- How the Association Offers Value to its Members
- What do the Association Subscription Fees Fund?
- Why the Association seeks Subscription Fee Payments from Landlords and not Tenants?
- How Landlord’s benefit from the Association
- Why Develop a Subscription Policy for the Association?
- The Responsibility of Members: Payment of Subscription Fees
- The Association’s Organisational Responsibility: Continual & Consistent Subscription Policy
- The Responsibility of Areas of the Estate
1.How the Association Offers Value to its Members
With the investment of volunteer’s personal time and the collection of Subscription funds each year, the Eagle Valley Association is developing value for the three core interests of its Members:
- The interests of Residents in ensuring a positive living environment & community
- The interests of Home Owners in protecting property values
- The interests of Landlords in an attractive rental location and protection of the value of their investment.
The Association achieves this value by funding & developing four core services:
- Estate Maintenance & Development: The Association funds and drives the maintenance of the Estate, particularly at the most basic level of paying for the grass cutting of the Greens. It also seeks to ensure other maintenance issues are addressed e.g. public lighting, street cleaning, pot holes etc. to ensure that the Estate maintains a good appearance. The Association also funds Estate Development projects to improve the amenities of the Estate. For examples, projects that have been identified include speed controls, signage, trees replanting, recreational areas etc.
- Members Access the Power of a Collective Voice in addressing Environmental and Social issues of concern to its Members. The Association provides an umbrella structure to draw on the collective network and knowledge of its individual Members in seeking solutions by:
- Representing the Estate’s Membership Interests with outside bodies in proactively accessing resources, services & decisions that affect the Estate “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”g. Planning, Gardai, Council etc.
- Enabling Members with the support of an authoritative Group structure to collectively address interests and issues in their area rather than as a lone individual.
- The Association can liaise with a Landlord and neighbouring Residents and Landlords impacted by the antisocial behaviour in a facilitation capacity. This includes advising Landlords of any anti-social issues by their Tenants for whom they are legally responsible and organising the appropriate documentary data to assist the Landlord in addressing the issue. The Association can act as a facilitator by assisting the Home Owners to connect with each other to enable dialog and resolution between themselves informally and hopefully avoid progressing to the formal avenue of the RTB. The proper authority for dispute adjudication, mediation and resolution is the RTB and the Association is a body of volunteers who do not have the legal authority, skills or resources to perform such functions.
- Register of Home Owners: In a large estate of 300 houses where people don’t know their neighbours and over 70% of houses are rented, the Association invests significant personal time by volunteers and its funds in ensuring a register of all Home Owners (Members and non Members) in the estate is maintained and kept up to date to enable contact where necessary with a Home Owner.
- Community Forum: Investing in Community Building social events (e.g. Clean Up day, Christmas Lighting etc.) and an IT Communication Forum System to enable Residents and Home Owners to communicate and build a co-operative and supportive Community spirit.
2. What do the Association Subscription Fees Fund?
To deliver on these goals, the Association’s Subscription Fees fund the budget for all the Association’s annual expenses and development projects, including
- Grass Cutting & Estate Maintenance Costs. The Council does not pay for these although it does provide some support services when requested by the Association.
- The Association’s Online Member System that is critical to enabling the Association to function in today’s electronic society
- Communication costs e.g. website, SMS, printing etc.
- Administration Costs g. Insurance, Bank charges etc.
- Special Estate Development Projects which are financed where any funds in excess of the core maintenance and operational expenses permit. There are a number of projects that Members have identified which will require significant funding and for which the Association is trying to build up its funds. Such projects may include speed control, new directional signage, restoration of the community recreational area (playing pitch/tennis/basketball courts), new planting, new parking spaces etc.)
- Reserve Funds, an important “savings account” for any community, to address any unexpected issues. For instance, the Association has had to retain the services of a planning consultant and solicitors in the past to assist in addressing various issues that arose in the Estate.
3. Why the Association seeks Subscription Fee Payments from Landlords and not Tenants?
Everyone in Eagle Valley benefits as a Resident or as a Home Owner from the work of the Association. When a Home Owner, whether Owner Resident or Owner Landlord, pays the subscription fees to date, all Members of their Eagle Valley Household is an Associate Member of the Association and can participate in the Estates activities and have their own personal sign in to access the Members Portal.
The Association Policy is for the Home Owner, whether Owner Landlord or Owner Resident, to pay the Annual Subscripiton Fees rather than Tenants for a number of reasons:
- Only approximately 25% of the 300 Eagle Valley houses are owner occupied so if Landlords didn’t pay …
- As Home Owners, it is in the interest of Landlords to have the Estate looking well for optimising their rental income potential and protecting the value of their capital investment.
- It is too hard for a small voluntary group to keep track of Tenants changing and doing payment collections so the Subscription Fees are sought from the Home Owner, whether Landlord or Owner Occupier.
