Updated July 9, 2023
As a condominium owner, it is natural to feel frustrated when it takes too long for a maintenance vendor to arrive, or when you head to work and the parking lot isn’t plowed. You may not deem fair one of the community’s rules. Yet, when homeowners attempt to solve these problems, they often contact the incorrect party, resulting in a delay in the result they are hoping for. It is a common misunderstanding that HOA property management companies are the party at the root of these issues. In this article, we explain the difference between the homeowners’ association (HOA) and the HOA property management company.
The role of an HOA
The role of a homeowners’ association for single family and town home communities is similar. Homeowners are responsible for what is clearly their own property. But, for shared property, someone needs to represent the interests of the homeowners who share. This includes shared walls (and any pipes within in them), and shared outdoor property such as neighborhood signs or clubhouses. HOAs also add value and make their communities more attractive to buyers by enhancing their quality of life.
Condo associations have additional responsibilities, since members share more walls, as well as hallways, roofs, and parking lots.
Leading a homeowners’ association is an HOA board. Homeowners elect board members to represent their interests within the HOA, such as managing the budget and taking care of administrative tasks. An example is choosing and hiring a paving company. HOAs have governing legal documents that state the rules and regulations for the community, guiding how it is to operate. These documents were created at HOA inception, and can be revised and amended as needed over time.
HOA board members are volunteers who care about the community enough to dedicate their time. They must be homeowners within the community, and are not paid. They pay assessments just like everyone else in the association. If you feel that attending board meetings has not been successful at getting your needs met as a community member, consider joining the board the next time a seat opens up.
The role of an HOA Property Management company
HOA property management companies exist to help condominium, townhome, and homeowners associations manage their administrative tasks, and to be advisors on expertise that board members may not have.
Managing an HOA is a lot of work
Depending on the size and type of community, especially in condo associations, enforcing the rules can be quite a lot of work. The association board is there to enforce the rules and work with homeowners who don’t like the rules. Also, an association is responsible for managing vendors for repair and maintenance of all common areas. In a condo community with many units, this is a very large task.
In addition, the board members have a fiduciary responsibility not to mismanage the community’s money. HOA property management companies often help plan, and oversee, the association’s budget. If the association runs out of funds for the things it needs to pay for, the homeowners will suffer the consequences. That is why it is crucial that the HOA effectively collect assessments, and a key reason why HOAs hire a management company.
Property management companies work for HOAs
The amount of work and expertise required to run an HOA is the reason they hire HOA property management companies. Homeowners’ association property management companies have tools for HOAs and their members to use to help with administrative tasks. For example, condo association property management companies can offer a means for online payments and a community website. These companies send out letters for fines and overdue assessments based on the fine schedule that the HOA creates. This is merely on behalf of the HOA. Homeowners mistakenly think that the property management company created the fine schedule, or the rules. But, in fact, the company is simply there to enforce the rules that the HOA themselves set up.
Property management companies also act as advisors to HOAs. One area this can be really helpful is in the accounting and financial statements. Often, an accountant homeowner will volunteer to be a board member, but this is not always feasible year over year. A management company can do the budgeting and financial statements on behalf of the board.
Additionally, such companies typically assist the HOA in managing maintenance. However, they do not conduct maintenance and repairs themselves. The HOA property management company’s role is to ensure all maintenance vendors the HOA recommends are bonded and insured. Then it is up to the vendor to schedule the work with the homeowner, and complete it.
HOA maintenance responsibilities
- common lawns, trees, trails, ponds, and dog waste stations
- clubhouse, party rooms, fitness room, and pools
- shingles and roof for condominiums
- shared walls and pipes within them
- hallways, stairs, elevators
- mail room
- balconies and patios for condominiums
- parking lots and sidewalks
- usually some utilities
For these shared items, your HOA board is to work with necessary vendors to take care of repair and upkeep.
Let’s look at snow plowing as an example. One plow trip alone can cost hundreds of dollars out of the HOA’s budget. Like with all of the above responsibilities, the property management company is not the vendor who takes care of the upkeep. They simply do their best to schedule the plow, and it is up the snow plow company who of their customers they plow first. The snow plow company may service 100 customers, so not all communities will feel like they are first in line. This comes with the territory when living in shared-property communities.
Understanding who is responsible for what can be very empowering. It can relieve feeling that you are not in control. Plus, it enables you to go to the correct entity to address your concerns. HOAs are required to have board meetings with open forum for homeowners to express their concerns. Attending those meetings is one thing you can do to have your voice heard. For further education on your rights and obligations under the Condominium Property Act and the Common Interest Community Association Act, contact the Illinois CCIC Ombudsperson.