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Five Things That Make Community Managers Unique

Those of us who take pride in the management of Home Owners Associations, Property Owners Associations, and Condo Owners Associations, are often frustrated with the confusion that is often prevalent in the public’s understanding of community managers versus property managers. Refer to your community manager as a property manager and you might get anything from a disapproving scowl to a stern rebuke. It’s not that one is better than the other, but there are major differences in the responsibilities and job descriptions of the two.


In short, property managers are essentially de facto landlords - responsible for renting and maintaining individual property units or commercial spaces. Great property managers are worth their weight in gold for sure, but trying to use property management methods to manage HOAs, POAs and COAs will result in a poorly managed community and often very costly mistakes.


Here are five things that make community managers unique:


  1. Financial Management: HOAs, both managed and self-managed, need a bonded third party to oversee their finances and provide the proper safeguards to protect the membership and the association. The level of accounting, bookkeeping, invoices, receivables, payables, mailing of assessments, reserve funds, and audit coordination required is far more advanced and complex than what property managers are used to. Additionally, Community Management companies do not comingle funds as is often observed with property management companies.


  2. Who’s in Charge: Property managers answer to an individual property owner. For community managers it’s an entire Board of Directors that has been elected by community members. This is a group of individuals with varying backgrounds, skill levels and personalities. If that weren’t complicated enough, boards are constantly changing as old members exit and new members join. If you’ve ever sat in on an HOA Board meeting you’ll most likely agree that it takes a special skill set and the patience of a saint to facilitate compromise and “soothe that savage beast” when board members are at odds. Also, important decisions often take more time to resolve, and focus can change as board members turnover.


  1. CC&Rs and Bylaws: Property managers usually follow policies set by the individual property owner. Community managers must fully understand the complex Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, as well as unique bylaws set by each individual community. These governing documents make managing associations significantly more complicated, especially for portfolio managers.


  2. Homeowners: Let’s be honest – renters simply aren’t nearly as invested in the success of a community or the property where they reside compared to actual homeowners. Homeowners have much more at stake and community managers have to deal with a very different mindset which can often lead to spirited debates and confrontations when ideas and policies don’t align. It takes a skilled professional to carefully navigate these often troubled waters.


  3. Legal Power:  HOAs have considerable legal power to enforce their rules. Liens can be put on properties if HOA dues or assessments aren’t paid. The legal aspect of association management alone is far more complex than what property managers are used to. Further, state legislators are prone to change the rules for associations far more often than for standard rental agreements and laws governing landlords.


Both property managers and community managers have important jobs, but to assume they are one-in-the-same is a grave oversight. Our community managers undergo special training and certification courses. They are experts in navigating the many challenges and unique circumstances that come with association management, ensuring that the communities they manage become better places to live and wor

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