- To avoid a conflict of interest in the event that there are anti-social issues with a Landlord’s Tenants. The Landlord has legal responsibilities for the behavior of their Tenants to their neighbour’s in the Eagle Valley Community. As the paying Member for the Household, the Landlord is the Primary Member of the Association for the House with whom the Association communicates.
4. How Landlord’s benefit from the Association …
- If the Association doesn’t exist with a sufficient number of paid up houses in each area, there is no maintenance in the Estate, property values go down and rental income gets eroded.
- At some stage, Landlords may have issues with Tenants or those of neighbouring houses and need to use the Association network to work with others in resolving. For example:
– The Association has helped a number of Landlords in the Estate where such anti-social problems from other Houses resulted in the loss of Tenants/rental income
– The Landlord needed assistance from Neighbouring Residents and the Association in documenting anti-social behavior of their Tenants to effect a solution.
- The subscription of €60 per year is tax deductible for Landlords
- All Members of their Eagle Valley Household i.e. Tenants are Associate Members of the Association and can participate in the Estates activities and have their own personal sign in to access the Members Portal.
- Every paid up Member House is issued with an Annual Membership Sticker for their Front Window to demonstrate their support and participation in the Eagle Valley Community.
5. Why Develop a Subscription Policy for the Association?
The purpose of a Subscription Policy is to outline the conditions relating to the payment of membership subscriptions to the Association. A Subscription Policy is necessary to ensure that the Association has
- a fair, consistent and transparent approach for its Membership to enable it to operate continually each year
- a sound credible financial basis under professional Accounting principles in how it manages its Accounts
- an operational model that enables the Association to achieve its goals and ensures a viable, sustainable organisation for the long term benefit of the Estate as a whole.
- An objective policy that Area Representatives can point to so there is no fuss, no emotion, and nothing personal. It’s a rule of engagement that is understood by all parties for the Association to function.
This policy has emerged from the Association’s experiences since its set up in 2014 and its learnings on the operational challenges in running an Association for Eagle Valley whereby
- it is a large Estate the size of Eagle Valley with 300 houses
- its geographic spread means that the different Areas of the Estate are disparate and disconnected
- a significant proportion of Houses are Landlord Owned so that the level of on the ground Home Owner’s involvement or knowledge of their Area’s needs are low
- the ability to contact Residents and Home Owner stakeholders is reliant on mobile and email rather than the traditional door knocking and poster/flyer drops
- the voluntary time and effort given by the Members to run the Association whether as Area Representatives or Committee Members is respected and supported
For the Association to function on a sustainable long term basis, it’s Subscription policy relies on three inputs (1) the responsibility of Members themselves (2) the Organisational responsibility of the Association (3) the responsibility of each Area of the Estate. These responsibilities are discussed in the following sections as the underlying rationale for the Eagle Valley Subscription Policy.
6. The Responsibility of Members: Payment of Subscription Fees
The Association operates a continual Membership policy where, if a Member Home Owner hasn’t paid a subscription fee for a period, they are asked to pay any unpaid subscriptions up to date to become a Full Member for the current subscription period. This is for a number of reasons now discussed.
The Association is purely an organisation of Volunteers where, at its most fundamental, each Member is a Volunteer who is responsible for paying their Subscription each year. However, being human, we often forget to pay! Some people may have financial difficulty in making payment for 1 year. Others choose not to pay.
The Association cannot oblige people to pay and it doesn’t have the funds to operate professional administrative/secretarial support. The Members who volunteer their personal time to help run the Association should not have to face the turgid and dispiriting task of knocking on doors or ringing people asking for money and reminding people to pay.
So, as a voluntary group of Members, it is the responsibility of each Member to ensure their subscription is paid on time and when requested. Payment details are always published on www.eaglevalley.ie and notifications are sent to Members where the Association has their mobile and email contact details.
As long as a Home Owner owns a House in the Estate, each Home Owner gets value from the funding and operation of the Association as detailed in Section 7.1 How the Association Offers Value to its Members. Consequently, all Home Owners should contribute a Subscription Fee each year/collection towards the Association over the period of time that they own a House in the Estate. Since its founding in 2014, the Association has each year collected Subscription Fees and invested these funds in maintaining the Estate and its interests for that year’s operation to the benefit of all Home Owners, both non paying and paying, and the occupants of their houses whether Tenant or Resident.
When Home Owners don’t pay Association Subscription Fees, it is their neighbours who do pay the Subscription Fee that fill the funding gap that they leave. As a result of their non payment, their neighbours who do pay every year are losing either by paying a higher Subscription Fee to enable the Association’s costs to be met or being getting the benefit of being able to fund new projects to improve the Estate. If every house paid their subscription, the Subscription Fee could be significantly lowered and some badly needed development projects could be undertaken.
