There is an old saying that claims, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” and that is not a happy thought for a board of directors or an association looking to change property management firms. The turmoil of replacing a management company is guaranteed to be costly, not only for the board, but for the entire community. Thus, make sure the necessary changes are actually achieved through an alteration in management.
If real change is the desired result, how does a board or association prevent merely swapping out one set of problems for another? Is there a formula to assure a successful change, or guidelines to ensure a positive swing in direction? What questions should be asked of a prospective new management company before signing contracts? How does one spot a red flag? When does the search process begin? Since board members are typically volunteers, simply making the decision to change management could be problematic.
Begin at the Beginning
When a change in management is imminent, the process begins with the board. Each member must understand the problems with the current firm and what changes are expected. First, inquire if the problem represents a personality conflict with the current manager. If a different manager (within the same management company) can better communicate and work with the board, change could be accomplished quickly and seamlessly by replacing the manager alone.
By taking critical inventory of the community’s issues and expectations, a board can identify whether their dissatisfaction with the current administration is with the manager specifically. If repeated requests made to the management office itself have gone unanswered, or have been addressed unsatisfactorily, the trouble is deeper and with the company as a whole. By identifying areas where problems have occurred, the time frames and individuals involved, a board can better understand what is working and what must change.
“There are a few questions a board or hiring committee should ask a prospective independent manager or management firm before deciding whether to retain their services,” says Thomas Chilenski, CMC, president and senior property manager of Cedarcrest Property Management in Fairfield. “The first is ‘how often will the property manager perform a comprehensive site inspection?’ The second is ‘how many properties do they manage, the sizes and locations, contact information for recommendations, the back office support staff size, and experience.’ And finally ‘What does your company do that separates you from your competitors?’”