HOAs – 7 Insights for Property Managers

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As more single-family subdivisions are built and more apartment complexes convert to condominiums, many form Home Owner Associations (HOA). These are opportunities for good property management!

Many an HOA would prefer not to deal directly with the myriad issues of coping with the needs of owners and their renter-residents. Enforcement of the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs) is one of the biggest reasons HOAs are likely to hire a property management company.

Having served on the Boards of several HOAs helped me to see this topic from both sides of the table. Many HOAs and their Board of Directors lack the knowledge, time and experience needed to cope. That said, the Board is often inclined to delegate to its property manager many of the critical responsibilities that everyone should be concerned about. Here are some tips that can help you avoid issues.

1. Offer to attend as many meetings as possible, but by all means attend the annual meetings. Annual meetings are often attended by more homeowners who often have questions that the Board needs help answering. Check with the HOA Board and ask if they want you there.
2. Listen, listen and listen some more. One owner of multiple properties who is an HOA Board officer told me that the Board’s #1 complaint was that the property manager was too bossy.
“We just want her to be supportive and answer our questions. If she’d listen more she’d know how to help us more effectively.”
3. Encourage the Board to carefully watch the financial numbers. Knowing how much is in the “reserve fund” isn’t only relevant to the Treasurer of the Board. Many Board members aren’t financial gurus or “numbers people,” so your clarifications on the HOA finances are needed.
4. Avoid playing politics and instead be a dependable advisor. It may be tempting to cozy up to the Board members who appear to be more influential. But if every Board member believes you are there to help them and the homeowners, your longevity as the property manager will improve.
5. Don’t be shy about asking for the homeowners’ opinions, recommendations and concerns. Yes, I know this may open a can of worms but I can assure you it will be worth it. Better yet, ask for specific feedback on carefully chosen topics and see how many replies you receive.
6. If the Board requests you to be the enforcer of the CC&Rs, don’t agree unless you’re up to the task. It’s wiser to say you’re willing to share the load then to agree and then disappoint.
7. Help the HOA avoid pitfalls. One HOA I advised didn’t know that if the number of owner-occupied units fell below 50%, lenders would be reluctant to finance purchases. The Board has the responsibility to preserve property values. Any suggestions on that subject are priceless!

We’ve all heard horror stories on mismanaged properties. If your reputation with HOAs says, “I’m a problem solver and a preventer of problems,” you’ll be so successful that you’ll either have to turn away potential clients or hire help to expand. What a delightful dilemma.

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