A productive, collaborative relationship between board and community management is one of thelinchpins of any successful condo or homeowners’ association; it truly is all about teamwork. But if your team isn’t working, it may be time to change management companies. Even if it’s for the better, that transition can be tough, and sometimes costly – not only for the board, but for the entire community.
Since board members are generally volunteers, merely making the decision to hire a new and different management company can be daunting. Is there a formula to guarantee a successful change? Are there guidelines to ensure a move in the right direction? What information should a prospective management company provide before the contracts are signed? What red flags should communities keep an eye out for? Where does the search process begin?
Begin at the Beginning
When it’s clear that a change in management is in the best interests of a given community, the best place to start is often a Q&A exchange right at home with the board. Each board member must understand the problems with the current firm, and what improvements are expected from switching to a new one. It’s also important to ask if the problem represents a personality conflict between the board and the individual community manager. If a different manager within the same company might communicate better and work with the board more effectively, change may be accomplished more quickly and seamlessly by simply switching out the manager, rather than engaging a whole different company.
Beyond that, asking the five “W’s”—who, what, when, where, and why—can identify whether the problem runs deeper than a single management person. By identifying the areas where problems have occurred, and the individuals involved, a board can develop a better idea of what is working, and what must change.
If you’re looking to part ways with your management and don’t want to wait until the contract is up for renewal, it’s a good idea to have your association’s attorney review the current contract early in the information-gathering process to determine the best way to legally separate from the company, and to identify areas for positive legal change. When a decision is made on a new management firm, your attorney should again be consulted for a review of the new contract and documents before anything is signed; typically, there will be a lot of due diligence in between these two reviews. Spending sufficient time on the search is the only way to determine the overall best course of action for your community. While board members may argue the expense of involving an attorney, legal counsel can spot more costly pitfalls.