By David W. Kaman, Esq., CCAL –
Historically, the term “property manager” has been applied to managers of community associations. However, in the last few years there has been a national trend toward the licensing of property managers. Even here in Ohio there have been recent rumblings of efforts to license property managers even though this type of licensing is aimed at managers of apartment complexes, not community associations.
So as not to confuse the two, and to make clear that property managers and community association managers are different, we encourage everyone to start referring to our managers as “community association managers.” While both play significant roles, they are different professionals with different functions, skill sets, and responsibilities.
A community association manager will manage condominium associations, homeowner associations, and master associations consisting of recreational facilities shared by condominium and homeowner associations. On the other hand, a property manager will manage rental properties such as an apartment complex or rental units.
A community association manager is hired by a vote of the association’s board of directors. On the other hand, a property manager is hired by the individual apartment complex owner.
Community association managers oversee the association’s common elements such as landscaping, siding, and hallways, and are not generally involved with the interior of a residence. On the other hand, a property manager is generally responsible for interior residence issues. A tenant calls a property manager for a leaking kitchen faucet whereas the owner in a community association is responsible for their own leaking kitchen faucet.
Community association owners and board members generally reside within the community association. The owners and board members are the “eyes and ears” on the property significantly reducing the need for the community association manager to be physically present on the property. On the other hand, generally the owner of apartment units does not reside in one of the apartments therefore requiring frequent on-site visits by the property manager.
Community association management requires experience and expertise on a significant number of functions. While both professions require knowledge of physical property management, a community association manager must also have knowledge of an association’s specific governing documents/deed restrictions, Ohio community association laws, reserve requirements, unique insurance requirements, budgeting, and property enforcement and collection policies and procedures.
A community association manager is faced with the daunting task of keeping an entire board of directors pleased with performance. In addition, community association boards are elected from among the association’s owners and as a result, the community association manager must stay keenly aware of the need for a positive relationship with ALL owners. On the other hand, a property manager must only keep the individual apartment complex owner pleased with their performance as the tenants are generally much more transient in nature. If a tenant in an apartment is unhappy, they move. If the community association owners are unhappy, they get themselves elected to the board.
Community association managers come into the field from a variety of backgrounds. Some have served as board members of their association. Others have come from construction, retail, or customer service backgrounds. Most have obtained their training from on the job experience.
There is a national organization known as the Community Associations Institute (CAI) that educates community association managers. The Community Association Managers International Certificate Board (CAICB) acknowledges and awards the following designations:
CMCA® – Certified Manager of Community Associations
To earn the CMCA credential, managers must demonstrate through course work, competency of the defined body of knowledge of a community association manager.
AMS® – Association Management Specialist
To earn the AMS credential, managers must have at least two years of experience in community association management and complete advanced course work. In addition, they must have already earned the basic industry certification for managers—the Certified Manager of Community Associations credential.
PCAM® – Professional Community Association Manager
To earn the PCAM credential, managers must have five years of community association management experience and complete more than 100 hours of course work. In addition, credentialed PCAMs must fulfill continuing education and service requirements, as well as adhere to a code of ethics.
David W. Kaman is a partner at the law firm of Kaman & Cusimano in Cleveland as well as a member of the College of Community Association Lawyers. Mr. Kaman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.