If you’re buying a home in an HOA-governed complex or neighborhood, the community association manager (CAM) will be one of your key contacts. When you have questions about how the building or neighborhood runs, the CAM has the answers.
In fact, this person is often the authority on whether someone’s vision for a property is feasible in the first place under the HOA’s official bylaws. They're in charge of knowing the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) and ensuring owners observe them -- including the terms concerning renting out a property.
The CAM is a reliable source of high-level information, such as the cost and timeline of planned capital improvements, as well as granular rules that affect lifestyle, such as whether residents are allowed to use a charcoal grill on their patios.
You may not encounter the community association manager often. But if you're curious about an aspect of how the neighborhood or building operates, all routes lead to this person.
Who does the community association manager work for?
A community association manager can be hired by the board of directors or by the property management company. Their role is interesting in that they're expected to provide guidance and oversight to the board as well as administrative and operational support.
Unlike HOA board members, who are volunteers that own property, the community association manager is a paid position with many professional responsibilities and deliverables. Their responsibility is to uphold the governing documents, enact them, and work for the greater good of the community.
Different types of community association managers
Sometimes the CAM is an on-site role, requiring the person to be in an office during business hours. An on-site manager might be among the management office staff who regularly answer phones, log residents’ issues, and supervise vendors.
Others oversee a portfolio of communities, so they may not be among the regular faces residents see upon entering the management office and may not be as directly engaged with residents.
What does a community association manager do?
Community association managers oversee the operations, business management, budget, common spaces, and services of a community. Besides knowing and enforcing the CC&Rs, the community association manager keeps up to speed on local legislation and shares information with the board and/or the management company.
This role also includes administrative support with a heavy focus on bookkeeping. Internal and external communications -- like putting out the community newsletter and ordering or placing signage -- are also common tasks for the CAM.
Key duties of a community association manager may include the following:
1. Supervising property maintenance and upkeep of facilities and amenities
- budgeting for repairs and upgrades,
- managing the vendor bid process,
- supervising vendors and maintenance staff onsite, and
- tracking invoices and payments.
2. Providing administrative support to the board of directors and other owners
This includes, but isn't limited to:
- managing correspondence,
- placing material orders, and
- tracking vendor paperwork and other building management records.
3. Overseeing financial management and budget tracking
This includes everything from managing vendor contracts to shopping for insurance to creating monthly financial reports. It may also include identifying a CPA, tax preparer, or attorney for the association.
4. Creating presentations and other visual materials
CAMs may also source the materials or hire a vendor to create them. Smaller tasks may be done in-house. These materials could be community information, printed collateral like handouts and flyers, or reports for board meetings.
5. Coordinating board meetings
This may include:
- scheduling meetings,
- distributing meeting notices,
- giving board members materials and reports in advance, and
- preparing data and research related to community issues for presentation.
It also may include taking meeting minutes and preparing action items following the meeting.
6. Overseeing homeowner communications
This often involves direct correspondence with homeowners via email and telephone as well as internal communications through mailers, newsletters, signs, and posted flyers.
7. Managing and supporting communication between board members
- taking meeting notes,
- recapping phone calls and emails, and
- organizing information from a variety of sources to deliver to a primary board contact.
8. Reviewing and assisting in making building policy decisions
Much of this falls under the broad category of upholding governing documents and isn't a daily activity. However, matters pertaining to common areas and facilities often require sourcing materials, making purchases, and hiring vendors.
9. Organizing and supervising contracted service bids and providing recommendations on service needs
The actual hiring and budgeting are approved by the board or property management company, but the community association manager is often the key liaison. Contracted services under their purview generally include security, janitorial, maintenance, landscaping, and other regular common area upkeep needs.
Sometimes the neighborhood or building requires special contracted services. This might happen if city inspectors mandate it or for special projects. In these cases, the CAM may forecast a budget and recommend a scope of work, collect vendor bids for the project, and present them to the board.
10. Collecting fees from homeowners
This doesn’t include rent, but does include HOA fees, assessments, and miscellaneous fees.
11. Conducting site and equipment inspections
This is a key monthly responsibility to ensure that the grounds and facilities are well maintained. It may also include investigating residents’ complaints and reports of HOA bylaw violations.
12. Ensuring that all community association members, including the board, comply with the association’s governing documents
A community association manager’s loyalties lie with the local laws and the governing documents -- not with any individual.
What does a community association manager NOT do?
After reading the list above, you might think that a CAM does everything in a community or neighborhood. But there are a few things they don't do:
- Oversee day-to-day maintenance issues from a physical labor standpoint
- Address individual resident problems not related to the larger community
- Field repair requests
- Resolve parking disputes
- Help residents or repair people get into a unit if something’s wrong with the lock
- Show prospective buyers around units
- Collect rent
- Make unilateral decisions related to budget, hiring vendors, or changing the rules of a community association
Is a community association manager the same as a resident manager or property manager?
These roles overlap, but they aren't the same.
The property or resident manager is much more involved in the day-to-day management of building staff and regularly scheduled vendor services. They also handle the small requests in the categories above from individual residents. Typically, physical maintenance of the building and direct interaction with residents are the property manager’s domain.
Is the community association manager a specially trained expert?
While the role doesn't require a specific degree or credentials, many associations and management companies give preference to those with certifications from the Professional Community Manager Association (PCAM) or have their CMCA credential from the Community Association Managers International Certification Board.
The community association manager and your tenants
As a rule of thumb, if you rent out a residence in an HOA-governed community, you want your tenants to only deal with the property manager or resident manager. If they have queries or issues that are in the community association manager’s wheelhouse, it’s a red flag. There could be potentially serious issues with the common areas, building maintenance and safety, or even other residents.
The community association manager and you
As a prospective owner, a community association manager is a source of information that affects your buying decision. After you've completed a purchase, they'll also influence your ability to rent out your property.
Equally as important, the CAM knows when inspections, community improvements, or legislative changes are on the horizon. If these things have already happened, they can tell you whether owners will be responsible for a portion of the associated expense. While they may not be able to give you exact timetables, they can give informed estimates based on what they’ve learned from contractors.
See a CAM in action
To get perspective on what the community association manager has been working on in your community, attend a meeting of the board.
The manager will almost certainly be present and will typically be called upon to report top-level financials and deliver information about ongoing issues that affect the community or building. The board may also ask them to answer specific questions from homeowners about everything from safety and security to capital improvements.
There's no better way to see what a CAM does.