A few years ago, I was on the phone with a homeowner. He was irate with how his community’s money was being spent. He was unhappy with the budget increase. It was a call I took regularly from any one of my homeowners (and more often than not, a hundred of my homeowners). Whenever the association budget is sent out with an increase, I often get numerous calls, letters, and in-person complaints that owners are paying all this money and getting nothing back. So, several years ago, I began breaking down the assessment in newsletters, via letter/email, and the budget letter itself. I explained where their money was going specifically and to what projects. The calls started to slow down. Owners started to understand where their money was going.
What has become apparent over the years is that a lot of the people who buy into associations have never lived in one. These new association members might be first time home buyers or had always lived in a single-family. They didn’t know what a reserve was and didn’t understand that their assessment wasn’t going entirely to pay management (even though that is where they send it).
There are so many homeowners who are distrustful of homeowner/condominium associations. They see the news stories, and most of them feature a lone homeowner standing up against the mustache-twirling evils of their association. On social media especially, the comments trend towards how the nosy board is out to get them, or they are upset that they cannot do what they want, and the association/board/manager is oppressing them. It’s rare that most homeowners are singing the praise of the manager/board/association. How can we combat this attitude?
You hear all the time that communication is key - but overcommunication can be better.
While you can tell homeowners about rules reminders or upcoming community events, you can also use the newsletter to educate your homeowners. Explain what reserve funding is and tell them about future reserve projects. Give them specifics. If they know the association is sitting on $1 million, they might not understand an increase in their monthly assessment. Advise them that the roofs are scheduled for replacement in the year 2021 and the cost will be $900,000 (spending the majority of those reserve funds). Show them where that money is going now, and in the future, and then remind them of the projects that have been completed.