HOA Management: How to Select the Best Community Association Partner

When it comes to HOA management, the primary qualification for any community association is trust.  You absolutely must have faith in the company you hire to manage your homeowners association.  But first, you need to develop a short list of qualified candidates.

Running an HOA involves managing a lot of projects and tasks.  So, experience and expertise should represent the initial qualifications. After you separate the best qualified HOA management companies from the less capable ones, you can delve deeper into finding the best match for your community association.

Your selection committee should expect to spend ample time during the evaluation process.  Given what’s at stake, you don’t want to rush this important decision.  Making sure you cover all your bases takes time, discipline and effort.

Look Within before You Look Outside

If you don’t already have a search committee in place, put one together before the evaluation process begins.  The search committee can have any number of members, depending on your association.

Before you begin your search for an HOA management company, make sure you understand exactly what your community association needs.  Your committee members should each make a list of what they think are critical requirements.  Then, you should compile one master requirements list from everyone’s input.

Understand State Guidelines

Before your search begins, you and your committee members should have a good idea of what state regulations require for HOA management companies.  Does a firm need special licensing?  Some states require licensing and others don’t. 

For example, Florida community managers are required to be certified through the state.  However, Arizona has no such certification requirement.  Therefore, you need to know any regulatory credentials needed so you don’t waste time interviewing HOA management companies that don’t meet the minimum licensing requirements.

You may also want to consider management companies certified by industry associations such as the Arizona Association of Community Managers (AACM).  This organization was established to improve the professionalism in Arizona community management through on-going education and proactive support. 

Plus, AACM’s Certified Arizona Association Manager (CAAM®) education program provides the only Arizona-specific professional certification for community managers.  An AACM-certified management company can instill a greater level of confidence in the management company’s qualifications.

Finally, you’ll want to consider the company’s bonding and insurance, including liability and workers’ compensation. State laws will outline the minimum standards.  Make sure to ask for a copy of all insurance certificates to confirm proper coverages.

Internal Processes for HOA Management Companies

Once you establish a list of management companies meeting the minimum licensing and certification qualifications, you can begin looking inside each candidate to determine the best match. For example, any HOA management company you select must demonstrate stringent internal hiring practices.

Your evaluation should start with checking references.  A good track record with other community associations is a good indication of how they will perform for you.  You’ll also want to visit the company’s offices and the facilities they manage in person.  These visits will give you a good idea of the type of services they provide to other clients and how they perform them.

Read the Fine Print

When you make your selection for a management firm, don’t skip reading all the terms of the contract.  Don’t rely on standardized contract forms.  Instead, have your association attorney review all legal documents and make changes accordingly.

It may also be a good idea to enter into an agreement for a shorter period of time.  Rather than commit your community association to a multiple year agreement, try a one year arrangement instead.  You can then fully evaluate the management company to ensure it’s a good fit for your association.  If it’s not, you won’t be locked into keeping them for a long period of time.

In addition, make sure you understand termination clauses.  Your community association attorney can help finalize an agreement that’s in your best interest.  A typical termination clause involves a 30-day notice. 

Finally, know all the costs associated with your HOA management company’s services.  Are all the fees clearly outlined in your proposal and agreement?  You don’t want to find you’re paying a bunch of extra fees you didn’t know about.  When you’re evaluating competitive management companies, make sure you compare apples to apples with costs.