Your Stress-Free Holiday Hosting Guide … With an HOA

Stress Free Holiday Guide with an HOA (1).png

Planning a party for the holidays is stressful enough without the added concern of HOA guidelines and policies to add to the mix. Before you throw in the towel, here’s our tips to stress free hosting for the holidays.


Does your HOA have guidelines on when you can put up holiday decorations and when you need to have them down by? Are there policies on lawn ornaments, inflatables, or lights? As a community member, keeping safety in mind and decorating to the enjoyment of all residents is part of the responsibility. Knowing these regulations will also prevent any Holiday mishaps from happening and prevent violations from the HOA.

For more HOA friendly tips, check out our article on Holiday decorating here.


When guests start arriving, cars will start adding up in front of your house. Is street parking an option in your community or is there a designated visitor lot for non-residents? Talk to your neighbors ahead of time so traffic doesn’t come as a surprise. Some communities make special exceptions for Holiday parking, make sure to ask your main office about any details.


Keep in mind that most communities have a noise ordinance one made by the HOA and another by the city. Nothing disrupts a party like someone knocking on your door with a noise complaint but luckily most HOA’s have a guideline on what types of noise and – how much – is acceptable.


Does your community have a Clubhouse that would fit your guests more appropriately? It may be easier to coordinate, provide more room for guests and parking, and a buffer for noise between your party and your community. Each community will have their own set of Clubhouse policies so make sure you take a look at those in advance and keep an eye on how long you have the room booked for. Always book for a little longer than expected for adequate clean up time.

Pool & Outdoor Amenities

Not all Holiday parties have to be Winter Wonderland themed. If you’re planning on a tropical theme and it includes pool access, coordinate with your main office to let them know how many guests will be attending to make sure there won’t be any code violations. Each community has their own pool area max capacity and food and drink policies so make sure you’re well aware of those before planning. It’s always good to give your community a head’s up on any parties to ensure everything goes more smoothly.

Keep the Community Aware

Whatever party you are planning to have, regardless of theme, keep your community board in the know. This can make it easier for you to plan and can even help you organize your resources better. They may have specified parking areas you weren’t aware of or ways to reserve certain amenities to guarantee they will be available for your party.

The Great Debate…To Goat or Not to Goat

Dogs, cats and hamsters are the leading pets in American households; however one type of pet is increasing in popularity. Goats have many practical advantages over cats and dogs and are among the friendliest type of farm animal.

Goats, like sheep, produce milk. However, unlike sheep they are people friendly and enjoy the attention from their human companions. Often times goats will come up to you, usually wanting a treat, but they will be goatsjust as happy with a good petting.

Goats milk is not only tastier, sweeter and richer than cow milk, but also healthier. Though it does have more fat than cow milk, the fats in it contain more omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent blood clotting, reduces inflammation, and helps prevent cancer cell growth. In other words, the “good fats”. In addition to these advantages, people who are lactose intolerant can often tolerate goat milk. Though goat milk only has about 10% less lactose than cow milk, it is enough to make a difference for a lot of lactose intolerant people. This means that those people can get the benefits and nutrients of cow milk, with added benefits of goat milk.

Goats can also make money. A single goat will produce 15 gallons of milk a month that could be sold to friends and family. In order to sell milk, you do have to pasteurize it, and you will have to have the processing area inspected at least once a year. You can also own a fiber goat. Goat fiber is very popular, though many people don’t realize that they have goat fiber clothing. There are two main kinds of goat fiber. Mohair, which only angora goats produce, and cashmere, which all goats produce. Cashmere, the more common of the two, is a soft under layer of fur for winter that comes off in the spring.

Goats are cute, friendly, and practical making it one of the  fastest growing pets of the farm animal variety.



The Return of the Snowbirds

Mature-Travelers1With the return of the winter months also come the snowbirds. This influx of residents within the community can put a strain on community resources, especially common areas and amenities. Community Association Managers should be conscientious of the increase in demand and make adjustments were needed. Whether the clubhouse needs to add an extra class to their fitness schedule or simply ensure the pool is stocked with extra towels; making these changes for your snowbird residents will help ensure their satisfaction with the association.

