Homeowner Association Managers
When the Bloom is off the Management Rose….
By Walt Williamsen, PCAM
Over the past five or so years, I have had the unique opportunity to see several sides of the association management issue while working with both boards and management companies.
At most education seminars put on by the state’s CAI chapter the topic of problematic management issues usually comes up in the Q&A sessions and based on my experience, there are more than a few situations where the board/association is not happy with the management company and similarly, the management company is not a fan of the board/association as a client.
Notwithstanding all the advances in email, instant messaging and all the other modern communication devices, I still maintain that the association management business is mostly “high touch, low tech.” In many ways, it is a relationship business.
Problems often arise on account of these typical dynamics that are common to the community association management business:
· Board members come and go
· Managers come and go
· Unit owners and managers with myriad personalities interact daily
· Physical structures and properties constantly deteriorate and require constant upkeep
· Many associations want the most service for the lowest cost; and
· Some management companies would like to provide a minimum of service for the fee charged.
In any event, CAI has many resources on how to hire a management company and how to operate a management company, but these are topics for another time.
It does not do a community association any good to be continually changing managers and management companies- and here’s why:
· There is disruption in the continuity of operations, projects, and administration
· Records and valuable site documents are often lost in the transfers
· Some good vendors and contractors may consider it “disloyal” to continue on
· Financial records may be compromised (perhaps not all accounts are transferred)
· A property may get a reputation as a difficult, high maintenance clients administratively, causing other companies to avoid it or charge higher fees (i.e., combat pay)
Assuming a basic level of competence and reasonable responsiveness on the part of the part of the management company, these are pointers to consider before deciding to move on to try another company:
1. The obvious- discuss the disappointment in performance on the part of both parties. Often a change in site personnel or board contacts will work.
2. Have realistic expectations- in most cases, an association is paying a management fee that is not sufficient to have exclusive use of one manager and the entire office staff. It is typical for a site manager to be overseeing six or more properties at one time.
3. Managers and staff should be treated with respect and courtesy. These are regular people trying to deal with many different issues with many different people, especially after unfavorable weather events. Swearing at, bullying, or otherwise belittling someone over the phone over some unresolved issue is not appropriate.
4. Reevaluate the associations’ management requirements. Perhaps a hybrid type management arrangement can be discussed.
5. Consider email as a tool for conveying a succinct message. Unit owners should be encouraged to limit emails to a brief description of a problem to be resolved. (Some emails received at management offices are small novelettes that are too lengthy and take up much staff time.)
Ultimately, if you do decide to part company, both parties should “leave on teams where they can go back in and pick up their hat”. In other words, don’t burn bridges. There are numerous instances where associations and management companies have parted company and then reunited years later with good results.
Walt Williamsen has vast experience as a property manager. He has been active with CAI-CT for many years, serving as President from 2001-2003. He is currently a member of the CAI-CT Board of Directors and serves as Secretary. Walt is a frequent speaker at CAI-CT seminars and he coordinates our popular Ask the Experts: A Basic Course for Board Members program. Walt is the owner of Condominium Consulting Services, LLC.