Management companies … whom exactly do they work for? To whom are they responsible? What can owners directly expect from them? Management companies frequently have to struggle with their relationships with owners. This is not because management companies are unresponsive to, or simply ignore, owners but because owners do not understand the nature of the relationship between themselves and management.
Management companies provide tremendous service to the Board which in turn improves the quality of the owners’ homes and lives. Governing Boards are volunteers, many of whom have full or part time jobs and other time commitments. Furthermore, there are no requirements for any expertise in the many areas that require their attention. Enter the management company.
Among the myriad of duties that management companies perform are collection of assessments, payment of association expenses, maintenance of records of income and expenditures, prepare the annual budget, negotiate contracts for routine services and care for the common elements. Additionally, because of the fact that they manage more than one association, they often have superior bargaining power with vendors and, through economy of scale, can obtain better prices for goods and services needed by the association than the Board could obtain on its own. This could potentially translate into lower assessments for owners and may even offset the actual management fee paid by the association. That being said, the most important function is not the potential cost saving but the degree of attention and knowledge that they bring to these responsibilities; hours are spent behind the scenes working on them which time is not seen by the owners. Looking at the list of duties, which is non exhaustive, one can see that they are performed to benefit the association as a whole and not for the benefit of any one or limited group of owners. And that is where problems often arise.
Unfortunately, owners frequently misconstrue the role of management. They believe that because management’s fees are paid from the owners’ assessments, the managers work directly for, and should answer directly to, them. This often leads to feelings of frustration on the part of management and owners alike. It is not a level playing field … managers are professionals who must remain calm, cool and collected in the face of demanding (and sometimes rude) owners. Many times, owners simply refuse to accept the fact that management does not need to respond immediately (or at all) to requests for personal service. Certainly, if an owner is reporting an issue that impacts on safety … such as lights out in the parking lot … such a request rises to the top of management’s “to do” list. But when owners start to call about “homeowner” problems, such as the lights in their own home not working, they are frequently displeased to learn that this is their responsibility, and that management will not be responding. (Of course, if the lights are out because of a failure of some sort of common element issue, management will respond and arrange for the needed repair.)
One of the more troubling areas of conflict between owners and management is management’s responsibility to enforce the governing documents. Management can only work at the direction of the Board. They are agents of the Board and as such have no independent authority. This applies to their enforcement responsibilities. They are not police officers cruising around looking for violations. However, if they see a violation, they must address it … the Board members, as stated previously, have other lives and cannot always be on the scene to spot violations. Thus, the job falls to management. Sadly, instead of accepting responsibility for having failed to observe the rules, owners prefer to blame management. Not only does it take occur “face to face” but managers receive nasty emails and harassing telephone calls. This blame can often escalate into outright hostility and abusive behavior by owners at which point the Boards’ counsel may be asked to step in to remind the owner that this type of behavior is not warranted and will not be tolerated. Everyone can agree that it is at best “disheartening” to do your job yet receive such responses for being the “eyes and ears” of the Board.
Owners should look around and see all the work that they personally did not have to do or arrange for … the roofs, snow plowing, mowing, mulching, plantings, trash disposal and painting and think about how much of their time would have been occupied with these homeownership chores if they did not live in a condominium which is professionally managed. Looking at the “we” who are benefited instead of the “me” who wants individual attention can go a long way in understanding the role and importance of the management company.