Different strokes, different folks: How community managers and property managers have distinct roles

A common mistake in state legislatures considering community association manager licensing—and among the general public—is to lump community association managers and property managers into the same bucket. While both are very important roles, they are distinctly different professions with functions, skill sets, and responsibilities specific to each.

A community association manager can manage every type of community: condominium associations, homeowner associations, resort communities, and commercial tenant associations. A community association manager works directly with property owners and homeowners.

Property managers oversee individual rental units or a group of rental units, such as an apartment complex. They’re responsible for managing the entire property, while community association managers are responsible for common areas—not individually owned properties.

“From a legislative standpoint, this incorrect categorization occurs because state legislators misunderstand the nature of community association management,” says Matthew Green, director of credentialing services for Community Association Managers International Certification Board (CAMICB). “They believe that community association management skills are identical to those of a property manager without recognizing the vastly different responsibilities of these two positions.”

This misunderstanding of the two professions often bleeds into more general conversations occurring in this space. Compounding this is the reality that there’s a slight overlap in a couple of the duties performed. For example, both property managers and community association managers supervise certain maintenance activities, such as swimming pool upkeep and trash removal. But it’s important to understand that community association managers oversee and direct all aspects of running the business operation. This means that they authorize payment for association services; develop budgets and present association financial reports to board members; direct the enforcement of restrictive covenants; perform site inspections; solicit, evaluate, and assist in insurance purchases; and even supervise the design and delivery of association recreational programs.

Property managers are responsible for managing the actual property and therefore handle the physical assets of the unit at the owner’s request. Property managers generally oversee rental units and leases. Their responsibilities might include finding or evicting tenants, collecting rent, and responding to tenant complaints or specific requests. If a property manager is responsible for a vacation or second home, he or she may arrange for services such as house-sitting or local sub-contracting necessary to maintain that property. Alternatively, an owner may opt to delegate specific tasks to a property manager and choose to handle other duties directly.

Stephanie Durner, CMCA, AMS, director of community management at River Landing, a gated golf course community in Wallace, N.C., views the distinction this way:

“While property managers are generally charged with overseeing physical structures that are used by people who are not the owners of the property, association managers represent the property owners themselves and are involved in just about every aspect of the overall community. For instance, if a garage door is broken at a rental house, the tenant would call a property manager or owner/landlord. But if there’s a pothole that needs repair or if a neighbor’s dog is running loose through the neighborhood, that’s a task for the community association manager who both maintains the common areas and upholds the governing rules. To me, community association management is a more holistic approach that contributes to the overall quality of life for all the owners in a community.”

Green emphasizes that while some job responsibilities are similar, community association managers have additional functions. “It’s critical that community association management be recognized as distinct from property management because association management requires a wider variety of knowledge and skills,” he says.

Because of these differences, community managers and property managers need different training and education.

CAMICB offers and maintains the Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) credential, the only international certification program designed exclusively for managers of homeowner and condominium associations and cooperatives. The CMCA credential means an individual has taken and passed the rigorous CMCA examination, proving they have a solid understanding of the business operations involved in being a community association manager.

The post above originally was published on CAMICB’s CMCAcorner blog. Follow along for the latest on the essential credential for community managers.

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Three Realities of Community Associations

All community associations have three things in common:

  1. Membership is mandatory. Buying a home in a community association automatically makes you an association member—by law.
  2. Governing documents are binding. Association governing documents can be compared to contracts. They specify the owners’ obligations like following the rules and paying assessments and the association’s obligations, including maintaining common areas and preserving home values.
  3. Assessments must be paid. A homeowner could lose his or her home if they fail to pay assessments. Associations have a legal right to place a lien on the property if a homeowner doesn’t pay.

But, take heart homeowners: Associations also have three realities they can’t escape. Associations have an obligation to provide three broad categories of service to residents.

  1. Community. This can include maintaining a community website, orienting new homeowners or organizing social activities.
  2. Governance. This can include establishing and maintaining design review standards, enforcing rules, and recruiting new volunteer leaders.
  3. Business. This can include competitively bidding maintenance work, investing reserve funds responsibly, developing long-range plans, and collecting assessments.

By delivering these services fairly and effectively, community associations not only protect and increase home values, but they provide owners an opportunity to participate in decisions affecting their community and quality of life. And those are realities we can live with.

Read more about community associations in CAI’s publication An Introduction to Community Association Living.

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Kudos to CAI’s Volunteer Award Winners

CAI honored several members at the Annual Awards Dinner, on May 11 in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with our 2018 Annual Conference and Exposition. The honors presented throughout the evening saluted individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership to advance community association living.

A past president of CAI’s New Jersey Chapter and an active member of the chapter’s legislative action committee, Michael Pesce (pictured above), PCAM, received CAI’s Rising Star Award. When he agreed to teach The Essentials of Community Association Management (M-100) as a full-semester, accredited course at New Jersey’s Montclair University after more than three decades of volunteer service, Pesce helped CAI reach an important milestone.

Robert M. Diamond, Esq., was awarded the Distinguished Service Award, CAI’s most prestigious recognition, and is the first person to receive this honor twice. A past president of CAI and of CAI’s Washington Metropolitan Chapter, Diamond is a member of the Board of Governors of the College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL) and has served in numerous other CAI volunteer roles. One of his key contributions has been as CAI’s liaison to the Uniform Law Commission’s Joint Editorial Board for Uniform Property Acts.

Gregory Smith, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, CAI’s 2017 president, honored Mike Packard, PCAM, with this year’s President’s Award. Given solely at the discretion of the immediate past president, this award recognizes an individual who has displayed exemplary service and commitment to CAI and who has been instrumental in helping the president achieve CAI’s goals. In presenting this honor, Smith said Packard “has been a model of education, relationship building, and leadership to CAI members for decades, and has been instrumental in helping me reach where I am today.”

Matt D. Ober, Esq., received CAI’s Outstanding Volunteer Service Award, which recognizes a member who demonstrates outstanding leadership and long-term dedication to CAI. President-elect of the College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL), Ober is a past president of CAI’s Greater Los Angeles Chapter, a two-time past president of the Greater Inland Empire Chapter, and a member of CAI’s California Legislative Action Committee and CAI’s Government & Public Affairs Committee, among many other endeavors.

Cylinda Walker, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, was named Recruiter of the Year. She introduced CAI to 134 new members in 2017. Play the video below to hear what she said upon accepting the honor.

View the complete list of 2018 honorees.


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