HOA MANAGERS

HOA Homefront: 17 things I wish all HOA managers knew

At least 30% of Americans now live in one of 365,000 HOAs, according to the Foundation For Community Association Research. (Illustration created with iStockphoto, Getty Images)

By KELLY G. RICHARDSON | kelly@roattorneys.com | Contributing Columnist

PUBLISHED: May 31, 2024 at 8:00 a.m. | UPDATED: May 31, 2024 at 10:43 a.m.

This is part three in a five-part series.

Managers are the HOA’s most important service providers. HOAs don’t work well without competent and trustworthy managers.

1. Managers are increasingly vital for the HOA housing model as it continues to grow. At least 30% of Americans now live in one of 365,000 HOAs, according to the Foundation For Community Association Research.

2. HOA Managers are professionals, not clerks or secretaries. Managers who view themselves as professionals will receive more satisfaction from their careers and will be better managers of their client communities.

3. Manager advice often satisfies a key element of the Business Judgment Rule (good faith, no conflict of interest, and reasonable diligence), protecting volunteers from personal liability. Managers are the main source of advice to the board on most decisions.

4. Homeowners need the manager to be their advisor. Managers should speak up in board meetings and build a culture in which the HOA board expects manager input on most decisions.

5. HOAs need their managers to tell them the truth, even truths the board would prefer not to hear.  However, once the manager provides the advice, it’s up to the board to follow it.

6. If a board doesn’t trust you, it doesn’t matter how good a job you do.

7. Just like your client boards, you are not on duty 24/7. Set boundaries and REASONABLE communication response expectations.

8. Don’t be too chummy with the HOA board. Avoid creating the impression of being allied with any group of homeowners- you manage the HOA for all members.

9. Always stay above the fray during board elections – keep to yourself your opinions about who is (or would be) good or bad directors.

10. Since California does not license or regulate HOA managers, industry credentials are the only way to demonstrate qualifications. The entry level credentials of CAI (the “CMCA”) and CACM (the “CCAM”) show prospective clients a commitment to the profession. CAI’s Professional Community Association Manager (“PCAM”) credential remains the gold standard for HOA managers and should be their goal.

11.Don’t strive to be the cheapest management resource or the flashiest. Demonstrate your company’s commitment to providing qualified professionals and providing a level of service befitting the needs of each client community.

12. It’s not your fault HOAs are contentious – the current American culture is intolerant of differing opinions. Sadly, that culture is reflected in most HOAs.

13. Managers should help their boards regularly and meaningfully communicate with the membership. More informed HOAs are better client HOAs.

14. Managers are an important engine of cultural change in American real estate. Americans traditionally devalue communal living, preferring independent property ownership instead. However, economic realities have pushed Americans toward shared ownership communities. Recognizing this helps to understand the frustration of members who chafe at submitting to the will of their community.

15. The average HOA member doesn’t look at the governing documents until it is too late, so be gracious with first-time violators. They may not have known that they needed to ask permission for anything, and so are often angry to discover that they must cooperate with their neighbors.

16. Under Fair Housing laws the manager is also considered the “owner” of the property (California Fair Housing Regulations Section 12005(t)(1)). Managers must be alert and avoid violations.

17. Under Fair Housing laws, the manager is also considered the “owner” of the property (California Fair Housing Regulations Section 12005(t)(1)). Managers must be alert and avoid violations.

Kelly G. Richardson CCAL is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and Partner of Richardson Ober LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Send column questions to Kelly@roattorneys.com.