Agent vs. Contractor
- Expect your Managing Agent to be aware of their fiduciary responsibility to the Association and to do what is in the best interest of the Association.
One of the first things to recognize is that the Managing Agent for your Association is most typically not a Contractor. There are distinct legal differences between Agents and Contractors which impact the relationship and the expectations between the Board and its management firm. Unlike a Contractor, an Agent has a fiduciary responsibility to do that which is in the best interest of the Association. It is the same fiduciary responsibility that the Board of Directors has and is very unlike Contractors who have no obligation to act on behalf of anyone other than themselves. A fiduciary obligation represents the highest level of responsibility under the law. The Agent and the Board will be held to the sam e standard that applies to a guardian or person who has custodial care of someone else, or someone else's money.
- Expect your Managing Agent to professionally advise your Board on issues within their scope of knowledge and alerting the Board when consulting other professionals is prudent.
Your Managing Agent should be knowledgeable about your governing documents as well as local and federal laws affecting common interest communities. However, managers are not lawyers, tax accountants, insurance agents, investment advisors or engineers. The Agent's role is to advise the Board on issues within their scope of knowledge and then, based on experience, to advise the Board when guidance from other professionals is prudent. The Managing Agent should be thought of by the Board as the Association's first line of defense in risk management. Soliciting the advice of professionals retained for that purpose can minimize the Association's risk exposure. Your professional team will include your m anaging agent, legal counsel, auditor, insurance agent, investment advisor, contractors and other specialists called upon from time to time for specific circumstances and needs.
- Expect that your Managing Agent and the Board will conduct business in a professional manner.
You should expect that the manager and your management firm will be professionally credentialed. Look for accreditations and affiliations with industry related organizations as an indication of the Managing Agent's commitment to their industry. Expect professional demeanor, appearance and attitude from the management staff. Expect management representatives to be mature, calm and thoughtful when interacting with the Board and homeowners and in their approach to problem solving.
The Board should bring the same level of professionalism to the governing process. Be respectful of the manager's time by being prepared for meetings and arrive on time. Keep meetings moving and on track by sticking to the agenda. Ask questions prior to the meeting to allow the Manager time to research an answer. Be respectful when dealing with management staff and homeowners. Set a positive tone for the conduct of business. Encourage the positive exchange of ideas and diversity of opinion. Work to build consensus. Agree to disagree and attack issues, not the people who brought them forward. Exercise common courtesies. A little diplomacy goes a long way and the Board relationship with management often sets the tone for the rest of the community.
- Expect your Managing Agent to work with you to develop an annual work plan that provides clear direction to the management team and demonstrates strong leadership to the community.
The Board of Directors and the Managing Agent represent the leadership of the community. See the big picture and lead with a strategic plan! Planning sessions that produce an annual work plan should take place every year. The Board defines the objectives given the budget and resource limitations of the community while the management team develops an implementation plan and completion schedule. This process builds a consensus among Board members about community priorities and helps the management team focus resources and staff time on the issues of greatest importance to the Board.
The annual work plan provides a measure of performance and sense of accomplishment for the management team and the Board of Directors. Unpredictable events interrupt the best conceived plans so re-evaluate and adjust your plan periodically. Evaluating the successes and failures of the annual plan helps everyone to plan better in the future.
Leadership is also about setting an example for others. The Board and the management staff will be held to a very high standard by the community. Understand that your actions and demeanor will be seen by the membership and will reflect on the community.
- Expect your Managing Agent to establish and promote effective communications with the Board and between community leaders and the membership.
Establish and maintain good methods of communication between the Board and the Managing Agent! Promote it, encourage it, expect it. Schedule periodic work sessions with the management team to revisit the annual plan and update each other on the status of work. Typically, there is no time at monthly Board meetings to catch up with each other and simply discuss the wide variety of day to day issues facing the management staff, the Board and its committees. An informal work session can go a long way towards re-focusing the group and strengthening understanding of the challenges facing each team member. This also works well between the Board and the membership. Periodic Town Meetings help to keep the Board and management in touch with homeowners and provide an opportunity for feedback from the membership.
- Expect your Managing Agent to be a valuable resource for quality goods and services.
The needs of Associations are extraordinarily diverse. You may need assistance with finding good contractors, volunteer education & training, engineering services, interior design, planning, meeting facilitation, desk top publishing, minute taking, loan financing, human resources, bids for services, drafting specifications, insurance coverage, insurance claims, litigation, etc. Although the management company may not directly provide many of these services, you should look to your management company for contacts, options and resources to obtain whatever services and goods the Association needs.
Trust and Confidence
- Expect your Board members and your Managing Agent to protect privileged Association information and executive session confidentiality.
In order to be a productive and mutually rewarding relationship, the relationship between the Board and their Managing Agent must be one of trust and confidence.
- Expect your Managing Agent to be flexible and willing to revisit service levels as Board or community needs dictate.
To minimize misunderstandings, be honest with the Managing Agent about your Association's needs and articulate what you expect the management company to do.
Management companies base their bids on the scope of work provided by the Board. The clearer and more comprehensive the scope of work is, the more likely it is that the service you receive will be tailored to your actual need.
Remember, management is not a cookie cutter product. One size does not fit all! Different communities have vastly different needs that change over time. Every time Board members change, expectations and group dynamics are altered. The entire direction of the community can be changed with one Board election. Be prepared to re-visit the management agreement and realign service levels as needed.
Quality Customer Service
- Expect your Managing Agent to establish and maintain a high quality customer service program for your community.
Knowledgeable competent staff members who are approachable and responsive are the foundation for quality customer service. We have learned over time that client satisfaction is most often measured, not by how many tasks were achieved, but by what level of customer service was provided to homeowners by the management team. Your Managing Agent should demonstrate a commitment to customer service and an understanding of its importance in the management of common interest communities.
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