Precautions should be taken to ensure the administrative side of their transition is smooth. Management companies should create a streamlined process to ensure mailing addresses are updated and important documents are not being sent to their northern homes.  Communities can also expect to see an increase in architectural review applications and attendance at monthly board meetings. Of course, keeping in communication throughout the year via newsletters and brochures also helps to reduce the amount of issues snowbirds may encounter in their transition back to Florida.

Many of our communities host “snowbird socials” for their returning residents. These events range from BBQ luncheons to throwback movie nights but all feature food, fun and Florida sunshine. Other communities simply send out a welcome letter containing dates for social events within the community and any updates they should be aware of.

Black Bears in Florida Communities

A common sight in Zoos and National parks is a Black Bear, however, sometimes we can see them in our own backyard. Several Leland communities have daily encounters with these real life teddy bears. Black bears, who are protected under the list of threatened species, are the only bears found in Florida. Black Bears are similar to other types of bears with the exception of their genetic and skeletal makeup. Their fur color is black but bear-backdoortheir muzzle is brown and some have blonde or white “blazes” on their chest in varying shapes and sizes. The height of the bear will vary naturally and also depends on diet. Bears who rummage through trash cans and consume food intended for humans typically grow larger than those who don’t due to the high caloric value. Larger populations of the Black Bear can be found in six core areas due to urban development of their natural habitat. These areas include Elgin, Apalchicola, Osceola, Ocala and the St. Johns, Big Cypress and the Ever Glades.  Preventing
bears from becoming a new resident in your community starts with you. Here are five tips that you can use to prevent Black Bears from being drawn to your home.

  1. Don’t leave pets or pet food outside at night.
  2. Keep all waste in airtight bags and consider bear resistant bins.
  3. Hang any bird feeders out of their reach.
  4. Keep garage doors closed and motion lights off.
  5. Consider the use of an electronic fence.

If you do encounter a Black Bear in your neighborhood please contact your local fish and wildlife conservation commission.

Summer Series – Bicycle Safety

School is out and summer days are here.  With that in mind, kids everywhere are jumpingkids-on-bicycles on their bikes to go from place to place. While overall this is a good thing, more exercise for your kids, it is important that everyone follows the safety guidelines for biking in your area.

When you are riding your bike, dressing “fashionable” is not as important as dressing practically. Wear clothes that are neon or bright colored, this will allow drivers to spot you from a further distance. One should wear close toed shoes and stay away from flip flops, sandals, and any other form of open toed shoe as wearing them could hurt your feet. Tying up long hair and keeping things like scarves off the bike will help prevent things from getting stuck in your chain and ruining your bike ride.

Always make sure you plan your route before leaving the house so someone knows where you are going. You should also avoid areas of high traffic, and find bike-friendly streets or trails. It is also important to be audible towards pedestrians and runners so that you do not startle them. Using hand signals is a good way to prevent an accident, as it lets the driver behind you know what you are planning to do. Finally, children should always let someone know where they are going and check in once they get there.

Biking is a fun way to exercise as well as an efficient and eco-friendly means of getting from place to place. By being safe and following the rules you can make it an even more enjoyable experience for you and your entire family.

Spring Time & St. Augustine Sod

Spring time has arrived! This means that you will be spending more time outside staug1surveying your surroundings and completing your annual yard maintenance. Unfortunately, even the most beautiful lawns suffer from sod damage during the winter months. Below are some helpful tips regarding St. Augustine sod.

St. Augustine grass is a fast growing, widely-adapted, warm season grass. It grows in a wide variety of soils and pH levels. It is also the most common turf grass grown and used throughout the state of Florida. A properly maintained St. Augustine lawn will produce a dense, lush carpet of medium to dark green/blue green color. It does best growing in rich, well-drained soil, in a warm humid climate. The advantages of this turf are the green, dark green or blue green color, it adapts to a wide variety of soils. It has an overall good salt tolerance, establishes quickly, can be started from sod, sprigs or plugs and can handle shade. However, it does require a lot of water, doesn’t work well with heavy foot traffic, turns brown once it is dormant in the winter, weed control can be difficult, and the worst- chinch bugs can cause serious damage. Here are some maintenance suggestions you may follow during the spring months.


