Whether you are a new resident in a homeowner association or a seasoned board member looking for additional information and resources, you can find answers to some of the most common and pressing questions of community management here.
Our team of industry experts has curated educational resources via guides, webinars, infographics, and articles on various topics to help you learn more. You can also read our success stories in communities we’ve partnered with to see how FirstService Residential has simplified community living through its advanced management solutions.
To access additional resources, visit our article archive.
Questions about community associations, HOAs, and condo associations
To access your community’s governing documents, speak with your management team.
To learn more, read our article What You Need to Know about HOA CC&Rs.
A homeowners association (HOA) is a corporation that serves as the governing body of a residential community, such as a condominium, townhome, or single-family development. HOAs are created to protect the community’s property values by developing and upholding its covenants and bylaws, which define the actions homeowners may take with their properties and their behavior within the community. HOAs are often formed by real estate developers during the development and sales stages, during which they assume financial and legal responsibility and retain voting and governance rights. Association ownership and all related responsibility are transferred to homeowners at turnover, which occurs after selling a specified number of units.
Since most HOAs are incorporated, they are subject to statutes governing homeowner associations and not-for-profit corporations, as mandated by each state or province. All community homeowners are mandatory members of the HOA and must follow the community’s guidelines to ensure a harmonious environment and lifestyle; failure to comply can result in fines or other penalties.
For more information, read our article What is an HOA? FAQs about Homeowner Associations
Sometimes, active adult communities are also lifestyle communities, but lifestyle communities can exist for all age ranges and living situations. Lifestyle communities may be high-rises, townhomes, single family homes, or combined communities. Although most people think of large suburban or semi-rural properties when they think about lifestyle communities, more are popping up in urban centers as millennial buyers reshape those centers into mixed-use areas emphasizing a live/work/play environment.
HOA fees are used to pay the costs of ongoing maintenance and repairs to a community’s common areas, equipment, systems, and shared amenities (see examples below). Payments are made monthly, annually, semi-annually, or quarterly, depending on the community. As an ancillary benefit, homeowners can use and enjoy community amenities that they may not otherwise be able to afford or maintain, such as swimming pools, tennis courts, gym memberships, or valet services. In addition, depending on what services are included in their HOA fees, homeowners may not have to pay separately for lawn maintenance, snow removal, cable TV, electricity, and other services.
HOA services can include:
Lawn care and landscaping
Water, plumbing, and sewage systems
A/C and heating systems
Electric system and lighting
Security system and gates
Cleaning, painting, and upkeep of exteriors and common areas, such as hallway walls, carpeting, clubhouse, etc.
Repairs of roofs, interior roads, pipes, elevators, etc., due to age, weather conditions, or other damage
Maintenance of shared amenities, such as pool, fitness equipment, clubhouse, etc.
Front desk and concierge services
Cable TV and internet
HOA fees are also used to pay for a master insurance policy to protect the community’s building structures, exteriors, and property against damage and other insurance riders and add-ons as required. In addition, fees cover utility payments for all common areas, such as electricity, lighting, water, heating, and air conditioning.
Fiscally sound HOAs allocate a portion of homeowner dues to a special long-term reserve account to cover planned and budgeted renovations or repairs that do not occur regularly, such as repaving interior roads or replacing elevator machinery. They also set aside monthly contingency funds to cover unforeseen community expenses and emergencies.
In addition, fees are used to pay for salaries and benefits for internal management, maintenance, and janitorial staff members, as well as the services of a professional community association management company to manage operations and maintenance and enforce the board’s rules and decisions.
You can find more information in our article What Is An HOA Fee? And What Does Your HOA Fee Cover?
Your association’s rules and regulations are created to protect your community’s property values, enhance its lifestyle, and promote a friendly, agreeable, and fair environment for residents. While the rules may keep you from taking certain liberties pertaining to your home or community, they also prevent your neighbors from performing nuisance or disruptive behavior. As a homeowner and member of your association, you are obligated to obey its rules, so be sure you fully understand them, ideally before you buy a home in the community.
You can find more information in our article Navigating HOA bylaws: Can your HOA change its bylaws?
Questions about condominiums, high-rise, and co-ops
All building or property condo owners are legally entitled to shared access to all common facilities, such as elevators, hallways, heating systems, amenities, and exteriors. The condo association controls the right to utilize common areas, which is comprised of all condo owners and represents their interests. The condo association collects dues from homeowners and uses these funds to cover the building’s operations and maintenance activities, including repairs, insurance, reserves, building staff payroll, and upkeep of common areas and amenities.
For more information, read our article 5 key differences between condos and apartments .
For more information, read our article Is high rise apartment living for you?
To learn more about the latest amenities defining high-rise communities, read our article High Expectations: 7 luxury amenities redefining high-rise condos.
Co-operatives, or co-ops, are not considered real property. A corporation owns co-ops, and co-op buyers own shares in the corporation that entitle them to the exclusive use of their units. Co-ops tend to have fewer amenities than condos and are often located in older buildings. Most co-op associations require that a committee of current co-op owners approve prospective buyers.
Questions about managing your community’s finances
To learn more about association finances, read our article Understanding community financials and how to strengthen them.
Liabilities are the things your community owes, both currently and long term. Current liabilities are things like bills from suppliers or utility companies. Long-term liabilities are loans and mortgages that can take years to pay off.
To learn more reserve funding strategies, read our article HOA reserve study: Ensuring your budget's success.
Your reserve study should also be the core of your preventative maintenance plan. Because the study details the expected life span of major items and when the association will be financially able to replace them, it’s essential that you have a preventative maintenance plan in place that follows the timeline of the reserve study to get the most life out of your equipment and assets.
