When Snowbirds Fly How Seasonal Residents Impact HOAs

Every year the cycle repeats itself in co-ops and condo communities in Chicago: as temperatures drop and snow begins to swirl, flocks of empty nesters and others fortunate enough to own a second home in a warmer climate pack up and head south.

Having these part-time residents’ units empty for months at a time poses certain challenges for the managers and boards of associations, whose administrative and managerial jobs don’t ease up just on account of the season. Security, emergency access to units, voting issues and communication all become pretty complicated.

The carefree lifestyle of condominium residents may make an owner feel as though taking off for a winter in Florida or Arizona is as simple as removing the trash and locking the unit doors. Managers and other real estate industry pros know it’s not that simple.

Gaining Access

No matter what term is applied to residents, this annual migration may present challenges for the property management firms who work on a personal level with this segment of Chicagoland’s population.

“Every association is different but in our organization there are no specific rules for residents leaving on extended trips. It’s more of an informal thing,” says Barbara Hudetz, a community association manager with Wesley Realty Group in Evanston. “We really encourage unit owners who are going to be gone out of their units for any length of time, for any reason, to be sure to have someone go in and check on things, to make sure the heat is on in the winter and that type of thing. Sometimes you have to change the system in a unit from air conditioning to heat. It’s important to make sure someone is doing that. It’s also important for management to have access to a unit because if there is an emergency situation like a water leak or a water shutoff, we need to be able to get in their units to deal with that emergency. Some of our buildings that are older have Sloan-type valves. Every time you turn the water off the toilets run, so you have to be able to get in and adjust those things so it’s very important to have access to units while the owners are away. People are usually very cooperative about that,” she says.

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