By Pamela Flack, LCAM / Published September 2022
Those who are responsible for the management of associations understand that common elements belong to each homeowner by virtue of the association governing documents and that the board has a fiduciary responsibility to protect, preserve, and enhance these community assets. Managers face many unique scenarios, and their response may be different depending on the nuances of each one, but there is a common thread. In each case, managers rely on qualified vendors to address the needs of the community. One of the manager’s primary responsibilities is to navigate the vendor coordination process. Ultimately, the board is responsible for selecting each vendor, but community managers act as facilitators, streamlining requests for proposals and processing and presenting the board with a cross-section of qualified vendors. This vendor coordination frees boards to focus on other matters and can be vital to maintaining high-quality services for the association. Part of the manager’s role is vendor qualification services during the initial or transitional selection process, ensuring that the vendors presented have been vetted and meet the board’s standards, are properly licensed and insured, and are able to meet requirements under the scope of work. They also are tasked with following up to ensure that vendors are providing the expertise, quality of service, and timely response to community needs that are expected as part of any contract.
Community managers understand their role in the vendor coordination process, but there are situations where a decision has to be made about when, whether, and how to involve vendors. Consider these following scenarios:
As an on-site condominium association manager, you receive a call from a resident who thinks they have termites. What can you do?
Understanding the resident’s concern and taking appropriate action to investigate is vital. Since the board has a responsibility to protect and maintain the common elements, addressing potential destructive insects is a priority. But it’s also important to determine whether the association or the individual unit owner is responsible for addressing the issue. Generally, this type of service in a condominium is contracted by the association to ensure the issue is resolved in a way that protects the common elements and other units. It’s unlikely that a pest control issue like this can be confined to one unit, so the assumption is that the association should take action. Since pest control services are usually recurring in nature, there may be an existing vendor who provides these services under contract who can be tasked to investigate and provide an assessment and possible solutions. If there is not an existing vendor, the decision whether to obtain competitive bids must be made. Community managers can often draw from existing vendor lists for approved pest control vendors. Once the vendor is identified, either as a vendor under current contract or through bid approval, an inspection should be scheduled. Since termites are an invasive species and could impact multiple units, it’s important to rely on the professional expertise of the qualified vendor and present the recommendations fully to the board. It’s a good practice for the manager to be present either during the inspection or to meet with the vendor afterward to understand the results of the review and the recommended course of action. While residents may be invited into the discussion, particularly when they’ve raised the issue and it impacts their home, the board ultimately needs to make decisions based on professional recommendations for the benefit and protection of the whole community. In order to ensure the board is fully informed, it is in the manager’s best interest to document all steps of the process and even invite the vendor to discuss the findings and recommended action directly with the board. The manager’s role here is to identify a qualified expert, facilitate the investigation, and present the findings so the board can make an informed decision.
On a scheduled site visit to a townhome community, you notice that the landscaping is heavily overgrown. You haven’t received complaints from community members…yet. Do you take action?
Community managers are tasked with ensuring vendors are meeting their contract obligations and reviewing common elements to make recommendations for keeping them in good order. When an issue like overgrown landscaping is noted, the manager may first want to review the contract to determine whether the maintenance is within the vendor’s scope of work. If it is, the manager should be in contact with the landscape vendor so they can address the deficiency. Having good relationships with the vendors in the community is important in ensuring communication about service issues will be addressed in a timely and thorough manner. If the issue noted is not part of the contracted services, taking a proactive approach is the best course of action. Obtaining a proposal to present to the board for approval to address the issue before residents complain demonstrates that the manager cares how the community looks and seeks to anticipate the needs of the board and the residents. The manager’s role here is to review issues on the property, understand the contracted services, and communicate possible resolutions.
The scenarios above are just a couple of examples of the types of issues community managers face daily as they support their boards in maintaining common property. We know that all situations that managers encounter are different and unique. There is, however, a common thread linking them: knowledgeable, proactive, and responsive management. There will be pitfalls when dealing with pests, landscaping, and other common maintenance items. It is the community manager’s role to ensure that organized vendor coordination is occurring, and managers can assure homeowners, residents, and boards that their concerns are valid, heard, and addressed in a timely manner with kindness and professionalism.
Pamela Flack, LCAM
Business Development Manager, Central Florida Region, Sentry Management
At Sentry Management, Pam leads the business development of the home-base region in Central Florida. She has been with Sentry for over 15 years and is knowledgeable in all aspects of community association management, sales, marketing, developer relationships, and retention. For more information on Sentry Management, call (800) 932-6636 or visit sentrymgt.com.