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.