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What You Should Know About Homeowner Insurance
Tall Firs Has FHA Approval for Condominium Loans
What is a Reserve Study and Why is it Required?
Tall Firs Envelope Study
Tree Removal

On March 11, 2011, Japan had a regional disaster with a triple punch; an earthquake, tsunami, and damage to nuclear power plants. The video images wer~ horrifying. For more than a year, the Board has been encouraging homeowners to become disaster readiness trained
so that we can build and strengthen disaster readiness in our community. With all that's happened in Japan in recent weeks, there couldn't be a better time to talk about building our disaster readiness at Tall Firs.

One of the most important things for you to know is that in a large, regional disaster the most immediate source of help will be the neighbors living around you - not the Police Department, not the Fire Department, and not 9-1-1. Depending on the magnitude of the disaster, the Federal Way Emergency Management Office tells us it may take well beyond a week before services and supplies are restored.

Let's explore two different regional disaster scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: If you were working in Seattle and couldn't get home, wouldn't you want to know that we were community organized and someone would be checking on your children if they were home alone after school?
  • Scenario 2: We have a number of single people living in our community. If you are one of those single people, wouldn't it reassure you to know that someone would
    be checking to make sure you were safe and not injured or buried under debris?

The Seismology Laboratory at the University of Washington has reported that our area will, one day, have a 9.0 earthquake. We just don't know when. We live on the Cascadia Fault Line - which extends from Vancouver Island to northern California. We are also adjacent to two off shore plates (the Pacific Plate and Juan de Fuca Plate), as well as the continental North American Plate. The fault zone off our shore is actually larger than the one that is off Japan. The last large earthquake in the Pacific Northwest was in the 1700s, and it caused a tsunami in Japan. We are OVERDUE for another, equally large earthquake.

What would it take, you ask, to be disaster readiness trained in our community, and to be a Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) volunteer? Not a lot actually. It's more a matter of getting organized!

It would mean that every 3-4 buildings would have 1 or 2 NET trained volunteers to organize their community BEFORE a disaster occurs.

  • A neighborhood of each 3-4 buildings would be mapped, with a contact established for each unit in those buildings.
  • A gathering place would be identified so that all neighbors could be accounted for.
  • A neighborhood care site would be identified. It would be a place where children, the elderly and those with disabilities could be brought so they are not alone and where they can be given care.
  • An inventory of neighborhood skills would be identified - such as first aid, child care, elder care, search and rescue, trade skills (including plumbers/carpenters/electricians), fire fighting, and crisis counseling.
  • An inventory of equipment, and its location, would be identified -
    such as first aid .supplies, generators, chain saws, tents/bedding, camp stoves, walkie-talkies, ladders, fire extinguishers.

So we are again asking you to get involved and be NET trained so that you could organize 3-4 buildings.

Three of our Board Members have already been NET trained by the City of Federal Way. The three of us could not, however, be responsible for every building in the event of a disaster. What we can do, though, is train and teach you how to organize a team to be responsible for 3-4
buildings. The premise of Federal Way's NET Training program is to train a trainer - who can then train others in their community.

Please let Coleen Adams or Phyllis Hilt know if you are willing to become a NET volunteer and serve your community if disaster strikes. Coleen's number is 653-6571. Phyllis' number is 253-235-5084. We can also be reached through the Tall Firs website.

The alternative to being disaster trained, disaster prepared, and disaster ready - is to be entirely on your own.

Think about it. We all deserve better!

What You Should Know About Homeowner Insurance
Some people are under the mistaken impression that insurance on their unit is covered by their monthly dues, but that isn't correct. This is what you should know.

  • First, our Declaration requires every owner to have homeowner's insurance.
  • Lenders are also now requiring HO-6 insurance policies for condominium purchases. An HO-6 policy is like a regular homeowner's policy, but for a condominium unit, and covers the interior of the unit and personal property inside.
  • We maintain a Master Insurance Policy (including earthquake coverage), but it would only be used to completely replace a building destroyed in a disaster (flood, fire, or earthquake), or to make major building repairs on items maintained by the Association (such as plumbing inside of the walls).

The benefits of an HO-6 policy include:

  • Coverage for damage to personal property such as furniture, computer equipment and clothing.
  • In certain situations it will provide gap coverage caused by the deductible on a master insurance policy.
  • Personal liability coverage.
  • Interior walls and floor coverings coverage.

If you want to be fully insured, then think about everything inside of your unit such as kitchen appliances, counters, cabinets, fixtures, furniture, electronics, personal belongings, clothing, computers, and whatever else you keep in your condo. Coverage for improvements or upgrades (in the event your building is replaced) are covered by the master insurance policy. Be sure to notify our Property Manager of any improvements or upgrades you make to your condo.

