Critics of community associations often focus on isolated, incomplete, anecdotal reports in the media. Conflicts make headlines, and that’s what most Americans see on social media sites, read in newspapers and see on television about community associations.
These stories are news because they are the exceptions to the rule.
Unfortunately, good news is close to being an oxymoron. We don’t see stories about the tens of millions of homeowners who are satisfied in their communities. We read few media profiles about volunteer board members who lead their associations effectively and without fanfare. We rarely see stories about managers and other professionals who provide invaluable guidance and support to their community association clients.
But when you ask residents about their own community associations—when you ask the people who know—the news is overwhelmingly positive.
Despite this record of success, some communities do experience occasional dissent and discord—not unlike our workplaces, schools and social organizations. There are opportunities for disagreements and conflict in every type of neighborhood, including community associations. While all associations do not function as well as we might like, it’s reassuring to know that reality is much more positive than some association critics would have us believe.
It’s unfair, unreasonable and inaccurate to condemn community associations when strong majorities believe their governing boards and community managers serve the best interests of their communities. These findings validate reality: The vast majority of people who lead community associations— homeowner volunteer leaders and professional managers—are working conscientiously and effectively to build and sustain successful communities.
The vast majority of the 65 million Americans who live in condominiums and homeowners associations are satisfied with their communities, according to a national survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for the Foundation for Community Association Research.
Ninety percent of community association residents rate their overall association experience as positive (64 percent) or neutral (26 percent), with only 10 percent expressing dissatisfaction.
• 90 percent of residents say association board members serve the best interests of their communities.
• 83 percent say they get along well with the immediate neighbors.
• 83 percent say their community managers provide value and support to residents and their associations.
• 70 percent of residents say their association rules protect and enhance property values; 4 percent say the rules harm property values.
“This affirms that people who live in condominiums and homeowners associations are overwhelmingly pleased with their communities,” says Tom Skiba, CEO of Community Associations Institute (CAI).
Skiba acknowledges that all associations do not function as well as they should. He says discontent can be caused by a number of factors, including unreasonable association boards, residents who disregard rules they have agreed to follow and difficult financial circumstances for the association and individual homeowners.
“Disagreements and conflict are inevitable,” Skiba says. “Just as there are poorly governed communities, many associations must contend with difficult and intransigent residents, including owners who refuse to follow established rules or pay their fair share for utilities, services and amenities provided by the association.”
Skiba says the keys to successful associations are clear expectations, open communication between residents and association leaders, transparency in governance, strong professional management, dedicated volunteers and adherence to best practices for association governance and management.
Many time-tested best practices are delineated in “From Good to Great,” a free, downloadable document that includes CAI’s Rights and Responsibilities for Better Communities and a model code of ethics for community association boards.