Practicing law in the condominium and community association arena for over a decade has taught me many things. It has taught me that people are complicated and diverse. That each of us has our own perspective on socially acceptable norms and practices. And that we each have our own unique approach to living the best life we can. Sometimes our difference in perspective and our individual character traits make living in a community association setting challenging. Residing in close proximity to others sometimes highlights our differences rather than our similarities. When this occurs, association disputes arise that inevitably find their way to the association management company. At the epicenter of nearly all disputes are association property managers. These brave and dedicated souls must handle such disputes with confidence, grace, professionalism and diplomacy. No easy task. Picture the scenario in which the occupant of unit 1A complains to the property manager about excessive noise transmitting from unit 2A. The unit 2A occupant equally complains about excessive noise transmitting from unit 1A. The property manager is left with two very unhappy and frustrated unit owners to manage.
As if mediating an association noise dispute is not challenging enough, property managers must also manage the expectations and personalities of all board members. When you consider that most boards range in size from three to nine members, it quickly becomes evident how difficult it is to appease all parties. While some boards operate in a cohesive and succinct manner, many others do not. Nevertheless, the association property manager must maintain professionalism at all times and somehow juggle the melting pot of personalities. Again, no easy task.
On July 1, 2010 the Community Association Manager Licensing and Disciplinary Act was adopted. The legislative intent of the General Assembly was to provide for the licensing and regulation of community association managers to ensure that those who hold themselves out as possessing professional qualifications to engage in the business of community association management are qualified to render management services of a professional nature. Requiring individuals engaged in property management to obtain a professional license was designed to provide for high standards of professional conduct. This new law was believed by members of the community association industry to bring a new level of professionalism and respect for property managers.
Unfortunately, in my experience this does not seem to be the case. While most community association managers are professional, ethical and hardworking individuals, they are not given the level of respect and professional courtesy they deserve. I am often asked to prepare cease and desist letters to disruptive and rude association members. These members fail to extend basic levels of respect and civility to their property managers, choosing instead to treat them like verbal punching bags.
To make matters worse, with the lightning quick advancement of technology, we have all grown accustomed to near instantaneous response times. Tasks that used to allow two to three-day turnaround times are now expected to be completed in two to three hours. Board members and unit owners alike expect extremely fast response times to phone calls and emails. With the average property manager receiving anywhere from 50 to 150 emails a day, it is almost inconceivable for a manager to keep his/her inbox current. Further compounding the time constraints placed upon managers are onsite property inspections, attendance at board workshops, board meetings, annual meetings, annual budget preparation, ongoing continuing education requirements, overseeing large scale construction projects and much, much more. Emails left unanswered compile and compound forcing some community managers to spend nights and weekends playing catch up.
Aside from keeping up with the workflow, property managers sometimes face hostile and emotionally volatile unit owners while attending open board meetings. Unit owners of this nature usually attend board meetings with a single issue in mind. If frustrated and upset enough, owners interrupt the board meeting to discuss their sole concern. Oftentimes they expect the association property manager to have an acceptable explanation, an immediate solution to their dilemma, or neither; they simply want to use the meeting as a platform to publicly vocalize their disapproval of the manager and management company. In the face of such public hostility, managers are expected to control their emotions and maintain their professionalism. Yet again, no easy task.
Effective property managers work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep condominium and community associations running smoothly. They work closely with the board to oversee the day-to-day affairs of the association, interface with vendors on critical projects and pursuits, aid in balancing the budget, account for all association income and expenses, manage complaints from unit owners, juggle a variety of board personalities, work at a breakneck pace with an expectation of absolute perfection in everything they do and much, much more. Rarely, if ever, do they receive well deserved credit from association members for their hard work, dedication and professionalism.
The next time you speak with your property manager, take a moment to thank them for all that they do to keep your community running smoothly. They will appreciate the gratitude for they are, after all, the unsung heroes of condo and community associations.