When Sharing Across Communities Creates Conflict Rather Than Cohesion
Master associations come in different flavors, but Kevin Hirzel, managing member of Hirzel Law, PLC, a Michigan-based firm that works with numerous community associations, says he usually sees them when multiple “sub-associations” in the same geographic vicinity share certain common amenities or roads. That might include pool and golf courses or irrigation systems, roads, and parking lots.
“They all pay dues to the master association to take care of those,” Hirzel says, but the relationships can vary as to where the power lies.
“When a developer develops a property,” says David Muller, a shareholder and board-certified specialist in condominium and planned development law with the Naples, Fla., office of Becker & Poliakoff, “it has a vision in mind as far as whether the master association will be the dominant governance entity, or whether it will have a minor responsibility — like for a clubhouse — and the sub-associations will be where the action is.”
The subs, for example, might be responsible for any amenity or common area they specifically own. In some cases, though, a master may assume maintenance obligations for a sub’s amenities, generally to keep costs down (due to economies of scale) or simply to streamline. So a master might sign on with a single vendor to handle the landscaping for all of the subs.
“Where I do most of my work, in Collier County, you see some very strong master associations with 20 or 30 sub-associations or more underneath the master umbrella,” Muller says. “Typically, the amenities are on master association property, and the master association has the budget.”
According to Hirzel, though, the set-up isn’t always so straightforward: “Where I see a lot of difficulty is when the developer doesn’t create the master association before it starts selling units. To impose it after the fact is often pretty challenging because you typically need unanimous consent.
“But you need some mechanism to make decisions because otherwise you’re just operating in a world of chaos.”
Read the full story now and learn some ideas for preempting conflicts through effective negotiation.