Why Property Managers Are Not the Enemy: A Value Proposition
Association Boards, attorneys, accountants, contractors, consultants and, yes, even property managers are integral to the proper function and operation of community associations. Association Boards hire a plethora of services and those individuals and companies should have the same goal: to provide value to the Association. All too often, a Board may fall into an adversarial and confrontational relationship with those companies providing essential services, particularly its property manager. In my experience living in a condominium, the property manager is the first line of defense for an Association, the first phone call for conflict resolution and typically the most knowledgeable individual regarding the history of the Association.
By no means am I suggesting that property managers are perfect: no attorney, accountant, contractor or consultant is perfect. However, best practices require a Board to hire competent legal counsel, competent accounting professionals, competent contractors, competent consultants and competent property management services. Inevitably, we are all human, mistakes will be made, conflicts will arise and even sometimes a transition from one service provider to another may become necessary. However, when an issue arises between a property manager and a Board, there are various approaches to conflict resolution.
The Adversarial Approach
One approach a Board may utilize is the adversarial approach whereby the Board takes a hardline stand against a property manager and views the services of the property manager as only an expendable or replaceable commodity. However, the question becomes “Is that the best method for managing the relationship between the Association and the property manager?” All too often, minor problems between an Association and its property manager result in animosity, anger, frustration and ultimately unhappiness. Moreover, the property manager may justifiably feel underappreciated or undervalued. Such circumstances are not conducive to a healthy, professional relationship. In addition, this approach may lead to certain vested interests attempting to exploit any conflicts between a property manager and its Association.
The Symbiotic Approach
Another approach to conflict resolution takes a less adversarial methodology and instead focuses on best value, desired outcomes, cooperative conflict resolution and optimal conclusions. In essence, this approach views the role of the property manager, attorney, accountant, contractor, consultant and Board as a symbiotic relationship where everyone is acting in furtherance of the best interests of the Association and not each actor’s individual gain. A healthy, open relationship—particularly between the property manager and the Board—reduces animosity and may resolve conflicts economically and efficiently. In addition, the symbiotic approach fosters long term problem-solving instead of short term cycling of service providers.
As a litigator, I know from experience that all problems cannot be resolved amicably. However, the property manager is oftentimes integral to the effective resolution of the Association’s matters and there is value in addressing issues cooperatively, amicably and efficiently. As we approach Thanksgiving, I plan on thanking my property manager. Will you?
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