For more information, read our article Creating the best HOA budget: A step-by-step guide.
- Think strategically about your community’s vision and align your budget to it.
- Set your priorities for the year as you start.
- Talk to your committees. There may be places you can cut spending and others that need greater investment.
- Review your reserve study and reserve funds, and make sure you’re saving appropriately for future needs.
- Analyze past data, project what you’ll need in the future, get actual costs from your vendors, assess your income, and put it all together.
- Stay on top of your budget – don’t “set it and forget it.” Make sure you review your financial statements every month. Being informed about your current budget makes planning the next one easier.
Questions about community developers
The best property management firms are committed to fulfilling developers’ visions and enhancing property values and lifestyles for homeowners. At the same time, they understand the challenges and potential roadblocks of each development phase so they can offer insights, share best practices, and tailor innovative plans and solutions. The result? The guidance and support real estate developers need to effectively cut costs, prevent unforeseen expenses, and streamline operations while creating sought-after communities that capture the interest of future homebuyers and residents.
Quality property management companies have extensive resources, such as local market knowledge, neighborhood connections, and hands-on experience managing communities of all types and sizes, from small developments to high-rises to master-planned communities. As a result, they are uniquely qualified to provide information and guidance on association planning, budgeting, funding, financial tools, governance models, and other key data. In addition, they can expertly consult on upcoming amenity trends and desirable lifestyle programs to help create each planned community’s distinctive identity and ambiance and position it for short- and long-term success.
The specifics of this transition will depend on the contractual agreements, local regulations, and the established governance structure of the property. It's essential for all parties involved to work together transparently and legally to ensure a smooth transition and the continued effective management and maintenance of the property. Legal counsel and experienced property management professionals often play key roles in facilitating these transitions and ensuring compliance with all relevant laws and agreements.
To learn more about HOA transition, read our article 11 steps for a successful HOA transition from developer.
- Early planning and design
- Marketing and leasing
- Operational efficiency
- Legal compliance
- Financial management
- Resident relations and conflict resolution
Questions about HOA board member roles and responsibilities
For more information on the roles of board members, read our article How to become an HOA board member.
For more information, read our article Duties of an HOA president: Everything you need to know.
For more information, read our article What makes a great board treasurer? 6 things you need to know .
For more information, read our article What does a community association secretary of the board do?
Questions about property management careers
To learn more about the role and characteristics of a good property manager, read our article 12 characteristics of a good property manager and management company.
Additionally, while a property management degree is not required to practice in the field, education and training are available through many colleges, property management seminars, and online course providers. Some property management companies also provide their associates with skills training and professional development courses to help them perform their duties effectively and achieve their career goals.
For more information, read our article Why your property manager’s certifications matter.
Questions about insuring your community
- “All-risk” doesn’t mean the policy covers everything; there are always exclusions.
- Property insured under a master association policy typically only includes the common areas and property owned by the condominium corporation. Boards should routinely remind unit owners to purchase their own unit coverage.
- Policy premiums and deductibles affect the insurance cost – and your board’s budget! Make sure you budget for deductibles as well as for premium payments.
- Not all policies are the same. Insurance is viewed as a commodity, but carriers and the policies they issue can vary widely. Having a trustworthy broker or agent on your side is essential to help you compare policies and get the proper coverage.
- The association can be penalized and even sued by residents for being underinsured, so it’s critical to have the right valuation on the property before insuring it.
To learn more about HOA insurance, read our article Navigating the basics of community association insurance.
Flood insurance is a separate policy, and its essential coverage as we are all at risk of losses because of flooding. For example, during a hurricane, damages caused by water that comes in from a broken window will be covered by the association’s hurricane policy; water that comes in under the clubhouse door because the canal or river overflowed will be covered by the flood policy, even though the storm caused it.
Each market has different types of catastrophic losses that may be insured on separate policies. Ensure your broker or agent is experienced with insuring your type of community and is aware of the special needs of your location.
The more homeowners in your association who buy their own insurance coverage, the better off the association will be. It all comes down to loss experience – the frequency of claims and the dollar amounts paid out for the claims. The lower your frequency and dollar amount, the lower the association’s premiums will be.
Your condo association benefits from unit owners having HO-6 coverage in two primary ways:
- If a disaster strikes your association building, and your insurance has a high deductible, the HO-6 policies of your unit owners can help cover that deductible. The association levies a special assessment on the owners to cover the deductible, which is then paid through the owners’ HO-6 policies.
- The percentage of your association’s residents who have that coverage can affect your association’s insurance premiums.
Questions on community association meetings
The board of directors is required to notify homeowners of the annual meeting within a set time period before the meeting. The notice must either be mailed to homeowners or conspicuously displayed on the property, including the meeting date, time, and location. The specific requirements for conducting annual meetings and providing notice will vary based on your association’s governing documents and state/provincial statutes.
To learn more, read our article FAQs for annual meetings and HOA special meeting notice.
For more information, read our article 6 Best practices for your HOA board meeting.
Your association’s governing documents will determine who is allowed to call a special meeting when appropriate and the procedures for notifying your membership and running the meeting. Usually, a homeowner must create a petition stating the reason for the meeting, obtain a required number of signatures and then present that petition to the board. If the meeting request is approved, a special meeting will be held. As with all meetings, advance notice to homeowners is required, but the time frame may be shorter than other scheduled meetings. As always, follow the rules specified in your governing documents and local laws, and consult your association attorney if you have any questions.