The HO-6 policy is a must have for every condominium owner!

Tall Firs Has FHA Approval for Condominium Loans
Homeowners who sell a condominium at Tall Firs Condominium Association will be happy to know that their buyer will be qualified for an FHA-insured loan.  That’s great news because FHA loans are more popular than ever.  For one thing, they require a lower down payment, and their lending limits were increased in 2009.  Getting the Association approved means that we have completed a rigorous FHA approval process.  If you are selling your unit, make certain your realtor knows that your property qualifies for FHA loan approval.  Here’s a link to the FHA Approval Certificate. The Condo Project Approval ID is S007936.  The approval will expire on February 18, 2012, and we need to apply for recertification at that time.

What is a Reserve Study and Why is it Required?
A Reserve Study is an evaluation (required by State law) that helps an Association anticipate and prepare for major repairs and replacement expenses in common areas. It’s inevitable.  Physical assets deteriorate.  We will eventually have to repair or replace such common items as asphalt, roofs, concrete, exposed decks, wood fences, vinyl siding, gutters and downspouts, and the resurfacing, or refinishing of our pool, spa, tennis, basketball and racquetball courts.

 A Reserve Study looks at what needs to be done (based on the useful life of each item), and makes a Reserve Account funding recommendation based on our anticipated future expenses.  The recent Reserve Study recommends that we increase the amount we contribute each month to our Reserve Account.  The 2010 Budget Committee recommended, and the Board adopted, a 5% increase for the Association's Reserve Account in 2011.

The State requires that an Association have a Reserve Study done annually.  We had an on-site inspection study in 2009.  An off-site update will be done in 2010, and 2011.  The next on-site inspection will be done in 2012.

Tall Firs Envelope Study
An Envelope Study is an inspection by a qualified professional that looks at everything that separates and protects the indoors from outdoors – and may include exterior walls and siding, roofing, foundations, windows, and doors.  All of these elements are exposed and need proper maintenance, materials, and construction to function effectively.  As these systems age, however, it is normal to have problems such as roof leaks or cracked siding.  But, if ignored, small problems can lead to very costly ones, and it is always in an owner’s best interest to find and fix them as soon as possible. 

Because we have had moisture entering some buildings at Tall Firs through the roofs, deck joints, wing walls, and around the windows, the purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the current condition of the building envelopes and to identify areas in need of remediation.  The evaluation included a visual inspection of our buildings, including various envelope penetrations.  Infrared inspection of 6 building exteriors was also done.  The investigation was performed by Jeff Samdal and Associates.  Mr. Samdal is a licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Washington in both Civil and Mechanical Engineering. He has been designated a Building Inspection Engineer (BIE), and is also certified as a Reserve Specialist.

The evaluation recommended (in priority order) that we perform roof repairs on some gutters and flashings. That work (60 gutter/flashings) has been done. We have also followed up on recommendations to begin renovations on covered and uncovered decks. Six uncovered decks with significant structural damage were repaired in 2010, and additional decks (covered and uncovered) will be scheduled for replacement each year until all have been replaced. (Homeowners pay for the new deck surface, the Association pays to bring the railing up to code.)

The Board and Architectural Committee will also follow up on having homeowners replace windows in units that have single-pane glass.

It’s not unusual to find uninvited house guests (spelled a-n-t-s) in your condo during the Spring or Summer months.  If they are coming into your kitchen, it will help to keep dog and cat food off the floor.   These small ants are often called “Sugar Ants” or “Concrete Ants,” and our On-Site Manager is  often asked to spray them.  A frequently asked question is, “Who has the responsibility for spraying; the homeowner or the Association?”

Homeowners are responsible for spraying inside their condos  to eliminate ants.  If a homeowner can see where the ants are coming in, they should also spray on the outside of the building, at the ants’ point of entry (often across a threshold such as a sliding glass door).  It only takes one or two applications to take care of the problem. 

If, however, you notice an “ant nest” or “ant hill” near your unit, then the ant problem becomes the responsibility of the Association and an exterminator will be called to treat the problem. Please report any outdoor ant nests/ant hills to our resident manager so that he can assess the problem.

Tree Removal
You may have noticed that many trees and shrubs were removed in the past year. What you may not know is all of the trees removed were part of a Tree Removal plan approved and adopted by the Board. There were rigorous criteria for removing trees; disease, the roots were threatening foundations, buckling curbs or sidewalks, growing up against buildings; or dropping roof-rotting debris (such as pinecones and pine needles) onto rooftops.
One hundred and thirty five new shrubs were planted, beauty bark was distributed at both entrances, around the fountain, and along 318th and 270 new ground cover plants will be planted in the Spring.

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