations. If someone says that they lost their key when they really sold it to the local drug boy, the key has to be replaced and unless you plan on rekeying the building you now have people who do not belong in the building with keys. The keycards and keyfobs work a little better, at least when a key is reported stolen you can take it out of the security system. But even with these methods you still have people who prop the door open, people who will buzz anyone into the building and the people who are too afraid to stop a stranger from following them into the building. Almost all of this goes away with well placed lights and cameras.

Start planning your garden today!


How many is too many?

March 23, 2010

By Lorraine Cyr Management Group

How many is too many?

As far back as 1989, HUD counseled landlords that, in appropriate circumstances, landlords set reasonable occupancy requirements based on factors such as the number and size of sleeping areas or the overall size of the dwelling.  HUD allows a family to count the living room as a sleeping area.  The DC Housing program allows young children boys and girls share a room.  And yes there is a law that states how many people can occupy some many square feet, I have yet to win a case in court for overcrowding.

With the federal ban against familial discrimination, landlords in most situations may not refuse to rent to families with children, and they may not indirectly exclude such families by setting overly restrictive occupancy limits (the law presumes that an occupancy policy that permits fewer than two people per bedroom is too restrictive).  For example a senior only building can set an age limits, but cannot say their one bedroom units are for single seniors only.

One building when I started working with them has set a policy that everyone needed to be over 62 and single.  The history of the building showed a pattern of renting to females only.  We had to work hard to get them to understand that they could not discriminate. Importantly, aggrieved prospects need not prove to a court that the landlord intended to exclude males; as long as the practice has the effect of discouraging or eliminating men, it’s illegal.  If you intend to limit bedroom occupancy to fewer than two persons, you’ll need to make your case under that standard, which boils down to a deceptively simple question: Is your policy reasonable? You might go further and argue that, for example, landlords in your neighborhood generally follow your practice.  But be forewarned of a strong argument against you, one that decries your reliance rental practices at the expense of fair housing. Your track record as a landlord will also be relevant should this matter come before a judge. If your other houses are filled with families, with two persons per bedroom appropriately living in them, it will be hard to cast you as a discriminating landlord (although your intentions, as noted above, aren’t technically relevant, your past practices invariably become a factor).


Is your AC unit ready for summer?

March 21, 2010

By Lorraine Cyr Management Group

Yesterday the temperature was in the low 70’s and will be again today. Some of you, if you live on the top floor and face the sun might have turned your AC unit on already. If not then you will be in the next few weeks. Now is the time to get your units serviced.

At if you live in DC and have a central air your unit could cost you as much as $300 a month to run it in the middle of summer. A large window air conditioner will cost $130 a month.  To reduce your cost make sure the units are in good running condition. Change the filters often. Use window shades to keep out the heat of the sun. You can add a window tint (like in the cars) that will allow you to see out but cut down on the heat allowed in. Also like in the winter cut down on drafts, cold air falls to the floor and you could be losing a lot of your money in cooling bills under the doors. You can also turn your ceiling fans on in reverse which will cause the cooler air from the floor to be pulled up.

If you have a very old AC unit and think that you cannot afford to replace it you really have to think about the cost it will cost you to run it. The DC government is offering rebates if you buy energy efficient brands and the energy cost you save might make buying that new unit almost free. The other way to reduce your cost is by closing your shades and blinds during the hottest part of the day, usually between 11am and 3pm. Open your windows in the evening once the sun has set. If you live in an apartment and do not have a roof vent you can use a window fan and have the air blowing out the window. This will draw the warm air from the other rooms and blow it outside while drawing the cooler evening air into your home.  If you are in down town DC even the evening air might seem hot because of all the heat from the city streets. This is when you will use your AC units 24/7.  Turning the temperature up a few degrees while you are at work will save you at least $50 dollars a month. A timer for your thermostat is a good investment and will keep your home a little warmer while you are away and have it comfortable when you get home. If you live in a rental unit call now to have maintenance service your unit. They should check the Freon level, change the air filter, clean the coils and clean the condensate line. Then on a monthly time table you should change the filter and vacuum the air returns to keep the dust from slowing down the air circulation.  Close the vents closets to the HVAC system to help the cooler air reach the rooms farthest away.

Enjoy the nice weather and give us a call if you have questions.