How can condo owners find a competent management firm?

Q: We are a small condominium and have been having a problem in finding a competent management company. We have been asking other condominiums for references but no one wants to recommend theirs either. We have changed management companies three times in the last three years.

What qualifications and/or skills should we be looking for? Some board members are only concerned with the monthly fee. While the fee is, of course, important, I believe that may be part of the problem.

T.M., Miami

A: The board of directors must first establish what it would like the manager to do. Keep in mind that the operation and maintenance of the association is the directors’ responsibility. Management cannot assume any of these responsibilities. Management must assume only duties to be detailed in specific instructions by the board, the management contract, and requirements of the documents and statutes.

If management fails, most times it is because the board misunderstood management’s duties and provided improper supervision. Management failure can also be the result of a poor work ethic, failure to follow the board’s instructions, and inexperience.

As with any business, the directors must establish the operational plans for the association and look upon the manager as a tool with which to accomplish its mission. The manager would accomplish day-to-day activities assigned by the board, whether by contract, policies, board motions or general instructions. The board should appoint one director/officer to be the manager’s immediate supervisor.

When selecting a manager, make sure that he or she has a current Community Association Managers License (CAM). This license can only be attained through the state of Florida and must be maintained with required annual courses. It is important to have an experienced manager and to verify that experience through the communities he or she has managed.

When fielding complaints about a manager’s competence, keep in mind that enforcement of rules and delinquency often results in some owners’ resentment of the manager. It does not take too many of these owners’ complaints to reflect negatively on the manager’s reputation.

A good source for locating managers and management companies is the Community Association Institute (CAI). Local chapters are found in major cities. The national CAI’s webpage is

Q: What can be done when the HOA Board refuses to enforce the rules and also is letting the property decline?

E.R., Orlando

A: The bottom line is that the board has total responsibility to maintain the common elements and properly operate the association.

If the owners and members of the association allow the directors to improperly manage the community, then the members themselves must pay for the mistakes; they will lose equity in their homes.

Many communities have members who simply say, “Let others do it.” When this happens, directors do what they want and take the easy way out. They know that regardless of the job that they are doing, good or bad, or whether they failure to operate properly, they will be reelected because no one will volunteer to be a candidate.

Several solutions are available. One is to sue the board but this is the least desirable action and should be a last resort. The best solution is to try to get other members involved. This means that maybe you need to be a leader to help develop new board members.

Based on my observation of communities and the public as a whole, I believe this lack of involvement is the biggest mistake in society today. Very few want to be leaders. My hat is off to those who volunteer to become directors as the time and effort they volunteer are rarely recognized by the members.

Until you can get your neighbors involved, your community will continue to decline. There is no outside help that will force a board to operate properly. You and your neighbors must force the issue by getting involved.