Effectively Working with Master Associations

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Having captured what Master Associations are, the challenge is for Condo Boards to find ways to effectively work with them.  While there is a tendency to ignore them to a certain degree, that path is the path to failure.  The secret to effectively working with Master Associations is simple: You must take off your Board hat and put on your Owner hat.  The same tricks and tips that make informed and involved Owners successful will also enable Condo Boards to succeed when working with Master Associations.  Unfortunately, these actions take time, and many Boards will neglect to take these actions.

Send Someone Talented to Be Your Rep

This is perhaps the most important tip to effectively working with Master Associations.  You need to make sure the representative you send from your Association can effectively represent your community to the Master Association.  Some Master Associations mandate it be a Board member; others do not.  Given the power of a Master Association, you want to send your “varsity” team – not the freshman scrub.  Pick a Board member who will represent you well.  

Act Like a Good Owner

First and foremost, act like a good Owner – or stakeholder – in the Master Association.  Just as you might be frustrated with apathy in your own Association, there is no excuse for apathy in a Master Association.  Make sure you read the Master Association’s meeting minutes, track their budget, and are involved in the major issues.  

Show Up to Meetings – In Force

You can’t expect to be effective when working with Master Associations if you don’t show up to the meetings.  At a minimum, you want to send your official representative.  More effective is if you can send additional Owners.  While it can be challenging to convince Owners (who don’t even show up to regular Association meetings), you can draw from other Boards members or committee members.   Try to rotate who goes to the meetings.  This has a few advantages.  First, it shows that your Association cares – and the bar is low.  If on average no one shows up from any of the subordinate Associations and your Association sends three people – that matters.  It also means you have multiple witnesses, which is helpful when a Master Association is acting capriciously.  

Build Networks Together

Just as involved Owners build networks, so must your Condo Association.  Make friends with the other Associations.  Building the relationship ahead of time is useful when working with Master Associations.  You’ll also be able to push for fundamental activities, like better record keeping or strong finances.  Most rational Associations want things like that, but it’s always easier to work together when you have a pre-existing relationship.

Make Sure Master Association Issues are Allocated Time

Make sure that you work Master Association issues into your regular Board “work flow.”  Depending on the tools you use to do your work, create a Slack channel, message board area, etc., dedicated to discussing the issues related to the Master Association.  Allocate time in regular meetings to discussing the issues.  Make sure you’re keeping up on the issues as a Board so you can be informed and act effectively when needed.

Master Associations and Condo Owners

If you’re a regular Condo Owner, your options for working with the Master Association are limited, but not trivial.  The biggest thing you can do is let your Condo Board know you’re interested in showing up to Master Association meetings and “showing the flag.”  Having Owners show up, as mentioned earlier, is incredibly important.  Additionally, as an Owner who may not be on a committee or otherwise involved, this is a great way to dip your toe into Association business and contribute to your community.  

Same Message, Different Structure

You get the Association you deserve.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a Condo Association or a Master Association.  If you invest the time and effort, you will reap the rewards.  If you just let things happen, don’t be surprised if you end up like the Owner who never reads the minutes and is shocked when they suddenly get a hefty special assessment.  There are no surprises for Board members when it comes to Master Associations – only chosen ignorance.  


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