The best relationships between HOAs and the management companies they employ are based on open communication and clear expectations. However, if you’re not exactly sure what your management company should be doing for your association, it can be difficult to determine if you’re getting the full value of your service agreement.
Here’s how to set appropriate expectations with your management company – and why it’s important.
The management company is an agent of the HOA
In legal terms, your HOA management company is an “agent of the corporation (your association).” This means the management company is a hired third party, responsible for acting on behalf of the association. The management company has no authority – legal or otherwise – to make decisions on behalf of the association unless authorized through the management contract or by the Board of Directors. Ultimate decision-making is the responsibility of the board. Once decisions are made, the management company is then tasked with carrying out those directives on a day-to-day basis.
That said, part of the management company’s responsibility is to provide the association with business advice and best practices guidance. This can include everything from maintenance advice, long-term planning, budget planning, vendor selection and more. Though the management company is paid to give their professional opinion, once again, all decisions are made by the board.
Review your management contract
In addition to providing sound business advice to the board, the management company is tasked with carrying out the board’s directives and handling administrative tasks for the association on a daily basis. To understand exactly what that entails for your association, board members should review the management contract.
The contract will spell out exact details as to what is included as part of the service agreement. Most agreements are explicit and detailed, covering things like: number of monthly property walk-throughs the manager will conduct, number of board meetings the manager is required to attend, the types of documents, services and property management resources the manager is responsible for providing, as well as specific requirements unique to each community.
As communities grow and evolve, their needs change. We recommend reviewing your management company service agreement the quarter after every board member election. This will enable you to evaluate if the type and frequency of service you receive from your management company is meeting your community’s needs and expectations. If not, start a discussion with your manager about taking steps to amend the agreement.
The management company is a resource for homeowners
Though the management company interfaces often with the association’s board, managers are equally valuable advocates for homeowners. If a homeowner has an issue with the association, the manager will try to remedy the situation or help the member go through the proper channels to address the matter with the board.
The manager and management company are not “on the board’s side.” They are on the side of the success of the association as a whole. We encourage homeowners to share feedback with managers, as managers are genuinely interested in how well they are serving the needs of the membership.
A manager’s time is not unlimited
Your manager and management company are your association’s long-term partners, but at the core, they are still outside vendors. Unless you have a full-time, dedicated onsite property manager, your manager is likely splitting their time with other clients. When you hire an HOA management company, part of what you’re paying for is your manager’s time and expertise.
Managers are skilled at time management and will make sure your community’s needs are a top priority. However, if you are finding that your community requires more attention than you are currently receiving, bring up this topic with your manager. They will add it to the agenda to your next board meeting to initiate the discussion.
If your community requires an increased level of manager involvement, you may need to amend the agreement with your management company. You may need to consider allocating more resources to increase the number of hours your manager dedicates to your association.
Improve access to information by utilizing tech resources
Your manager is always happy to answer questions and talk through issues with the board and association members. However, many homeowners want quick and easy answers to basic questions without having to contact the manager. Using today’s tech resources – like the community’s website, e-blast communications, board portal, member portal, social media channels and online groups – provides two-pronged value: it helps members quickly obtain important information and property management resources, and it frees up your manager to focus on issues requiring more of their expertise. If your association isn’t taking full advantage of technology, it’s time to start putting these solutions into place.
Define the gaps in service
A solid working relationship between association and management company is all about expectations: what you believe you should be receiving compared to what your management company is providing. If there is a consistent divide, don’t rush to cancel your contract and hope for the best somewhere else. Sit down with your management company and board and clearly define the gap. Stronger communication results in stronger partnership.
Expectations will evolve over time
As mentioned above, the relationship between HOA and management company will change as the community evolves. Keep comparing the community’s needs with the service type and level the management company provides. Don’t be afraid to re-define expectations – or share positive feedback about what’s working well. Your HOA manager and the entire management company backing them want to exceed your expectations. Being upfront about what you want and checking in regularly are the only ways to get there.
Let’s discuss how your association can maximize the full value of the management company relationship. Our HOA management experts are here to help.