As spring arrive and your St. Augustine begins to turn green, it’s time to start mowing the grass. Start by mowing your grass often, at 2.5 to 4.0 inches, removing no more than 1/3” of the leaf blade. By mowing more often during the growing season, you will avoid build- up of grass clippings.


Before applying fertilizer to your lawn, it is a good idea to get your lawn’s soil tested every 2-3 years. Apply lime if the soil test recommends it. Apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. Approximately 3 weeks after your grass begins to green up. Do not apply more than 3 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. per year.


During the spring season St. Augustine seldom needs irrigation due to the spring rains. However, if the lawn is established, apply irrigation on an “as-needed” basis. If leaf blades turn a blue-gray color, look wilted or curled, begin to fold over or show foot prints from walking in the grass —It is time for irrigation.

Don’t over water! Apply 3/4” to 1” of water per week if needed.

Disease Control

During the spring and fall months you may find brown grass, in circular patches called “brown patch” fungus. Brown patch usually happens during humid, warm weather and is fueled by excessive nitrogen. Fungicides may provide control. A better “method of control” is to reduce irrigation and nitrogen, improve drainage and air movement through the soil.

Insect Control

The number one insect pest for St. Augustine is the southern chinch bug. If you notice yellow spots or drought like symptoms in sunny locations — check for chinch bugs.

Checking for Chinch Bugs

Take a metal coffee can and remove the top and bottom. Push the can into the area you think may have chinch bugs. Fill the can with water. If chinch bugs are present they should float. Generally, it is recommended to hire a professional to treat your St. Augustine turf for chinch bug infestation.


If your lawn is in need of some renovation, the spring time is the ideal time to re-sod the area.
And, of course, as always, if you don’t feel comfortable maintaining your sod and are not up for spending your money on guesses, hire a professional landscaping company to maintain and advise your of the best course of action.

Christy Borden, CMCA, AMS, PCAM

Water Conservation in Your Community

The increase of commercial and residential development in the state of Florida may be a positive for the  economic growth, but it has proven to be a negative on the  sustainability of Florida’s most precious natural resource, fresh water.   The concern over the quality and quantity of our drinking water is widespread throughout the state and has become a challenge for local municipalities as well as state agencies.    Recent studies have shown  that Florida’s demand for water is expected to increase from  approximately 1.4 billion gallons a day to 7.9 billion gallons by the year 2030. This means that protecting our current water supply and establishing new methods of decreasing our usage is critical. Communities can help with both of these efforts by  looking towards conservation.   One such way to make a difference is to help your community become  Florida Friendly.

Florida Friendly Communities  have in place practices to help preserve Florida’s natural resources and protect the environment.  The community should support the residents and encourage them to plant Florida Friendly yards by providing information on how to be Florida Friendly and  incorporating Florida Friendly into HOA covenants.    For a community to be considered Florida-Friendly the yards and common spaces must  minimize the use of potable water for irrigation and avoid the use and runoff of excess fertilizers and pesticides.  There are many websites such as that will provide information and details as to how you can create and get recognized for having a Florida Friendly yard.

Another program that provides a pathway to conservation for communities is the Florida Water Star Program.  Developed by the St. Johns River Water Management District in 2006, the Florida Water Star program is a water conservation certification process put in place for new and existing residential and commercial developments.  Unlike the Florida Friendly program which solely focuses on the landscape, the Water Star program focuses  on three areas:  indoor fixtures and appliances, landscape design, and irrigation.  The community must pass inspection by an independent certifier in all areas  and  certification is not awarded unless all criteria in the Technical Manual are achieved.  For more information on Florida Water Star, please visit

