Article Courtesy of The Miami
By David Diestel
Published August 2, 2016
There are 9.4 million Floridians living in communities
governed by a condominium or homeowners association (HOA), paying nearly $10
billion annually to maintain their communities.* These associations are under
the direction of an elected board of volunteer homeowners who make decisions
that affect all residents of the community.
Association board actions have a direct effect on the value of a home, community
reputation and overall resident quality of life — factors that influence the
desirability of the neighborhood. Yet, while much attention focuses on who will
be our next president, significantly less attention is spent by homeowners on
elections that will directly impact where and how they live: the vote for HOA
and condo association board members.
To have a voice in how the community is run, homeowners need to be proactive
participants in their communities, starting with voting at the board elections.
Those who get involved in their community association may be able to influence
how budgets are spent and what choices are made.
Many associations operate much like businesses, with boards controlling budgets
and making strategic decisions to run the community as efficiently as possible.
Boards have a tough task; theirs is to optimize budgets, minimize risk, invest
in the community and create a desired lifestyle for residents — all while being
fiscally responsible and socially aware of community dynamics.
Just as leaders for top corporations know the importance of bringing in experts
to manage their company’s capital, the same holds true for association boards
that turn to property managers.
Professional property-management firms work to provide peace of mind for
residents, offering a host of services and resources that improve home values
and boost lifestyle experiences. But many don’t understand the distinction
between the association board and the property-management firm. As Regional
President, South for FirstService Residential, I often encounter this
The association board makes the primary decisions and sets the rules and
regulations governing the community. Because the board has a fiduciary duty to
ensure these are enforced fairly, associations may partner with a professional
property-management company to serve under direction of the board for this
A qualified property manager best serves as a trusted adviser, bringing
expertise to help associations address issues that arise within managed
communities. In this role, a property-management firm acts similarly to other
professionals that provide guidance to associations, such as a CPA for financial
issues or an attorney for legal ones. Each party can suggest its best counsel
respective to their professional competencies, but the final say always rests
with the board.
The leadership that the board provides, combined with the capabilities, depth of
resources and best practices a property-management company brings, should work
in tandem to serve the long-term best interests of the community at large.
Action Protects Your Community
The expression “a few bad apples spoil the bunch” unfortunately applies to a
handful of the 325,000 homeowners elected to serve on Florida’s association
boards. Instances of egregious abuse of power, fraudulent practices or blatant
disregard for (or ignorance of) state laws regulating a board not only occur,
but often make the news. However, most boards are run by honest neighbors who
volunteer to safeguard the value of the community and have only the best
intentions for the place they also call home.
It’s simple enough, but the best way to minimize the chances of your association
running amok is getting to know who is on the board, who your property manager
is, attending monthly meetings and expressing your concerns. Or run for a board
seat yourself. You can even lobby legislators to enhance resources for state
oversight agencies that protect against board injustices.
Find a community people want to live in, and chances are there’s a board working
diligently to promote all of the positive aspects of quality of life there. The
strongest communities don’t happen by chance — they develop and thrive when
everyone, from homeowners to boards to managers, actively does their part.
David Diestel is Regional President, South
for FirstService Residential.