By Bob Ruzicka
Some Condominium Associations, particularly in smaller communities, often consider self-managing association duties in lieu of paying a full-time association management company. While these companies can be a valued asset for large communities, smaller communities may not be able to easily support the cost of their services. Additionally, owners who are considering managing their own association have a vested interest in the appearance and maintenance of the community and are in the best position to evaluate its needs. By gaining a thorough understanding of the different functions involved, achieving self-management becomes much more conceivable.
Most association tasks can be categorized into two main groups. The first group is the Community Functions and the second, the Financial Functions. Here is a list of the main tasks for each:
- Community Functions –
- Field owner/renter inquiries.
- Track vendor performance; order needed repairs and maintenance.
- Organize Board & Owner meetings, assist at meetings, keep minutes.
- Maintain owner/member directory. Store association historical files and documents.
- Enforce compliance with Community Rules & Regulations.
- Financial Functions –
- enter and pay bills
- book dues received, send delinquent notices as needed
- reconcile bank accounts, provide financial reports
- file annual tax return
A first step toward self-management might be to set up the community email and phone. Owners or their guests may need to contact the Association regarding issues with the common areas like elevators, pool, parking, entry gates or other association property. An Association email address can be set up and might include the community’s name, e.g., Beach.email@example.com. For phone contact, an answering service like AnswerFirst can provide a dedicated local phone number for the Association. They can put together a script including a greeting identifying the Association, inquire as to the reason for the call and then contact the designated Association member to relay the information.
While vendor management duties can be shared by the various owners and officers, it is best that there be a single contact for each of the vendors to avoid confusion. Owners should become familiar with each vendor contract, noting the type of services and how often they are to provide them.
Board and owner meetings need to comply with state statutes, particularly chapter 718 for condominiums, making sure that proper notices are posted in advance of the meeting as well as following voting procedures for any Association business. Annual Board certification courses, which are usually provided by local attorneys specializing in condo law, are a good source for this information.
As the Association is required to maintain community records, a cloud-based service like Dropbox will serve well. Folders for each category can be created like board and owner meeting minutes, insurance contracts, vendor contracts, or any other items that have been in the Associations historical files. Access to these files can be provided to all board members.
Community Rules & Regulations are intended to maintain order and create an atmosphere of harmony. A review of the Rules document may be in order to improve compliance. Adding bullet points, underlines and bold type to highlight important parts and listing the most important rules first can add clarity to the document. Copies should be posted in multiple conspicuous locations on property and sent frequently to owners and rental agents.
Some local banks offer a lock-box service to receive condo dues payments and will send payment coupon books directly to each owner as well. A mailbox for the Association can be set up at a USPS or UPS location to receive bills and other Association mail. Most small communities only write perhaps a dozen checks for vendors and utilities once-a-month. Easy-to-use accounting software like Quickbooks can be used for all Association accounting with an outside accounting service assisting with set-up, financial reports and filing the annual tax return.
The key to successful transition to a self-managed condominium association is having owners committed to taking on the challenge, a well-thought-out plan, and to have the support of an experienced professional to assist before, during, and after the transition.
As a certified Community Association Manager with years of experience, Bob Ruzicka, President of The Ruzicka Group, helps guide condominium communities through the process of taking ownership of their own associations. For a free consultation, call (850) 312-3377 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to explore how The Ruzicka Group can help your association take the leap to a successful self-managed community.