Common Misconceptions About HOA Management

HOA management firms support condo board goals

Condo homeowners often think there is a problem if their community brings in a HOA management company. However, there are many benefits that a HOA management company can provide.

We hope to dispel some of these commonly held misconceptions about HOA management companies and maybe even encourage you to consider talking with your condo board about the potential that such leadership could offer your community in terms of smooth operations, enhanced communication as well as potential cost savings.

Misconception #1: HOA Management Companies Take Control From Your Condo Board

When an HOA management company is brought in to assist your condo community, they do not replace your condo board members or take away any of their responsibilities. Instead, the HOA management company works to support the condo board in operating more effectively – this means getting more work done in support of the community. While your condo board may work closely with the HOA management company, the condo board retains the majority of its decision-making responsibilities. One of the key benefits that the HOA management company provides is experience, as they have encountered many unique situations working with condo boards and communities of all sizes in your city.

Misconception #2: HOA Management Companies Only Provide Remote or Virtual Support

Not true! The best HOA management companies in Chicago provide in-person support. Remember, the goal of the HOA management company is to assist the condo board with research, strategic planning and execution of projects. For such a partnership to truly take hold, it is important for the condo board and HOA management team to meet regularly and develop a trusting relationship that works on behalf of the community. In-person meetings, in addition to regular phone calls and emails, can provide tangible benefits through straight-forward communications and alignment of expectations.

Misconception #3: HOA Management Companies Specifically Look for Condo Violations and Dole Out Punishments

The HOA management company’s goal is not to seek out rule breakers within the condo community. Instead, their goal is to help ensure the community is operating as it should per the original condo covenants. In fact, the rules outlined in your condo community’s covenant were probably created even before your condo’s board was selected! While an HOA management company might identify community practices that violate the condo community’s guidelines, they are typically not responsible for policing the rules and are only working to ensure the safety, security and seamless operations of the condo community in support of each and every homeowner.

Misconception #4: Hiring an HOA Management Company Will Increase my HOA Fees

When your condo board or property manager brings on an HOA management company it does not necessarily mean that your association fees will increase. It’s possible that the board is actually using available association funds to hire the HOA management company on a retainer to help provide more strategic direction for the community. And, while it’s likely that fees are tied to the HOA management’s consultation with your board, it’s also possible that the HOA management company might be able to provide recommendations and make introductions to service providers that will actually cut costs for the community in the long run. If you are curious about how such a partnership will affect your out-of-pocket expenses you can easily inquire with your board if this information is not provided to you first.

Misconception #5: HOA Management Companies Keep Community Members in the Dark

One of the reasons why people believe this misconception is that they fail to understand the role differences between management companies and HOAs. HOAs have a fiduciary responsibility to residents (i.e., “an acceptance of responsibility to act in the best interests of another person or entity,” as Investopedia explains). In other words, they have to make decisions intentionally designed to benefit residents and (if everything goes well) bolster the price of the property. They also need to set rules that make it possible for others to use and enjoy the property.

HOA management companies have a different, far-more-limited role, one focused on assisting the HOA board and implementing sensible policies. In short, management companies offer advice and then act according to what the HOA board wants. So if there’s a communication problem, it doesn’t start with the manager: It starts with the board.

But that doesn’t mean the manager isn’t without a role to play. Good communication is a key quality in a good HOA management company. A professional community manager knows that good management comes down to responding to community members and getting the answers they need. It is the management company’s job to keep the lines of communication open between management and the members.

Misconception #6: HOA Management Companies Don’t Assist with Resident Disputes

A successful HOA must be able to resolve disputes in a timely way and maintain a positive relationship with the community owners. The first step to solving conflicts is to communicate well with owners and understand their needs. With understanding, conflicts are reduced and more readily solved.

Disputes with between the HOA and community members or among members often arise. Effective dispute resolution is a vital part of the HOA management company’s job. Your HOA should have a dispute resolution plan in place and the HOA management company follows these guidelines in resolving any dispute.

An effective HOA management company takes the problems of conflict management from the board and assists in resolving any problems. Board members can maintain good relationships with owners when they are not put in the middle of disputes. If your community has many disputes, this can be an excellent reason to hire a HOA management company.

However, sometimes an HOA board might specifically want a management company to pass a complaint on to them, and this may contribute to the perception that the company isn’t responsive. As Washington-based attorney Justin D. Park explained to HOAleader.com, “If a letter includes a question about the association’s existing policy or procedure, I think it’s entirely appropriate for managers to respond when they have information on that particular question. If someone’s raising a dispute or an issue the board needs to address, I don’t want the manager to respond to those letters.” In those cases, the onus is on the board to respond promptly.

Misconception #7: All HOA Management Companies Are the Same

HOA management companies are all supposed to perform the same tasks, so one organization must basically work the same as any other — right? Not so fast! Like any business, there are good HOA management companies and bad ones. The tricky part is in weeding out the bad ones and finding a company that truly cares about your property. Here are some qualities to look for in an effective HOA management company:

  • The knowledge and experience to handle tough problems and people
  • Accurate, transparent, and easy to read financial reports delivered in a timely manner
  • Repairs and maintenance are done quickly and correctly
  • Excellent communication with board members and community owners
  • Follows through on all requests from the board quickly and completely
  • Violations are handled efficiently
  • Fosters good relationships with board, community members, and vendors
  • Diffuses situations without escalating them, encouraging trust and confidence in the HOA leadership
  • Provides specific services that fit the unique needs of your community
  • Offers essential information freely and promptly
  • Works well with both the board and the residents

For more information on choosing an excellent HOA management company, see our blog post on Questions to Ask Prospective HOA Property Management Companies or contact us directly.