Living in Florida seems like a vacation all year long! Beautiful weather and lots of sunshine are just a couple of reasons that people want to live here. We may feel like it’s a year-round holiday, but there are still peak vacation times, and, of course, summer is one. Kids are out of school, schedules slow down and every weekend seems a little more special.
All of those things make it a great time to take off, whether that’s a road trip to the Keys or St. Augustine, a flight to the Panhandle to visit Destin’s white sand beaches or a visit to the theme parks in Orlando. Of course, a lot of people travel outside the Sunshine State for vacations, including spending weeks out of the country.
While you hope your residents have fun on their summer vacations, you also want to make sure that they fulfill their responsibilities to the association while they are away. Whether your community is a high-rise condominium, master-planned community or gardenstyle property, you want to make sure that your residents prepare their homes in a way that helps protect the community.  

1. Educate your community on the signs that homes are vacant.

Your residents don’t want to come home to a burglarized property, and you don’t want a community that appears vulnerable. Make sure that your residents are aware of behaviors that can make it obvious that no one is home, and how to counter them for the safety of the entire community. 
  • Stop mail and newspaper deliveries so these don’t pile up.
  • Be careful about social media posts that make it clear you are gone.
  • If possible, don’t pack the car in plain sight of your home. Use your garage.
  • Set lights and televisions on a timer.
  • Have pets cared for at home rather than boarding them. It’s less stress on them and guarantees that there is activity in homes while they are gone.   

2. Make sure they know to keep the property maintained.

Residents need to understand that they are expected to keep up curb appeal if they are away from home for an extended time. Summer is a big time for home shopping, and grass that has not been mowed for two weeks and bushes in dire need of trimming do your community no favors. Residents should also make sure that their pools are properly closed before leaving for more than a few days, or should have them serviced over vacation so that the water doesn’t turn green, and to ensure that the pumps are working. Roger Edwards, vice president at FirstService Residential, suggests that residents use irrigation clocks and programmable devices whenever possible. It is a good idea to redistribute policies related to landscaping in early May, before the vacation season picks up.

3. Save on energy where possible.

Residents should know how they can save money on their energy bills while they travel. Timers and programmable “smart” devices will allow homeowners to balance between the safety factor of making the home look occupied while reducing energy usage. Leaving the air conditioning on, but at a higher temperature (77 degrees), will cause the compressor to kick on occasionally, making it appear that someone is in residence and preventing mold or mildew problems while still reducing electrical costs.
Residents who live in condominiums or townhomes should be directed to turn off hot water heaters while gone. In addition to saving money on electricity, turning the water heater off will help reduce the chance that Murphy’s Law will kick in and it will malfunction while people are away, causing leaks in adjoining units. Edwards said that water leaks when homeowners are away is one of the most common vacation problems he sees.

4. Keep hurricane season in mind.

In Florida, summer vacation time and hurricane season unfortunately coincide. When you distribute your hurricane policies, before the season begins, include anything that vacationing homeowners are required to do. Do they need to have someone on standby to install and remove shutters and secure small outdoor items? Do they need to notify management before leaving town for more than a week? Whatever policies your community decides on, communicate them clearly and well in advance.

5. Rely on your community.

Well ahead of summer, work on building a sense of camaraderie in your community. Plan events that give residents the opportunity to get to know and trust their neighbors. Knowing that there’s someone a few doors down who can put up their hurricane shutters or grab the newspaper, and that it will be reciprocated, goes a long way toward helping residents relax while they travel. It makes your entire community more secure as well. Would-be burglars are less likely to try anything in a community of people who are looking out for each other. As a Board member, know that it’s in the best interest of your association to facilitate this.  
Communicate with your homeowners. Making sure that everyone is on the same page and knows how to prepare for summer vacations will help the entire community have a great summer and prevent problems. Your professional property management company will have the resources to help your Board craft the right policies around summer vacation time and communicate them to your residents. To learn more, contact FirstService Residential, Florida’s residential property management leader, today. 
Wednesday May 17, 2017