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Best Practices: What is a “CAM” and How to Choose the Right One for Your Association

Posted by Jane F. Bolin, Esq. | Apr 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

Trusted advisor or administrative assistant? An important distinction!

For Association Boards, a CAM (Community Association Manager) is the one trusted advisor that you'll likely use more than any of the others. In many states, CAMs have passed a test, are licensed, and invest in continuing education to keep their certification current. If your board is looking into enlisting the services of a CAM, here is a look at what they do, why you need one, and tips on selecting the right person for your association.

What exactly is a CAM?

A Community Association Manager is a professional who is hired to manage the day-to-day operations of the community. It's his or her job to act on behalf of the board in all things related to the maintenance and upkeep as well as act as a point of contact between the homeowners and the board. How much a CAM is responsible for largely depends on the needs of the association, but it can include overseeing the actual maintenance of the property, administrative duties, and fiscal responsibilities. Broken down, here's a sample of what your CAM can take care of on a daily basis:

• Collect monthly fees

• Prepare financial statements and/or budgets

• Negotiate with contractors

• Help to resolve complaints

• Prepare reports on maintenance, any violations, any updates on happenings in the community, etc.

• Assist with or run monthly board meetings

Choosing the right CAM

For association boards that run their HOA as a business, it is beneficial to have a CAM who can carry out tasks as directed by the board, but also is qualified to make decisions and act as the buffer between the board and homeowners, vendors, and others. Just like you might hire a portfolio manager to oversee your assets, your CAM manages your community assets, deals with other trusted advisors, serves as liaison between boards and residents, and executes the strategic plan of the association and board.

That being said, when looking for a CAM, it's best to first map out exactly what your expectations and needs are to ensure you find one who is properly trained and qualified to carry out any and all relevant duties. Some things to consider:

• How to view your relationship with your CAM: As a trusted advisor (who makes decisions) or as an administrator who just carries out tasks as directed?

• Preferred skills/knowledge: Your CAM should be a trained professional who has worked with roofing, irrigation, and landscaping experts, etc.

Establishing duties and relationship

One of the biggest issues that boards run into with CAMs is they don't deliver as expected. And on the reverse side, CAMs often complain that their boards don't make decisions. To avoid any of these issues, it's important to establish your expectations and the relationship between the board and your CAM upfront. Most often, a contract is drafted which lays everything out—but it's important to make sure your agreement is very detailed and that any contingencies that can arise are also listed.

For example, many boards feel that their CAM should be available to them 24/7. They expect that if there's an emergency on the weekend or in the middle of the night, like a leak or a fire, that their CAM will be on hand to take care of it. But if it's not clearly laid out in the contract, these cases are often considered above and beyond what is expected. So be sure to be thorough in your contract and to review it on a regular basis so it is up to date, as things may change.

Gain feedback

In addition to being clear in your contract and your expectations with your CAM, it's highly recommended that you survey progress regularly to ensure that he or she is ok with the way things are working with the board. Surveying allows you to ascertain what's working and what's not, and gives your CAM the opportunity to offer suggestions or feedback that can improve the way the association is being run. CAMs often have connections or colleagues in other HOAs who can provide valuable tips that perhaps your board may not have access to. You can also survey your vendors and homeowners to gain their perspective on how things are going. While it may not be enjoyable to learn that there's room for improvement, it only helps you and the community as a whole to engage in this type of feedback.

A Community Association Manager can be a valuable asset to your board. If done right, you'll find that this professional can help immensely when it comes to managing many of the important tasks of your community. When selecting a CAM, follow these tips and remember to reach out to us if you need assistance. We concentrate on Community Association Law and have expansive experience in all issues related to running your board.

About the Author

Jane F. Bolin, Esq.

Founding Member, Managing Partner


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