Many condominium, townhome and other common interest communities use third-party management to help the homeowner's association fulfill its duties. Depending on the manager that is chosen and the contract that is negotiated, the manager could take over almost every duty of the HOA, or could have a very minimal role. In either case, the manager's power derives from what the HOA itself can do.
Homeowner's associations are governed by boards made up of members of the community. If you want to play a role in how your community runs, you can run and be elected to your board. You'll do a lot of work, though, and you won't get paid for it. This is one of the reasons that many HOAs turn to professional third-party management -- the amount of work for most of them is simply too much to do without help.
A HOA management company helps the association board fulfill its duties. A full-scale management contract typically relegates the board to a decision-making role. HOA managers collect dues, maintain properties and pay bills. They also can take calls from homeowners about issues and handle enforcing the Bylaws and Rules for the property. Finally, HOA managers also handle much of the administrative work for the board, like scheduling meetings, helping with budget preparation and managing reserve funds. The board, with the help of management, sets policy and makes major decisions.
In exchange for the services that HOA managers provide, they charge a fee. Frequently the fee is charged on a flat rate per door, and the amount of work they do will influence what the contract costs. Having a professional manager could save money if the manager is able to better coordinate maintenance or bring in lower-cost vendors. On the other hand, even if HOA management has a net cost, it's still a necessity for most boards.
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