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Too Many Hats, Not Enough Heads: Common Misconceptions of a Manager’s Role

By:      Farrah Esquer, CCAM, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, President, Cardinal Property Management,             AAMC/ACMF

So often we may jokingly discuss the wide array of hats we, as community managers, must keep at close hand when managing our communities.  Sometimes we may find ourselves blurring the lines of a manager’s role and doing ourselves and our fellow community managers a disservice by playing a part in common misconceptions of our duties.

Those that find their way into a customer service-oriented profession are typically helpers.  We want to help our homeowners and client directors in any way possible to meet their customer service expectations.  This may at times blur the line between what is and what is not our role.

Homeowner Misconceptions

Generally speaking, typical homeowners within a community do not understand the difference between the role of the association and its board of directors and the role of the manager.  Homeowners often  believe that assessment payments are paid directly to the management company to manage the community and authorize and pay for community repairs and services.  These same homeowners believe that since they are paying a fee to live within the community the manager should address each and every need, like mediating a disagreement between two neighbors that is unrelated to the Association.  These homeowners do not realize that the board of directors, elected by the homeowners, has the decision-making authority, not the manager.  Therefore, the manager cannot take action without authorization granted by the board of directors via a written contract or resolution of the Board.

Director Misconceptions

Newly elected directors may believe that they can authorize or direct to the manager to complete tasks that require board approval.  These directors may incorrectly assume that any task assigned to a manager falls within the scope of the management contract and must be completed by the manager.  Additionally, directors may also look to the manager to provide expert opinions or advice in an attempt to reduce the association’s expense for truly expert opinions.

What is the Role of Community Manager?

The community manager acts as an agent to the association in carrying out its duties to the corporation.  Managers are professionals who act as facilitators and provide guidance to the board of directors.  In addition to managing the day-to-day activities of the association (e.g., addressing phone calls and inquiries from homeowners, residents, and vendors, and preparing correspondence on behalf of the board) the manager also assists the board in understanding its roles and ensures the directors are familiar with and abide by the association’s governing documents and laws governing community associations.  Most importantly, community managers assist the directors in locating the appropriate experts in specific fields to provide expert opinions so the board can make informed decisions.  Although community managers are generally familiar with all aspects of a community, such as landscape, roofing, construction, etc., they are not experts in any of these fields.

How to Overcome Misconceptions

Community managers and board members should work as partners and have open communication on the expectations of the manager and the management contract.  Directors should strive to become familiar with the details of the management contract and to understand the roles and expectations of the manager and management company.  More importantly, the community manager should have a good understanding of his or her role as well, and not deviate from that role.  The manager should also clarify and explain his or her role to directors and homeowners when the lines start to become blurry.  Managers can avoid burnout by not taking on tasks that do not fall within his or her role and by balancing the “hats” that do.

This article was printed in the September/October 2012 edition of the OC View, a bi-monthly magazine published by the Orange County Chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI-OC) and was re-printed with permission.  To learn more about CAI-OC visit their website at caioc.org. 

 

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