Five FAQS about master homeowner associations
Living in a community governed by a homeowner association (HOA) often means adhering to a set of rules and regulations that help maintain the overall quality of life. However, in some cases, multiple associations may exist within a larger community. This scenario leads to the emergence of a master homeowners association.
What is a master homeowners association?A master association is an entity that governs a community comprised of multiple sub-associations, such as condominiums, townhomes, or gated communities. It acts as an umbrella organization responsible for managing common areas, enforcing rules and regulations, and providing various services to the sub-associations.
Master associations are crucial in maintaining harmony and consistency across the entire community. They typically have a board of directors who are elected by the members of the sub-associations. The board oversees the financial management, maintenance, and governance of shared amenities, such as swimming pools, parks, landscaping, and security.
What makes a good master homeowners association?
One of the critical elements of a successful master association is effective communication. Clear communication channels inform residents about important updates, changes, and events within their community. Additionally, it fosters a sense of community and encourages residents to engage with one another and take an active role in community governance.
- Financial Management
Master associations often have more significant financial resources than sub-associations, and effective financial management is crucial to ensure the community's long-term sustainability. This includes budgeting, accounting, and reporting. At FirstService Residential, our communities have access to a team of financial experts via FirstService Financial who can provide effective lending, cash management, and other banking solutions.
- Vendor Selection
Master homeowners associations are responsible for managing shared amenities and common areas within the community. This includes everything from landscaping and pool maintenance to security services and waste management. Selecting the right vendors can significantly impact the community's quality of life, and it's essential to work with reputable and reliable vendors. At FirstService Residential, we have an extensive network of vetted vendors, ensuring that your community receives top-quality services.
Finally, master associations must maintain compliance with local, state, and federal regulations. This includes everything from safety standards to environmental regulations to fair housing laws. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in penalties, fines, and legal issues. At FirstService Residential, we stay up to date on these regulations and ensure that communities remain compliant.
Master or sub: which rules do I follow?One common question within communities governed by master and sub-associations is which set of rules and regulations residents should follow. The answer to this question depends on your community's specific governing documents and bylaws.
In most cases, the master association's rules are designed to address matters that affect the entire community, such as architectural guidelines, exterior maintenance, and community-wide amenities. Sub-associations, on the other hand, may have their own specific rules that pertain to individual properties or sub-neighborhoods.
To determine which rules take precedence, it is essential to consult your governing documents and communicate with both the master and sub-associations. The governing documents outline the hierarchy of rules, making it clear which regulations apply to different aspects of community life. It is crucial to respect and abide by these rules to foster a harmonious living environment.
What is the relationship between the master and sub-association?Both the master homeowner association and its sub-associations possess their own governing documents, which define the interactions between the associations and residents and between the associations themselves.
- Dues – Like other community associations, master associations collect dues periodically. Typically, master associations gather dues from their sub-associations rather than directly from individual unit owners. However, there are situations where a master association may directly collect dues from unit owners if its governing documents mandate it.
- Maintenance responsibilities – Master associations typically encompass common areas that are accessible to all members of the association. It is the duty of the master association to maintain these areas. Additionally, some sub-associations may have their own distinct common elements that only members of those sub-associations can utilize. It is crucial to clearly comprehend how both your association and the master association's governing documents allocate maintenance responsibilities for different areas of the community.
- Enforcement of covenants – In most cases, master associations have their own set of covenants and restrictions that apply to the entire community. In contrast, sub-associations have their own specific covenants and restrictions that only affect owners within those sub-associations. Once again, these restrictions are tailored to each unique community.
- Representation – Both master associations and sub-associations typically have separate boards of directors and meetings. Some master associations determine board membership through general elections, while others require each sub-association to appoint a resident to serve on the master association's board. In certain instances, the president of a sub- association’s board automatically becomes the representative for the master association.
- Conflicting rules – Sub-associations cannot establish rules that contradict the restrictions outlined in the master association's Declaration and Bylaws. Any regulations set by a sub-association must align with the rules stated in the master association's governing documents.
What if my community is managed by more than one property management company?You may often see a community with different management companies for each association. This can result from the boards of directors who didn’t align with the company selection.
Sometimes, having separate community association management companies is better for the community. For example, certain management companies have specific expertise or experience that serves an association’s particular needs. But often, having multiple management companies within one community creates conflict. Homeowners may be confused about which association or management company to contact for maintenance issues or noise complaints or whom to speak to pay dues or get architectural approval.
For more information on the pros and cons of different management companies and how to bring your community under one management company, read our article Master association management – one company or several?
FirstService Residential: Supporting your communityNavigating the complexities of community governance, especially in the context of master associations, can be overwhelming. This is where FirstService Residential can lend a helping hand. As a leading residential property management company, we have extensive experience managing master associations and providing professional support to communities of all sizes.
With a focus on proactive communication, transparency, and efficient operations, FirstService Residential is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for residents in master association communities. Our team of experienced professionals can provide guidance on governance, financial management, maintenance, and community engagement, ensuring that your community thrives and evolves.
For more information about master community association management and how FirstService Residential can provide full-service support to your community, click here.