One thing is certain: self-management of a condominium association is no easy task. However, despite what professional management companies and other websites may lead you to believe, it is an achievable one for the right Board of Directors. I’m certainly not suggesting that the decision to shift from professional to self-management should be taken lightly. When considering this, the Board should take the time to discuss the realities of self-management and how Board members will divide responsibility to ensure that the association continues to function properly. Not sure what the realities of self-management are for your community? Feel free to email me and I will gladly discuss with you the specific challenges you are facing.
Each community is different and some are better suited for self-management than others. So, what do you need to successfully self-manage a condominium association? Here are my four absolute musts:
1. Dedicated Board Members
It is impossible to properly self-manage a condominium association without at least two dedicated Board members. Usually, these two Board members will fill the President and Vice-President (or Treasurer) roles. Depending on the size of the community, the President will likely have to be willing to dedicate 15-30 hours/ week handling association issues. The time commitment will likely be greater than that during the first few months of self-management as all of the kinks are worked through. The second dedicated Board member will need to assist the President in handling the daily ins and outs of the association and will also need to serve as back-up in the event the President is unavailable to fill his/ her daily duties. Ideally, these Board members will be retired or will have flexible work schedules in order to meet with vendors and residents during normal business hours.
2. Accounting Experience
One of the most important aspects of condo management is maintaining the financial records of the association. The Florida Condominium Statutes (Chapter 718) have very detailed requirements for record keeping and annual disclosures. The requirements become more sophisticated the larger the association becomes. Further, it will be the responsibility of the Board, among other things, to collect maintenance fees, issue delinquency letters, pay all of the association’s expenses, properly manage the association’s reserves and file the association’s taxes. Given this, it is extremely important that at least one Board member have sufficient accounting experience to maintain the association’s books. QuickBooks is a user friendly and moderately priced accounting system that the Board can use. There are many others available as well. If you do not have anyone on the Board with enough experience to feel comfortable handing the financial records of the association, another option would be to hire a 3rd party (a bookkeeper, accountant, CPA firm, etc.) to handle the financial aspects of the association.
3. An Experienced Lawyer
Without a professional property manager to look to for advice (though in my experience their advice is often incorrect), an experienced condominium lawyer will become the Board’s new best friend. A quality lawyer will be able to handle your collection efforts, answer any questions you have about the FL Statutes or your governing documents (bylaws, declaration, rules & regulations, etc.), review association policies prior to Board implementation, and provide guidance on many of the other issues that are certain to arise.
4. Communication Skills
Last, but certainly not least, there needs to be at least one Board member with solid written communication skills who will be willing to draft emails to the community, send out newsletters, answer resident complaints/ questions, etc. Do not underestimate the importance of this factor. One of the most common complaints I hear is that information is not well communicated to residents. Lack of communication on important issues can create frustration for residents and this often leads to threats of lawsuits or other action when residents are unhappy with a decision that the Board has made. Detailed and timely communication helps to keep residents satisfied which, in turn, makes running the association that much easier.
If your Board meets the above four criteria, then you are likely well poised to self-manage your condominium association. As always, I am available via email to discuss any questions or comments you have.