This article was originally published in Community Association Institute's publication, Community Manager, and is republished with permission.
After more than 40 years managing community associations, I finally moved into one last November.
My wife and I faced some tough decisions when we moved into our new 1,450 square-foot condominium after living in a 3,000 square-foot single-family home for nearly three decades. Yes, we needed to decide what furniture to keep and what to give away; anyone who has ever downsized can relate to that.
But the process of moving into a gated community that has strict rules was another challenge. The last thing I wanted to do was get off on the wrong foot with the management company and board of directors. I also was apprehensive about giving out our community’s “secret” gate code to the phone and cable companies, plumbers, electricians and companies delivering furniture and appliances.
For the past 35 years I’ve taught every 200-series Professional Management Development Program course CAI has to offer as well as the M-100 and the Case Study. These courses all contribute to the skills a community association manager needs to be effective. Without question, one of the most important of these management skills is timely communications with the board of directors and members. Assuring they’ve all read and understand their governing documents and – in the case of a board of directors – contracts, insurance documents, budgets and financial statements is critical to a community’s ongoing success.
I often tell students in my classes they must assume that people moving into a community association don’t necessarily read all the documents provided to them. Young families have limited time and other priorities – like enrolling children in new schools and notifying friends, family members, utility companies, credit card companies, banks and others of their new address. So reading association documents isn’t always top of mind for them.
"A primer from the board or manager that includes just the basic rules and expectations could be a big help."
Knowing this to be the case and practicing what I preach, I took the time to read “everything.” Our condominium association is part of a master association, so in our case, that meant double the reading and comprehension requirements. Stacked up, the height of these documents totaled more than 12 inches! Lesson learned: A primer from the board or manager that includes just the basic rules and expectations could be a big help.
We’ve lived in our new home and community for a few months now. We receive timely communications from our management company and have a very efficient board of directors whose members understand the need to meet only quarterly. We also have incredibly friendly neighbors.
Shortly after moving into our more-than-a-hundred-unit community, I attended its annual association meeting – and was the only homeowner in attendance. Fortunately, the association has a 25 percent quorum requirement. Also lucky for us, we have an enlightened manager with a Professional Community Association Manager designation who emphasized the need to return our proxies to assure a quorum.
And yes, I volunteered for the landscape committee.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Packard, PCAM® is Associa's SVP of Acquisitions and Operations. He has been a CAI member since 1982 and was among the first 20 members to earn the Professional Community Associations Manager designation. A CAI past president (1984-85), he also has presided over the Foundation for Community Association Research and CAI’s San Diego chapter. He is a longtime PMDP instructor who has taught CAI’s professional development courses all over the world.