Community Association Managers (“CAMs”), often incorrectly referred to as property managers, are the people that can make your life as a resident of a condominium association or a homeowners association wonderful or painful, depending upon the quality of the manager and the reasons you need to or have to interact with that person. The core responsibility of such CAMs is to guide an association through its annual cycles of governance, budgeting, and maintenance. However, depending upon the size and needs of your association, you may want a less than full service manager, or you may want a larger management company with an extensive finance department and/or a construction management group.

In choosing a CAM, the quality that I recommend putting at the top of your list is quality communication. Many of the skills necessary to properly and smoothly manage a community association stem from the ability to communicate candidly, with confidence and tact. Think of the members of an association as a group of six-year-olds who have been given the task of creating a stable place to live and making sure this very important place does not collapse around you. Undoubtedly, there will be those individuals who work efficiently for the common good, those that choose to draw pictures on the nearest wall, and those that will only want to watch. Someone needs to assist the Board of Directors in a way that will help rally the troops and inspire intelligent participation.

The CAM that you choose needs to perform many tasks that individual homeowners don’t need to think too much about. There are many common elements in a condominium or homeowners association property that, when their useful lives end will cost a lot of money to repair or replace. Forecasting these needs and saving the appropriate amount of money are important parts of the CAM’s role; enforcing assessment obligations and house rules are another. Who the right person or company is for your association depends upon your needs and the amount of money you are able and/or willing to spend for such services.

The Community Association Institute (“CAI”) is the primary provider of CAM education and credentialing. I have found that the CAMs who invest in their community association education are the best prepared to provide you with the critical information upon which you can base the important decisions that you need to make to maintain your homes and increase the value of your property. CAI provides an educational accreditation program.

When deciding upon a community association management company, look for an Accredited Association Management Company (“AAMC”). To be an AAMC requires: (1) a minimum of three years of experience providing community association management services, based on client verification; (2) a Professional Community Association Manager (“PCAM”) designee as the company’s senior manager; (3) a staff of which 50% of managers who have been at the company for at least two years hold a professional manager credential (CMCA, AMS, LSM, or PCAM) and (4) the AAMC must maintain fidelity, general liability, and worker’s compensation insurance in addition to meeting federal, state and local laws.

The PCAM designation is the highest designation offered through the AAMC Accreditation Program. To be a PCAM, you must: (1) have five (5) years of direct community association management experience; (2) have successfully completed all six M-200 level courses; and (3) have successfully passed the CMCA examination administered by governing educational body.

Make sure your CAM is providing you with the best possible guidance given your resources and willingness to spend them for professional management. This is money well spent, as long as you spend the time to find a quality communicator who has been educated in the ins and outs of the key elements of association living. Make sure that the CAM is encouraging involvement and pride in the community, rather than contributing to the apathy or petty grievances that erode the pleasures of living in a condominium or homeowners association.