Five Best Practices for Better Community Management
If you’re a board member or an association manager for a Florida condo or co-op community, you know the types of challenges you face on a daily basis.
You work to maintain the common areas of the community to keep property values as high as possible, oversee the financial and insurance aspects, enforce rules and covenants, all the while dealing with the complaints of residents; many of whom have diverse opinions about how everything should be handled. There’s a great deal of responsibility under that HOA umbrella.
While it’s not always possible to make everyone happy all the time, there are straightforward tactics that will give you the surest foundation for a solid community.
Engage the Right Vendors
From a budget standpoint, it’s enticing to try to save as much money as possible by engaging/installing the least expensive everything. But with so many interdependencies between maintenance, landscaping, cleaning, and sanitizing, you will want to refrain from hiring the bargain basement brand.
There are a couple good reasons. Excellent resources know their worth and charge accordingly. They must also build their professional and licensing fees in to their billing. It’s a distinct possibility that a cut-rate vendor may be skimping on those expenses and passing that savings along to you. That savings is far from worth the repercussions if your vendor is not licensed, insured, or bonded.
It has also been said that “you buy cheap, you buy twice.” The last thing you want is a plumber coming back multiple times saying they found the leak source when they didn’t. There are always exceptions as some tasks are more challenging than others, but ideally, you want every job done right the first time.
Additionally, a professional resource’s reputation will proceed them. Get references, confirm those references are legit clients, and then get the lowdown on their experiences with them.
Suffice to say, you want an honest day’s work from companies who respect the community you manage. If they treat it like their own, you may have found your forever vendor.
Maintain a Sufficient Reserve Fund
To begin with the bottom line, you don’t want to get caught short here. For funding emergencies and for financing large projects, this is your nest egg.
Unfortunately, many associations tend to run on the low side…a practice that will get you in trouble fast. That trouble will really begin when at an emergency board meeting you utter those two words no homeowner wants to hear: special assessment. This sets a bad precedent and actually shakes the confidence of the community, not to mention it places an unexpected financial burden squarely on their shoulders.
As a board member you will not only take the heat, but as a fellow resident you will have to pony up that extra money as well – a lose-lose situation.
The solution here is to have a reserve study conducted every 3-5 years and do everything possible to maintain a sizable reserve fund that is approximately 30% of your total maintenance fees.
Hire the Right People
Like any subcontractor you permit on premises, you want to dig deep to evaluate direct hires. Collaborative self-starters are a big bonus as you want employees who will take initiative but have the ability to work on common objectives with everyone.
Consider though, interviewees are always on their best behavior. There’s more to unpack beyond pat answers and an impressively crafted resume. So…
- Request both personal and professional references and then contact them.
- Go to the additional expense of conducting all manner of background checks once you narrow the field.
- Upon hiring, invoke a trial period.
- Supply your new hire with the tools they need.
- Set expectations and deliver clear job descriptions and deadlines.
Sometimes it is the management that fails, not the employee. Work together.
When you’ve got the right people in the right positions you can do great things. Hiring someone for the wrong reasons or because you didn’t adequately vet them will result in wasted time and lost momentum. Not to mention the onboarding costs you will incur with each subsequent hire.
Get Ahead of Conflicts
When your business or job revolves around where people live, you will often be vulnerable to a clash of personalities. Neighbors conflicting with neighbors, noise and pet complaints, residents dissatisfied with the progress of projects; it can go on and on.
Even when board members take a stance in the best overall interests of the community it can fire those up who don’t feel they share in the benefit or don’t wish to allocate common funds to an effort. The last thing you want is to let conflicts fester; it’s the stuff of toxic environments.
As you would a leak in the laundry room, jump on these things quickly so they don’t escalate out of control. There are horror stories out there. You don’t want to be one of them.
Your best bet is to put a solid conflict-resolution plan in place. With such a defined infrastructure, residents will understand and respect the procedure. That will go a long way toward viable solutions.
Slowing this spread and adhering to the plan will enable achievement of a reasonable result to make all parties content while also preventing costly actions such as mediation, arbitration, or litigation.
Whether or not new residents are subjected to an interview, they should be clearly advised about all the deed restrictions by which your community adheres. And of course, although these are presented for review before they purchase their unit, some may have selective memory. (This applies to renters as well!)
Your best defense is to enforce all rules reliably and consistently, so no mixed messages are sent. When everyone is treated the same, you’ll have less likelihood of accusations about favoritism or discrimination. Consistency will yield a more harmonious neighborhood.
And finally, we do recommend hiring a community management company like us! We work very closely with every one of our boards to give them the extra support needed. HOA board members often operate at a disadvantage because they either haven’t the time due to full-time jobs nor the expertise to oversee the multiple details that contribute to a healthy and prosperous community.
Overall, the HOA homeownership model is quite a powerful one. It sets standards and collects fees that contribute to a better quality of life. This does take work to remain functioning and consistent, but when you have the right people in place, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish and hopefully no resident you can’t please!
In the community management business for over 25 years, Ameri-Tech has earned its outstanding reputation by employing top executives, senior staff property managers, and a host of specialized professionals. Working in association with all manner of contractors to oversee 30,000+ units in the Tampa Bay area, the organization also boasts certifications in emergency management response services. If you are interested in a no obligation presentation to learn about the Ameri-Tech difference or to have your company considered for their Preferred Vendor Program, contact Sharon Perez at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 727-726-8000, extension 246.