Managing a condominium building or planned community is undeniably challenging; balancing the needs of members, the board of directors, your own staff, and contractors or third-party vendors can be like a juggling routine. You might feel as though each day you’re interviewing for your own job. A great opportunity to both shine as a manager and execute one of the most important events of the year is the annual member meeting.
Association members have agreed to abide by governing documents, which provide for payment of assessments that the association relies on to run the condominium building or community. But a member might feel like this gives him leverage when he’s upset. That is, by withholding his monthly assessment because of a grievance he can force the association’s hand in rectifying it. But grievances don’t change the fact that the association must pay bills, management fees, and the cost of other services that keep things up and running.
Resorting to litigation if a contractor violates your agreement with it is an unfortunate situation for many reasons. Lawsuits take up valuable time that the association could be using in a positive way to better the community. And a lawsuit might ultimately end up costing even more than the amount that the contractor owed the association anyway. Even if you’ve agreed that a claim must be resolved by arbitration, those costs can skyrocket too.
Amenities have always played a big part in homeowners’ attraction to planned communities and condominiums. After all, being able to enjoy a pool, workout room, or clubhouse without the hassle of personally maintaining it is worth the cost of association fees to many people. Ideally, members would have to pay only for the amenities they use, but that’s not the case in traditionally run associations.
Paying a contractor up front to do work for your association isn’t a good idea. If it does a shoddy job, your only recourse would be to sue the contractor for not living up to the agreement. But this can be costly. And it’s avoidable—if you protect yourself from subpar workmanship or a failure to finish the job. Having the contract state that the association can make “progress payments” as the contractor moves ahead with the work, and including a “retainage” clause, is a way to encourage a contractor to complete the job to your satisfaction.
The trend towards buying vintage items or “upcycling”—that is, using old items for a new purpose—has made garage sales popular again. Garage sales can benefit the association and members in several ways, so consider hosting one. It’s a great way to give members a chance to meet one another and to promote community spirit. But it also serves a practical purpose: It enables members who are running out of space in their homes or condo units to earn some money while clearing out items they no longer want.
Members sometimes build improvements on common areas or limited common areas without first getting the association’s consent, because they mistakenly believe the area belongs to them. This can lead to an unpleasant dispute between a member and the association, especially when the association tells the member to remove the improvement.
Social media, email, and the Internet have vastly improved some aspects of business. Your association may have a website or use Facebook or Instagram to promote the benefits of living in the community or condominium building you manage or to post pictures of community events. But when employees spend work hours sending personal emails, going online to shop, or checking their social media channels, it leads to a decrease in productivity.
Although managing a condominium building or planned community well can be rewarding, it can also be difficult to do without the help of qualified and dedicated employees. Effective association management requires a varied skill set: customer service for members, financial savvy, organization, and building good relationships with outside professionals like vendors and contractors, among other talents.
Ideally, your association’s board would act efficiently regarding every request, activity, and issue it’s faced with in the process of serving the best interest of the community you manage. Sometimes, this isn’t the case. Board members could be overwhelmed, disorganized, or—unfortunately—acting in their own interests instead of members’ interests, leading to disputes with members. There doesn’t need to be a sense of urgency for the board to make decisions immediately on all matters; some things can wait.