One community that is setting the bar for conservation is Staghorn Villas, a newly built Habitat for Humanity community of 58 townhomes located in Orlando that is Florida Friendly, Florida Water Star Certified, and Energy Star.  This community is only one of  five Water Star Certified Communities,  making it a showcase for green and energy-efficient communities throughout greater Orlando.   Set on 3.9 acres, Staghorn  was designed with green in mind, with a focus on energy conservation from its design origins.  Some of the features of the Staghorn Villas community are drought-resistant plants and Bahia sod,  a Fertigator fertilizing system (made with fish protein and injected into the drip irrigation water system), and  an efficient  micro irrigation system used during droughts.   All plants are Florida-friendly and well adapted to the region. Inside the townhomes the  water is conserved via WaterSense faucets, toilets, and showers and Energy Star washers and dishwashers.

From a management company perspective,  it is important to view water conservation as a means of not only saving our water supply, but also helping the community conserve funds.  Educating the members of the community on the benefits of conservation is the first step. Once you have community support, a plan can be established and all of the members of the community should be educated on how they can do their part with water conservation and Florida Friendly Landscaping.  A committee  can then be selected to create a guide book that will become the overall blueprint of the community’s conservation plan. Once the plan is in place, all the stakeholders in the community (management company, Board Members, vendors, residents) should work together to put the plan in in motion.

Conservation is an ongoing and ever changing process (most notably in the case of landscaping),  therefore the management company and Board must be committed to working with service providers who understand and support water conservation and are committed to continuing with the groundwork that has been put in place. “At Staghorn Villas, we are working together with the Board to come up with ways to encourage and include the resident to support ongoing conservation and environmental efforts.” Amanda Brown, Leland Management CAM.

Below are some tips  out of our Going Green guide book that help support conservation efforts:

  1. Perform soil tests annually to keep track of the soils character, thus helping you make better  planting choices as well assist in chemical applications.
  2. When replacement planting opt for native plants as well as plants which will be best suited to your soil and planting area.
  3. Provide residents with educational material on conservation as well as local rebates and incentive information.
  4. Utilize your local government as many classes are given for conservation, as well as county/city representatives who will speak at your events/meetings.
  5. Instead of chemically treating  ponds monthly, speak to your pond maintenance company about more natural methods such as  installing native plants, carp and aerators which will help alleviate some of the chemical use and save money in the long run.
  6. Replace community light bulbs with energy efficient ones.
  7. Use light sensors or timers in bathrooms, clubhouses, outdoor floodlights and pool lights when possible.
  8. Start a community recycling program, community compost and/or community garden.
  9. Install Soil Moisture sensors or other innovative irrigation technology  to help conserve water in common areas.
  10. Make sure all windows, doors and trim have been caulked and sealed annually on all community buildings.
  11. Tint windows in community building to save on energy costs.
  12. Start a community clean-up day once a year and give incentives for people to attend (drinks, snacks, t-shirt, recognition, etc.).
  13. Make use of rainwater by directing downspouts and gutters to drain into the lawn or plant beds.
  14. Consider conserving paper use by emailing your newsletter and asking for monthly financials electronically.
  15. Check outside doors to be sure weather stripping has been installed; this keeps cool air in and hot air out.
  16. Use pervious materials for driveways, sidewalks and recreation areas.
  17. Consider installing informational kiosks throughout the community to educate residents on different plant and animal species.




Florida’s Animal Residents: Alligators

Florida’s Animal Residents: Alligators
With over 1.25 million alligators swimming through Floridian waters, it is no surprise that we often have some unexpected run-ins with Florida’s state reptile. From the pool at Riviera Bella in Debary to the pavilion at Keene’s Pointe in Windermere, alligators are making their presence known in our local communities. With laying season, late June to early July, in full swing it is important to heed some safety tips from the fish and wildlife commission. Remember to never feed alligators; this causes them to lose their fear of humans and become more aggressive. Keep children and small pets away from unsafe bodies of water and if you find a nest do not approach it. Mature alligators are very protective and territorial and may attack if they feel their nest is being threatened. If there is an alligator in your community that you feel may be a nuisance, please call 1-866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) to have your local fish and wildlife conservation remove the alligator or call your community association manager for assistance.