A successfully-run homeowners’ association (HOA) is never a solo endeavor. It takes an engaged board, an experienced Community Association Manager (CAM), and multiple vendors, who you can rely on for maintenance, landscaping, and more. If your board is struggling to find and keep the right community partners, contractors, and vendors, then we can help. Check out our eight tips for choosing the right vendors for your HOA so you can keep your community running smoothly no matter what comes your way.
1. Start with your governing documents.
Your association’s governing documents are the starting point for every new vendor relationship. You need to understand the board's responsibilities and the authority you have to find, select, and pay for a vendor. Every community's rules are different, so be sure to read yours carefully before starting the process. If you have questions, consult your CAM or association attorney before proceeding.
2. Choose between an employee and an independent contractor.
Depending on what your documents call for, you may be required to choose between hiring an association employee or using an independent contractor to get your job done. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Weigh your options carefully, consult with the board, and, when needed, reach out to your HOA management team for advice on best practices for each scenario.
3. Determine your budget and stick to it.
When you serve on your HOA board, you have a fiduciary responsibility to do what's best for the community as a whole--including smart money management. Anytime there’s something that requires outside help, you’ll need to allocate funds to get it done. Set a budget, then do your best to stick to it. Work with your fellow board members, and make sure all required approvals happen before signing off on your budget.
4. Interview and get quotes from multiple vendors.
After your pre-planning work is complete, it’s time to explore your options. Be sure to avoid going with the first bid you receive. Also, proceed with caution if you’re interviewing anyone that has a personal relationship with a board member and make sure that doesn’t influence your decision making. Interview multiple people and get several quotes so that you have all the information you and the board will need to make the right call when comparing multiple bids.
5. Check the vendor's references.
Many vendors and service providers will promise you the world. Before jumping into a relationship, ask for two to three references. Take the time to call some of their past and current clients to ensure what they say they can do matches their track record. You may also want to explore their online ratings. From their Google business listing to their company Facebook pages, there are several ways you can find honest reviews about potential vendors and their quality of service and work.
6. Verify credentials, licenses, and insurance.
Most states will require vendors to have a license to work. Without a state-issued license, vendors can't acquire insurance. Without the proper paperwork, your association may be liable for potential accidents, injuries, and property damage that occurs. Mitigate your risk by working with pre-approved vendors that have been vetted by your association manager, or by checking with your state licensing board to verify current credentials.
7. Consider more than just the price.
While it may be tempting to select a potential vendor based on the lowest bid, it could end up costing you in the long run. Licenses, permits, insurance, and other fees for doing business are not cheap, if your vendor is quoting you a price that sounds too good to be true, it might be. Take into account all of the things we mentioned above, including their work history, their customer service, and more.
8. Review your contracts.
Typically, the final step in the process will be signing a contract or agreement with the vendor. Protect the interests of your HOA by reading through the contract carefully before signing. If needed, have your board, CAM, and lawyer review before inking the deal to ensure there will be no surprises along the way.
Access discounts from trusted vendors.
After more than 40 years of community management, we understand the importance of hiring the right vendor for a job. To help our communities streamline the process, we started a program called Associa Advantage. We offer this service to all our communities and homeowners free of charge, and it gives them access to hundreds of vendors we already know and trust. Best of all, by leveraging the buying power of thousands of communities across North America, Associa Advantage gives you considerable discounts, savings, and exclusive offers to help complete your next project on time and under budget. To learn more, please visit the Associa Advantage website.