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Minnesota Community Living 2013-05-06 Six Secrets Your Association Manager Doesn't Tell You
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Six Secrets Your Association Manager Doesn't Tell You

By David C. Stendal, Omega Management

There are some things that you will seldom, or never, hear from your Association Manager. Sometimes it’s because they know that you don’t want to be bothered with the details, or because it isn’t the "politically correct” thing to say, even though it is true. Here is a list of the more common ‘secrets’ that you may not have heard from your Association Manager.

A Spring Walk-through Is a "Big Deal”

The Board may receive a summary listing of what the Association Manager found when the snow melted and he/she walked the entire property looking for problems that need attention. And most owners probably don’t even realize that a spring inspection had been made and give no thought to how the salt-damaged lawn got repaired or the damaged shrub replaced when they hadn’t even asked to have that done. Likely no one has any idea how many hours are spent or how many miles are walked by Association Managers each spring, circling around every single building in their communities, painstakingly noting all of the inevitable snow plow damage, grass damaged by salt, flattened downspouts, dented garage door trim, and grass killed by dog urine. The inspection is just the beginning: Work orders must be issued, letters sent to the offending dog owners, followed by reinspections to be sure that the work got done properly and that the dog owner actually replaced the dead grass. This process usually begins in April (this year it was likely May!) and often continues into June.

Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Just the Messenger

The Association Manager must oftentimes be the bearer of bad news. An example is a large assessment increase or a special assessment to make up for those low assessments that began with the developer’s budget and then perpetuated by Boards that were reluctant to make the hard choices. However, the Association Manager is often personally blamed for the consequences of those bad decisions made years ago. Some owners will even mount a campaign to get rid of the Association Manager because he or she "raised our assessments”, ignoring the fact that the Manager has no such authority but does have the responsibility of giving you the bad news. Of course, it is not considered good etiquette for the Manager to put the blame where it belongs, as that may be viewed as disloyalty to the people who hire the Manager.

Governing Documents Can Be Amended

Although the art of drafting good governing documents has improved significantly in recent years, many associations out there continue struggling with poorly written documents. Townhome associations created prior to June 1994 are, for the most part, not subject to the provisions of the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act, unless they have opted in, which requires a document rewrite. However, too often the Association Manager isn’t encouraging those clients to rewrite their documents. The reasons for keeping silent may include a failure to recognize the problems created by the bad documents, exaggerated ideas as to the cost and difficulty involved, or unwillingness to take on a task for which they aren’t being compensated. (Although an attorney should do the actual drafting, the Association Manager should be heavily involved in the process, which can take a surprising amount of time.)

Your Assessments Are Too Low

The Association Manager will often realize that based on current assessment levels, financial disaster is looming just over the horizon. Hopefully they have the intestinal fortitude to communicate their concerns privately to the Board. However, given the innate desire of humans to receive the admiration, approval and love of their neighbors, Boards often refuse to do the right thing and raise assessments. However, the Association Manager who then expresses concern to the general populace is likely to experience a short job tenure. And homeowners don’t like hearing that they need to pay a higher assessment, particularly if they have a short-term perspective due to age (the "no green bananas” syndrome) or due to other personal circumstances.

Federal and State Law Governs What Your Community Can Do

When the Association Manager helps the Board draft rules and regulations, he/she needs to know that the Fair Housing Act prohibits adult-only pool hours because that is considered to be familial discrimination; that Boards can’t prohibit absentee owners from renting to tenants receiving Section 8 rent assistance; that persons with disabilities may be entitled to a waiver of your pet policies but we can’t invade a person’s privacy by discussing their disability at an open meeting; or that those "no one under 18 years” age restrictions in your 1970s governing documents aren’t enforceable.

The Customer Is Not Always Right

For years, Association Managers and Boards have complained about "renter mentality”. This term describes the owner who wants to receive the tax benefits and potential appreciation in value that comes from owning real estate but doesn’t want the responsibility of maintaining it, and consequently expects the Association to do that for them. In recent years, a new mindset has appeared: the "customer mentality”. This describes the entitlement attitude whereby the owners consider themselves to be the Association’s customers and feel that it is quite acceptable to demand as much service as they can get, regardless of legal of budget constraints. This will frequently include reminders to the Association Manager that, "After all, I am the customer and you need to remember that the customer is always right!” This may be accompanied by threats against the Manager’s job security, accusations that you are discriminating against them, or are not treating them with the proper respect. At this point, some Association Managers conclude that they are dealing with someone who will make their life miserable if they don’t get what they want, and they will cave in to their demands. The alternative is to tell them that they are not the "customer”, and that the community is your client, but that may be considered too blunt and politically incorrect.

Published by Community Associations Institute — Minnesota Chapter, copyright 2013. All articles and paid advertising represent the opinions of authors and advertisers and not necessarily the opinion of either Minnesota Community Living or CAI–Minnesota Chapter. The information contained within should not be construed as a recommendation for any course of action regarding financial, legal, accounting, or other professional services by the CAI–Minnesota Chapter, or by Minnesota Community Living, or its authors. Articles, letters to the editor, and advertising may be sent to Chapter Staff Editor Joe Flannigan at, or at CAI–Minnesota Chapter, 1000 Westgate Dr., Suite 252, St. Paul, MN 55114.

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