When a Member Home Owner forgets or misses a year to pay their Association Subscription Fees, this impacts the Association’s Annual Budget and Workplan. The Committee plans and budgets its operations each year recommending a Subscription Fee to the AGM based on the number of fully paid up Members as these are the people who can be relied upon to continually support the Association by paying each year. When a Member forgets to pay or misses a year, the Association has to either
(1) Use the Association’s Reserve Funds to cover the gap in the budget
(2) Or, as has been the case in the last number of years where there was no Reserve Fund, reduce basic maintenance spending and drop pursuing any special projects to develop and improve the Estate.
7. The Association’s Organisational Responsibility: Continual & Consistent Subscription Policy
Since the inception of the Association in 2014, every house has been called to a number of times by Association representatives; fliers have been dropped in doors and posters displayed throughout the estate to inform people of the Association. To ensure that every Home Owner, whether Resident or Landlord, was aware of the Association and the Annual Subscription need, the Association invested over €700 in a 2017 project to identify Home Owners and their addresses from the Land Register and Registry of Deeds. The Association then wrote to each and every Home Owner in the Estate who had not paid to invite them to join the Association. So every Home Owner in the Estate was made aware of the Association and the Subscription Fees.
With every Home Owner notified of the Association and its fees, the 2017 AGM (19/9/2017) voted to introduce a Continual Membership policy whereby the majority of Members voted to carry forward unpaid annual subscriptions associated with a house for the period that house is held by the Home Owner. Flexibility in payment where needed would be an option in the Policy to accommodate those who had difficulty in paying. The reasons for this are explained below.
Organisationally, the problem of non payment of Subscription Fees cannot be ignored as it undermines the objectives and longer term viability and sustainability of the Association. If the Association ignores unpaid subscription fees, paid up Members will view the Association’s Officers, whether Committee or Area Representatives, as violating their organisational duty of care to look after their interests as Members and Volunteers whereby failing to collect Unpaid Subscription Fees means
- The Membership will erode over time as the responsible Paying Members will stop paying if the Association gets a reputation for letting responsible Members carry the financial weight for the non paying Houses “Why should I pay if they are haven’t paid and still get the benefits?”
- Non paying Home Owners and less responsible Members see no cost to not paying the Subscription Fee in any one year. Every Home Owner and the residents of every house in the Estate, paying or non paying, is a beneficiary of the subscription funds collected and the services paid for each year.
- A Home Owner who has not paid subscription fees in previous years could choose to join the Association for one year to deal with one problem/need they have and then not bother paying again in the future. Essentially, for the cost of one year’s Subscription Fee, they would reap the assets that the Association has developed based on the subscriptions paid by responsible Members over the previous years when they chose not to pay. This has been the experience of the Association on a number of occasions. Aside from the annual maintenance services, the Association now holds considerable value and assets in its Member register, Authority as a collective voice for the Estate, and in its community discussion groups.
- The Association’s Officers, Committee or Officers, are being placed in a stressful and difficult situation. They are volunteers who have stepped up to give their personal time along with their Subscription Fees to help run the Association so calling to doors or phoning people to ask for money is the surest way to kill that spirit. They should have the support of a consistent and objective Association Subscription Policy to which they can point so there is no fuss, no emotion, and nothing personal. It’s a rule of engagement that is understood by all parties for the Association to function. They should be able to rely on Members personally taking the onus and responsibility for prompt and timely payment of Subscription Fees each year.
- The Subscription Fee cannot be reduced or may have to increase for the responsible Members who can be relied upon to pay every year in order for the Association to meet its basic maintenance objectives.
- The Officer’s cannot reliably plan or finance the Associations’ activity programme for the maintenance of the Estate
- The Association either cannot or is delayed in building up funds to undertake much needed special development projects to improve the Estate.
The first responsibility and duty of care of the Association and its Officers, whether Committee or Area Representative, is to all the fully paid up Members of the Association and Volunteer Officers and ensuring the long term sustainability of the Association – the interests of the fully paid up Members have to be evaluated first. The fully paid up Members form the majority of the Association and its backbone in that they can be relied upon to pay each year and do not cost the Volunteers time and effort in following up for payment of subscriptions.
So, while a €60 Subscription Fee given one year by a previously non-paying Home Owner is hard to reject, the cost of ignoring non-payers is much greater than what they owe as the non-payers or irregular payers will erode the responsible paying Members and Volunteers and any chance the Association has to build a viable and sustainable organisation for the long term.
The Association’s existence and ability to function over time is reliant on people understanding that if they don’t pay each year, the Association is eroded and there will be no organisation to look after the common interests in the estate or its maintenance. If the non-payment, missed payment or late payment of subscription fees is ignored, it is an injustice to all the other owners in the Association who are meeting their obligations and the Volunteers who act as Committeer and Area Representatives.
