Category Archives: General

The Benefits of a Condominium Association Website

If your condominium association doesn’t have a website, I strongly recommend you get one. They can provide a plethora of services at a relatively reasonable cost and can be a self-managed association’s best friend when trying to provide large quantities of information to residents in an efficient manner. Further, they are a great way to publicize your property as most prospective buyers and renters begin their condominium search online.  Not sure that a website would be of that much use? This post is dedicated the many ways that self-managed condominium association Boards can use a website to their advantage.

Don’t have a tech savvy Board? No problem! Services like AtHomeNet provide websites exclusively for community associations that can be customized to meet the needs of your property for as little as $35/ month. All of the website perks I discuss below are available through this service.

Community Photographs

A gallery of quality photos can make your property appealing to potential buyers. If you make them available on your website, you will find that realtors will begin to actively use these pictures in their property listings.

General Communication

Associations have an unending list of things to communicate to their residents. Your website can be used to post and send email notices about association projects, policy updates, cable and internet options, homeowner maintenance reminders such as air conditioning service, Board meeting agendas and minutes, social events, and much more.

Board Member Contact Information

One way Board members can make themselves more accessible to homeowners, which in turn tends to make homeowners more confident about the Board’s ability to management of the property, is to make their contact information available to homeowners. I recommend that each Board member establish a unique email address used exclusively for association business.

 Events Calendar

A website events calendar is a great way to community upcoming events to residents. This can be used for association-sponsored social events, area events, board meetings, proxy/ voting deadlines and timelines for major association projects, just to name a few.

 Classified and Condos for Sale/ Rent

Most association websites offer homeowners a place to list personal items for sale, condos for sale or condos for rent.

 Community Policies and Forms

It’s smart to keep all frequently requested policies and forms on your website. Good examples of this would be the property’s rental policy, the association’s bylaws and declaration, insurance certificates, maintenance fee schedules, or a frequently asked questions sheet.

Credit Card Maintenance Fee Payments

Many association website companies offer homeowners the ability to pay their maintenance fees by credit card on the website. Usually there is a several dollar convenience fee but for residents that need to make a payment immediately, this can be a good option.

Official Record Storage

As discussed in our post about the Official Records section of Florida Statute 718, condominium associations have a responsibility to maintain certain Association records and make them available to homeowners upon request. What would be easier than to direct homeowners to the property’s website to review specific records? It probably isn’t feasible to store all of the Association’s records on the website; however, the most commonly requested documents certainly can be. These documents include recent meeting agendas and minutes, monthly financial statements, the Association’s budget and maintenance fee schedule, and any property rules and policies. The website also serves as a web-based backup system for your key official records.

Area Information

Though not a necessity, providing information about your property’s surrounding area can be a nice addition to your website. You can include emergency contact information (e.g. the local fire and police departments, emergency hotlines), evacuation information if you are in a flood zone (e.g. shelter locations), additional parking options if parking on your property is limited, local restaurants and sites, local government website and information on recycling programs. Further, your website can be a great way to communicate with residents before or after a hurricane (learn more about hurricane preparedness for your association here).

In all, a website can be a tremendous tool for condo association Boards and is definitely worth the reasonable annual fee. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Emily Shaw is a condominium homeowner in Tampa, Florida and a Director of VERA Property Management, a firm providing full-service community association management in the Tampa Bay Area as well as consulting, financial and legal services to all Florida community associations. 

Need help managing your Condominium Association?

My name is Emily Shaw. I am a resident of Tampa, Florida and have served as the President of a self-managed Condominium Association of 206 units since 2010. Prior to becoming President, I served as the Association’s Treasurer. Prior to 2011, several professional management companies, with which we were consistently disappointed, managed our Association. Anyone who has worked with management companies likely knows what I am talking about. The entire system is structured to the detriment of Associations. Most managers are stretched thin, paid too little (preventing talented managers from staying in the business) and are responsible for too many communities to give each the attention it deserves. Most board members volunteer with great intentions but little knowledge of the complexities of managing an Association and have to look to their managers for routine guidance. Further, many management companies, thinking about their bottom line, charge ridiculous fees for small things (like faxing, printing, phone calls, etc.) and earn kickbacks from certain vendors that they go to for bids on Association maintenance projects. This, of course, incentivizes more frequent maintenance projects, more expensive contracts, and a less competitive bidding process, all at the expense of the condo owners’ pockets.

But management companies are able to get away with this because the thought of self-managing an Association is often too much for most Boards to handle. Further, when interviewing management companies, many Boards rush into a decision, don’t ask the right questions, and don’t negotiate the terms of the contract to the Association’s advantage. This is where I step in. My goal, and the purpose of this blog, is to provide Association Boards with the knowledge to either: (1) step out on their own and self-manage their community or (2) conduct a detailed and thorough review of the management companies available, pick the one that will best suit their community, and negotiate a management contract that will benefit the community.

After our condo association became self-managed, we discovered all of the inefficiencies, FL Statute violations and maintenance oversights that were plaguing our community. Issues were frequently handled with temporary Band-Aids instead of big picture solutions. Within a year of becoming self-managed, we were able to reduce expenses (through contract renegotiations and better project oversight), reduce delinquencies (though aggressive collections and stricter Association policies), keep maintenance fees stable, and create enough surplus to complete many improvement projects. All of this made our community a more enjoyable place to live and more appealing to prospective buyers. Though I have to give the recent turn around in the housing market most of the credit, I truly believe that the changes we have made have helped to increase the number of sales on our property.

Every few days I will post a discussion of a key issue in condo association management. I am also available via email if you would like to discuss any specific issues.

Emily Shaw