5 Rules to Live By for Self-Managed Homeowners Associations


“I thinkifa communitycan‟tafford management, selfmanagement is relevant,” says JamesDonnelly,presidentandCEO of CastleGroup,a propertymanagement companyin Plantation,Fla., that manages 60,000 association units.“Somehavea strong,longtermboard thatwantsto do the management itself. I‟mnotoffended by




If youre among thegroup of self-managedassociations,herewe offerrulesto liveby soyoucanbe aswell managedasthoserunbycareerprofessionals.






1.Knowand adhere totherules.




“Know your documents,and follow your documents,” says  NancyPolomis,a partner


atHellmuth& Johnson PLLC in EdenPrairie, Minn.,who advises associations.“Ive


hadassociationswhere thehawksoftheneighborhoodwill calloutthe boardonevery misstep, andthe board gets veryfrustrated.The boards don‟talwayslike hearing it, butItell them, „Ifitsays you have to have your meeting on the secondSaturday of November,youhavetohaveitonthesecondSaturdayof November,evenifnobody likes that date. They‟relike Yeah,but what‟sthe bigdeal [withmoving the meeting date]? The bigdealis that‟swhat yourdocuments say.Youcan amend your documents,but ifyou dont, youhave to follow them.


DennisJ.Eisinger,a partneratEisinger,Brown,Lewis&FrankelPAin


Hollywood,Fla.,who currentlyrepresentsmorethan500condoandHOAassociations, agrees.“Becomeeducatedonyour governingdocumentsand applicable statutes,he says.“If youre not goingto have managerialexpertise, you must be more


knowledgeable aboutthe statutes anddocuments.






“Ifyou‟reselfmanaged, you have to use expertsmore,” says Eisinger. “Attorneys, insuranceagentswhatever—foradviceregardingtaxes,employeeissues,insurance, and financialreporting. Some associations can‟tafford management,but they probablywill and should be paying morefor professionals.


Donnellyagrees.“Make sureyou‟vegot your attorneyandCPA interviewed and


in place,” he says.You can geta lotoffree  adviceandbest practicesfroma managementcompany,but youdon‟thave thatifyou‟reselfmanaged.


If youre ona tight budget, that‟sall the morereason to relyon professionals


for expert advice. “Iknow a lotof associationsarewary to call their attorneybecause theclockisticking,butit‟sfarbetter to spend alittle moneyon the frontend getting anopinion fromyour attorney than litigating anissue you could have avoided,says Polomis.“In addition, be sureto hirea good attorneyand insurance agentwho understandassociations.I‟veseen situations whereassociations have verycompetent professionals, but professionals who aren‟t well versed in associationmanagement.


Communityassociation professionalsdon‟thave tobe expensive.“I‟veseen associationslookforalicensedcommunityassociation manager who‟sopen to providingadviceasaconsultantonalimitedorasneededbasis,suchasto provide help during abig bidding process,” says Worrall.“I‟veseen themcharge $75$150 per hour.


Ontheotherhand,trynottohireemployees.“I‟dprobablyhave contract workers versusemployees,” says Donnelly. “You justdon‟tneed employment liability ifyours isa smallassociation.” Be careful, however, to consultaCPA to ensurethat you‟retrulycreatingan independent contractorrelationshipwith workers. Ifyoure tryingto avoid employmentliabilityissues,thelastthingyouneedis problemswith


theInternalRevenueServiceoverthe employee-independentcontractorclassification.






3.Makesureyouand yourassociationarewellinsured.




“It‟svery hard to have people live in a communitywithout therebeing some potential for a litigiousevent,” says Donnelly.“So one of the firstthings I‟ddo is seewhat kind ofinsurancethereis for the association. AndifI‟mon the board, I‟dwant  directors








One of the problemswithselfmanagedassociations iscontinuity,”says Donnelly. “You could literallyhave an entireboard move and resignatonce,andthe new board wouldn‟thave any history with the decisions that have been made.Arecord-keeping policyshouldbeestablishedandadheredto sothatit surviveseachboardbecause there‟sno management company to handle the record keeping. It‟salso probably smart ifyoucanafford it to have your association‟sbooksdone bya third party.It‟s not good having residentstransacting the cashof the association.






5. Communicatewithand draw inresidents.




Try to get morecommunityinvolvementthrough committees and notoperate as a onemanshow,” says Eisinger. There‟stheoreticallya greatersenseofsecurityif there‟sprofessional management,so I thinkthere‟seven greater reason to have better communication withmembers ifyou‟reselfmanagedsoyourboardmembers will be perceived as doingthe rightthing for residents.


Thatalsorequiresthat youdo the rightthing for residents.“Make surethere‟s


noself-dealingamong board membersand even residents,” says Eisinger. “There


tendsto be moreself-dealingwhen nobody‟slookingafter the board and residents.