To function, the Association needs a fair, transparent, CONSISTENT Subscription Policy to which its Officer’s can refer to and under which Members can understand their obligations. So, in order to build a sustainable Association for Eagle Valley into the future, all Home Owners are asked to contribute on a continual/recurring annual basis to ensure the objectives and activities of the Association, in its Budget and Reserve Funds, are properly financed.
8. The Responsibility of Areas of the Estate
Eagle Valley Estate is very large with 300 houses spread out in groups/areas over a wide geographic area. It has been the Association’s experience since its set up that the Estate is too big for a voluntary organisation to manage it without Home Owners in each Area taking responsibility for managing their Area and co-operating with other Areas under the umbrella of the Association. The function of the Committee is to administer organisational policies and support the Area Representatives.
As an organisation of Volunteers, the Association relies on the interest of people in an Area to function effectively. If an Area does not have Representation to the Association or a sufficient number of Full Members in the Area, the Association cannot assist in managing the Area. The Association has experienced the unfairness and unsustainability of relying on performing Areas to subsidise poorly performing Areas where the Home Owners have not organised or are disinterested. Subsidising these underperforming Areas means that the Performing Areas end up suffering in diminished services and inability to fund new development projects. Moreover, it is only people on the ground in an Area that can understand its needs and manage it effectively.
Consequently, from an organisational sustainability perspective, the problem of non-represented and poorly performing Areas of the Estate cannot be ignored as it undermines the objectives and longer term viability and sustainability of the Association. It is the function of the Committee to monitor each Area of the Estate to ensure:
- Each Area of the Estate has a minimum of two Area Representatives acting on behalf of the Membership of that Area. A minimum of 2 people is needed to allow backup and support for each other on the ground.
- The Subscription Collection rates in each Area are monitored by the Committee & Areas Liaison Officer to ascertain whether the Membership in an Area is sustainable in meeting the costs of servicing it. Some performance criteria/benchmarks need to be established by the Committee/AGM. For example,
- At the lowest end, the Association’s Constitution provides for dissolution of the Association if the general membership falls below 50%. Where an Area does not have representation or is falling below 50% or its subscriptions are not meeting the cost base of providing services to it, its affiliation with the Association should be considered in line with the basic threshold set by the Constitution.
- At the higher end, a number of Areas of the Estate are now achieving 80-90% Subscription Collection rates which would be in line with subscription collection rates in other Estate Associations.
Consequently, where an Area is falling below performance criteria and doesn’t have Area Representatives, this is a flag to the Committee of its management need to address the issue and to alert Members in the Area of the need for action. For example, when the Association was in crisis this year (2019) and membership was dropping to the 50% level, the Association notified its Membership that there was decision to be made at a Special General Meeting as to whether to
- Dissolve the Association with the result that greens would not be cut and maintenance support by the Association stopped
- Continue the Association which would require people to volunteer as Area Representatives and Committee Members and increase Membership
This notification achieved the necessary response and the Association was reinvigorated with new Volunteers as Area Representatives and Members bringing their accounts up to date and new Member Houses joining.
So, to avoid a drastic situation where the Association has to proceed to disassociate an Area from the Association, it is the Committee’s responsibility to monitor the Representation and Membership Levels of an Area and step in to address any problems in advance of any new operational year. Suggested threshold criteria that indicate action is needed by the Committee are:
- Where there are less than 2 Area Representatives for an Area, the Committee moves to fill the vacancies
- Where the Subscription level in an Area drops below 70%, the Committee moves to a drive program to improve the membership level in that Area.
Where the target number of subscriptions for an Area has not been reached and there is inadequate Area Representation, there are 4 possible options
- The Committee launches a drive to recruit Area Representatives and/or Members in that Area
- Areas that are performing in terms of Subscription levels and Area Representation may have a sufficient surplus to fund the costs of servicing an underperforming Area. Such a subsidy decision requires the agreement by the Area Representatives for performing areas and if necessary/time allows, these Area Representatives should poll the Member Houses in their Area for consent. Any formal decision should be voted upon at an Area Representatives Meeting.
- The Committee goes back to the Member Houses in the underperforming Area to ask for an additional subscription/increase in the Subscription fee to cover the Association’s costs in servicing that area.
- The most drastic step would be where the Association disassociates an underperforming Area. This is the decision by vote of an Area Representatives meeting (the underperforming area(s) would not be entitled to vote) and can be appealed to the AGM.
If the Committee is monitoring subscription performance/Representative levels by Area, there should be adequate time between the Subscription collection and the Operational Year for the Committee to launch a drive to address the issues and not have to progress through options 2, 3 and 4.