There is a saying that you make your own luck. As anyone who has help run an Association knows, you will run into a lot of challenges. Some things – like the maintenance of major systems – are to be expected. Other times you’ll experience wacky things you can’t imagine. The key to navigating issues is building these three key relationships that strengthen your Condo Association. Build these relationships and you will be a stronger Association for it.
1) Neighbors and Master Associations
Many communities are neighbored by – you guessed it – other communities. Your Condo might be next to another Condo or a development with a HOA. Many people and Associations will ignore their neighbors – not out of any specific malice, but rather general indifference. While understandable, this has repercussions down the road. What happens when you suddenly need excess parking from your neighbor? Or when you’re going to be doing major reconstruction on your building and find out that the easiest way to bring the machinery into position actually includes using a neighbor’s easement?
If you’ve got the preexisting relationship, then you’ll likely get a speedy “sure, we’ll help you out.” But if you’ve had minimal interactions, that community is likely going to take is time making a decision and prioritize its own needs over yours. This will slow things down and set your Association back.
Related, many Associations are members of a “Master Association,” which is essentially a HOA of HOAs and Condo Associations within a certain geographic area. Master Associations have their own rules and governance, which are typically similar to a HOA but not identical. They also often wield a substantial amount of power within the area of their responsibility. They are typically made up of representatives from the Associations that are within their jurisdiction – make friends with these people as well. If there are issues or disputes between Associations within the Master Association, whoever has the most friends will have the best chance of being the winner. Making sure your neighbors and Master Associations are ready to help you is key to building relationships that strengthen your Condo Association.
2) Technical Representation
It is inevitable that things will break over time. When they do, you will need technical representation to support you in the design and bid phase. In general, good practice is to get three bids for any management effort. However, sometimes a project is too small to matter, or sometimes speed is your key metric. For example, perhaps your pool broke right before pool season and you want it repaired as fast as possible. In those cases, you’re going to need Technical Representation you’ve worked with before and trust.
Unfortunately, trust doesn’t come overnight. It comes from working together for months or years and having enough projects done effectively that you can trust a vendor. A good Association will consciously try to build these relationships. This means a positive “give and take” in the business of working with them. It means remembering that the Association’s attitude and responsiveness is going to be a factor in how that vendor works with you in the future. Obviously, you need the Technical Representation to perform quality work – that’s a given. But if they’re performing well, a proactive Association will make a conscious decision to target an effective vendor for a long-term partnership. Being successful in this means that when trouble strikes, you’ll have someone you can rely on ready at a moment’s notice.
3) First Responders
If something really bad happens, the local Police and Emergency Services (fire and ambulance) are going to be the first ones on the scene. You should make sure you have a strong relationship with both of these government entities. It never hurts to have a deeper connection with First Responders if disaster strikes. You should make sure you’re hosting town halls on their respective subjects and conducting police walkthroughs every couple of years. In addition to better preparing your community, it also establishes your Association as one that prioritizes safety and security, which will be respected among the First Responder community. All good things.
You can’t prepare for everything – life is too crazy, particularly Condo Life. But what you can do is build the relationships that strengthen your Condo Association. While it takes a little extra time and effort, when things go bad, you’ll be grateful that the relationships are there when you need them most.