Survey says: Community Associations Enhance the Quality of Life and Property
As an attorney that has devoted a significant part of my forty year career involved with creation of and operation of condominiums and homeowner associations I can tell you that they are a vital part of the residential real estate fabric in this region and the country. There are several hundred community associations in our region ranging in size from only a few homes to over 4000. They come in all shapes and sizes and are sometimes include both residential and commercial properties and uses. They are all governed by their own set of recorded documents as well as one of two sets of laws in our Commonwealth – the Virginia Condominium Act and the Virginia Property Owners Association Act. They all have boards of directors to operate them and most employ a professional management company to assist the board. Those managers must now be licensed by the Commonwealth as a result of legislation passed and implemented in the past 5 years, unless the individual manager is employed directly by an association. Much like a town or city council, the board has the duty to attend to the financial management of the association, upkeep of the common property, and enforcement of the rules and covenants. An association is in essence a mini-government.
The primary organization in the country that seeks to support and enhance association living is the Community Associations Institute ( “CAI”) headquartered in our nation’s capital (see www.caionline.org). CAI is the primary resource for information and education on associations that are formed to govern condominiums and homeowner associations across the country. There are many thousands of members of CAI which has 60 chapters around the country. Members can be homeowners, associations, managers, and business partners. We are fortunate to have a large, active and award winning chapter here in Hampton Roads serving the southside and the Peninsula (see www.sevacai.org).
CAI periodically commissions a survey of residents of community associations to determine their satisfaction level with the governance and management of their communities. CAI has recently published the results of the survey taken this year by an independent polling company which can be viewed at www.caionline.org/2014survey. The results of a survey show that the vast majority of residents are satisfied with their overall association experience. Only 10 percent expressed some level of dissatisfaction. Ninety percent of the responders said their association board generally is serving the best interests of the community. This statistic certainly compares very favorably to the public opinion polls of our Congress and other political leaders. Eighty three percent of respondents say their community managers provide value and support to their associations.
One hot association topic occasionally appearing in the news is a board’s handling of its enforcement powers regarding architectural, aesthetic and property use issues. In the survey 70% of those responding said their association rules protect and enhance property values -- only 4% said the rules harm property values. In my years of practice in this arena I can tell you that HOA communities typically are more aesthetically pleasing than those which have no standards or do not enforce the ones they have. It follows that maintenance of standards would enhance property values and overall satisfaction with the community.
One problem in community associations that has risen to a higher level of concern in the past decade is the lack of volunteers to serve on boards of directors and committees. Residents are more apathetic than in the past which one might surmise is a result of the increased time required to be devoted to work and family, especially in two income households. Owners are sometimes too quick to judge actions of boards when they have not been involved and will not commit to the task themselves. Those who volunteer to serve their communities deserve to be thanked by their fellow homeowners – they receive no compensation and often spend more time than they imagined would be required. My request of readers who live in community associations is that you make the commitment to serve for a time period that suits you – it is a “good turn” for your neighbors and will help you better understand all that is involved in the management of a successful community association. Better yet, based on the survey results (and my local experience), it is most likely your service will be respected and appreciated.
by: Michael A. Inman, Esquire