HOA Homefront: 13 things HOA service providers need to know

When it comes to being an HOA service provider, bear in mind the client is the HOA corporation, not the president or any individual director. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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

PUBLISHED: June 7, 2024 at 8:00 a.m. | UPDATED: June 7, 2024 at 8:00 a.m.

This is part four of a five-part series on HOA management.

1. The client is the HOA corporation, not the president or any individual director. Make sure you know whether the person instructing you or your staff is authorized to speak on behalf of the HOA.

2. Your contract should state who is authorized on behalf of the HOA to give your staff instructions. Your staff should not take direction from residents, or even individual directors, but only the person designated in the contract. You should promptly report any resident interference. Your workers can be instructed to politely tell residents that they report to the manager, and ask that any concerns be relayed there.

3. Never get involved in the HOA’s internal politics, which is a violation of your ethical duties. Your loyalty has to be to the HOA as an entity, not who is leading it. You probably have opinions about the current board, or who might be a good director – keep those opinions to yourself.

4. Lengthy contracts may violate the HOA’s bylaws. Most HOAs have bylaws limiting contracts to a maximum of one year.

5. Get things in writing. If you agree to change something on the price or scope of the work for the HOA, something signed by the HOA’s authorized representative can reduce the risk of misunderstandings.

6. When proposing a particular scope of work, explain why the particular work is recommended. Many HOAs do not specify how the work is to be done, but ask you to propose a scope of work. That will help them decide between the different proposals.

7. Never give valuable gifts or incentives to the manager or board members. You don’t want that to be the reason you are appreciated. Instead, use your marketing representative to get the word out to HOAs and managers that your company is the best, not that your company throws the best parties or gives the best gifts.

8. Don’t give preference to the directors in scheduling the work. Treat the directors like any other homeowner.

9. Keep the client informed about your work progress. It’s particularly important to provide schedules so residents are aware ahead of time as to when their routines may be temporarily disrupted by the work.

10. On major projects, consider attending a board or “Town Hall” membership meeting as a client relations contribution. It will make the residents more comfortable with you as a vendor if they can meet a representative and receive meaningful updates on the progress of the project.

11. Make sure your business is licensed and fully insured for the work being performed. Nothing is more upsetting for a client than to learn that their vendor has a lapse in licensing or insurance. The HOA may stop the work or even terminate your contract if they learn of a lapse in liability insurance, workers compensation insurance, or licensing.

12. Consider having your supervisors seek the “Educated Business Partner” designation from the Community Associations Institute. The EBP credential demonstrates a commitment to meeting the unique needs of community associations.

13. If you’re asked to do something illegal or unethical, report the request immediately to the client board. It’s usually better to quit a job than it is to risk being sued or even prosecuted.

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.