Monthly Meetings / Village Life

Navigating the Owner Renovation Process — April 28 General Meeting

General Meeting

Friday, April 28, 2017, at 2 pm
Laguna Woods Performing
Arts Center, Dining Room 1


DON TIBBETS, United Mutual
BERT MULDOW, Third Mutual

The meeting was opened at 2:02 pm by club President Catherine Brians, who welcomed the attendees.  The topic was “Navigating the Owner Renovation Process,” and Brians said she hoped this meeting would explain the process.  “The panel will try to help out in general understanding,” she said. “However, if you have issues related to your personal experience, there will be a Q & A session following the presentation.”

Ms. Brians then introduced club Vice President, Mike Straziuso, who introduced the panel:  Don Tibbets (left), Maintenance & Construction (M&C) Chair for United Mutual, who has accumulated 12 years of experience on Laguna Woods Village Boards; Bert Moldow (right), M&C Chair for Third Mutual, who is in his fourth year on the Board; and Brett Crane, Manager of Manor Alterations for Village Management Services, Inc. (VMS), who has been a Laguna Woods Village employee for over five years, gaining experience with both the present and prior management companies.

Brett Crane began the presentation.
  His comments are summarized below:

There are lots of requirements for alterations to your manor. Some United and Third Mutual requirements are different from each other, while some are the same.  Written standards for common alterations are available on the website.

If your alteration is non-standard, you will need to go through the variance process.  Your request will first be reviewed by the M&C Committee if United; on Third, it will be the Architectural & Building Control Committee. If approved by the committee, it will be presented to the respective Board, which has the final approval.  The Boards will notify the owner in writing of approval or non-approval.

Common-area use is prohibited, but you can access exclusive-use common area – a common area that only you can get to, for example, a front patio or back patio atrium.

Manor Alterations are currently housed in the Community Building, Windows 7 & 8 (although that can change as some reorganizing is being done). This is where you start the process for construction on your manor.  Two VMS representatives should be available to answer questions.   You may or may not need permits from the Home Owners Association (HOA) and maybe the City of Laguna Woods. After you have obtained the HOA Mutual’s consent, you would take of copy of that to the City for them to issue permits.

You will need detailed plans of the proposed alterations.  Permits need to be posted in your manor’s window so that inspectors can see you have a permit for the work.  Your contractor would do the work and call the City for a final inspection.  The City signs off, the final inspection paperwork goes back to the HOA alterations department, then the HOA goes out to inspect and signs off project.  In United, the HOA inspection involves both exterior and interior.  In Third, only the exterior is inspected by the HOA.

Approved manor alterations are kept on file by the HOA and are included in the paperwork when ownership changes.

Permits are required for any work involving plumbing and/or electrical.  Permit costs are based on a sliding scale pertaining to the valuation of the alteration. There is also a cost for a variance, when construction plans differ from Mutual standards.  The $100 fee includes a site visit, photos, and sending paperwork to the committee, who then sends it to the Board, and the Board sends outcome to owner.

Notes are now continued by Marion Levine.

Brett Crane reviewed how contractors are evaluated.   In Third, they have to meet general criteria, licensing, etc. and have three letters of recommendation.  They then go on the Preferred  Vendor List.  United has no list.  Don Tibbetts said that United had dropped the list a while ago.  The mutuals recommend that the resident get the permit approved first and then the resident is responsible from that point on.

Visit the permit office first before hiring a contractor.  If changes are done without a permit, the resident may have to remove  the changes at their own expense.   Bert Moldow commented that, years ago, the old Mutuals numbered 59. They merged into 2 Mutuals but they still have 59 Covenants Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs ) to deal with.  Variance requests must be checked against the specific CC & R  ruling that geographic area.  Standard variances have been pulled out and codified.  But each specific variance request has to be double-checked against the original CC&R.

Common areas are currently under consideration by the Boards. The goal is to give power to the Audit Committee to approve requests in a timely manner.  Board members go to the site of the request to evaluate it personally.  They also check with the neighbors for their possible concerns.  The Boards are trying to formalize the decision-making process.  At the moment all requests are on hold and there is no more use of common areas.  Some improvements make sense because if someone improves their property, then we all benefit.

Standards Booklets are available from the Community Center and on the website for topics like plumbers, electricians, and regulations for contractors.  The panel clarified that Mutual standards are a set of guidelines for residents whereas City permits enforce Federal and State codes.   The Mutuals try to turn around variance requests within 24-48 hours and must respond within 60 days of the request.

Inspectors check only the exteriors of Third residences because residents own the interiors.  In United, inspectors check both inside and outside because the Mutual owns all hard surfaces.

The meeting was then opened to specific concerns/questions from the attendees.

Questions ranged from wrought iron fencing to recessed lighting, popcorn ceilings, skylights, and dry rot.  The answers were to the specific question, and in many cases the resident was told to come and speak personally to office or Mutual Board members.

There were 77 attendees. Free refreshments were served.  The meeting adjourned at 3:45 pm.

Respectfully, Marion Levine, Secretary, and Mary Lopata, Publicity

FRIENDS OF THE VILLAGE MEMBERSHIP: To join or renew, annual membership in Friends of the Village is $15 for 1 person or $20 for 2.

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