When you purchase a home within a planned community such as a condominium complex, an apartment building or a gated estate, you automatically become a member of the community association.
A community association is there to provide operational structure and manage the affairs of the overall community. Among the duties of a community, the association is the management of disputes, making sure that all members live according to community rules, and taking care of important financial responsibilities.
At the helm of the community, the association is a board of directors that is responsible for the day-to-day management of community affairs. However, the board may choose to appoint a property management company to manage a lot of the more tedious tasks. Plus, most board members are ill-equipped to handle some of the specialized tasks that come with community association management.
Why is a Community Association Important?
Community living is all the rage right now because it offers a myriad of benefits. Planned communities typically offer a safe environment, with guaranteed maintenance of common areas that helps to appreciate the value of individual units over time. This makes them a very attractive investment for families, retirees and investors alike.
The community association has the following important responsibilities:
- To uphold and enforce the association’s CC&Rs
- To maintain security in the community
- To maintain consistent communication with residents
- To preserve and enhance common areas
- To keep important records
- To protect residents’ interests
- To organize meetings and social events to promote a strong sense of community
Keep in mind that every unit owner within the community is a partial owner of all common areas including recreational areas, parks, roads, etc.
Also, every association must comply with local health and safety laws including fire codes. As such, the association must be well-versed in local, regional and national housing legislation.
The Governing Documents
Each association is governed by a series of documents known as the declaration, covenants, conditions, and restrictions or CC &Rs for short. The aim of these documents is to:
- Outline the rights and responsibilities of the association and residents
- To create rules and regulations that are aimed at protecting property values while enhancing the residents’ quality of life
- To formalize the relationship between the association and unit owners
The development plan and recorded plan are considered to be the association’s primary documents. It’s also important for the association to understand and uphold all of the bylaws, resolutions, and Articles of Association.
It’s essential for unit owners to understand how community levies work and the rules and regulations attached to them. That’s because once you’ve purchased a unit in an association managed community, you’re obligated to follow these rules to the tee.
To function effectively, a community association must organize itself into well-functioning committees and maintain a diverse array of people with different perspectives. This helps to enrich the community while ensuring that every demographic within the association is represented in the board of directors.
The community is further broken up into different categories such as association management, the board of directors, committees and of course, unit owners. Each group has the responsibility to execute different goals of the community association.
Now, each community association has its own unique management style based on the demands and size of the community. Some communities are self-managed while others opt for a community manager or HOA management company.
The Rights and Responsibilities of a Community Association
Community association members have a responsibility not only to their own individual unit but to the community as a whole. To that end, it’s important for each community member to stick to their end of the bargain and keep their unit well-maintained.
Negligence of one’s duties can cause serious harm to the entire community and render the association rules ineffective.
The quality of life offered by a planned residential community happens as a result of proper maintenance and harmony between its members. When everyone respects and follows the rules and regulations, it’s easy to maintain the privileges afforded by a well-functioning association.
Community associations function much like a democracy. The unit owners own the community as a collective. However, the daily work of managing the community is given to the board of directors who act on behalf of the whole community.
Generally, these are the following rights and responsibilities of the community association:
- Unit owners have the right to live, access and participate in an efficiently operated community association.
- The board of directors has the right to expect compliance from all members of the community, whether they are unit owners or renters.
- The board members have a responsibility to perform their duties efficiently and act reliably within association guidelines and procedures.
It takes a lot more than the presence of common areas to create a sense of belonging in a community association. The community association must make a conscious effort to cultivate a community spirit that brings unit owners together with a common vision.
It’s important for residents to feel at home and this can only be achieved when a sense of community is present. One of the best ways to go about it is by getting members involved in decision making and ensure that residents feel heard and appreciated.
When residents feel heard they’re much more likely to take part in community affairs. Here are some of the activities that can be organized to help create a sense of community within an association:
- Community aid programs such as organizing lift clubs and running clubs
- Community events ` are centered around being charitable and giving back. Nothing brings people together than doing good.
- Acknowledging member accomplishments.
- Organizing activities centered on first-aid and safety training
- Subsidized annual events such as cookouts on the Fourth of July
- Blood donation drives
- Publishing event feedback and news on the community association’s online forum
Here are a few of the many ways in which the community association board can make residents feel more involved:
- Doing frequent surveys to determine the level of fulfillment among residents and get suggestions for future events
- Maintaining constant communication with updates on the latest happenings. The board could do this through a monthly newsletter, or better yet, establish a community website with interactive yet controlled forums that allow for more dynamic communication.
- Creating a welcome committee dedicated to receiving new members
- Making sure that community members feel acknowledged and appreciated for their effort to contribute to the greater good.
- Invite members to a quarterly community association meeting.
- Make sure community events happen in accessible areas where members usually meet
- Create committees with well-defined roles. For instance, one committee could be tasked with the responsibility to organize and manage social events, while another is in charge of landscaping or security.
The objective is to cultivate a sense of community and real camaraderie between members.
Hiring Property Management Companies
There’s no denying that managing a community association can be a lot of work. A majority of boards get so overwhelmed by the task that they decide to hire a property management company. For the most part, the role of a property management company is to manage the day-to-day operations of the association.
This makes sense when you consider that the board members are volunteers with their own lives. They don’t have time to constantly monitor the affairs of the community and more often than not, they lack the expertise needed to manage certain processes.
Hiring a property management company can relieve the board of duties such as collecting dues, managing association finances, and managing repairs and maintenance.
Here are some of the most important considerations to make when hiring a management company to run community association affairs:
Clarify roles and responsibilities
Most community association managers are hired to manage repairs, maintenance and contractor liaison. However, they may also be asked to enforce association rules and regulations, and association finances.
In most cases, a community association manager is not responsible for tasks such as in-unit repairs and maintenance. This includes recycling, replacing light-bulbs, trash collection, etc.
The scope of work will vary based on the needs of the community association. However, it’s important to not overburden the community association manager with unnecessary tasks, as that could increase their fees as well. The contract should clearly specify the fees and charges involved. Make sure there are no hidden costs.
Prioritize financial records
It’s always beneficial when a community association manager has access to the financials. This allows them to make helpful recommendations with lasting benefits for the association. The board should hold the community association manager accountable by requesting weekly reports on association expenditure.
If a community association decides to open its books to a management company, it’s important for the manager to work closely with the board treasurer to maintain accurate financial records.
Planned development communities are mushrooming at an unprecedented rate all over the world. This means that an increasing number of people live under the governance of a community association.
In a community association, residents must follow the same set of rules. Maintenance of common areas is essential to ensuring that property values appreciate over time while sustaining a favorable quality of life for the community.
These and other qualities like security and convenience are what make living in an association-managed community so attractive.
Useful community association management templates:
Community Association Management Software
Streamline Management, Operations and Communication