Most of the time, a condo association and its management company enjoy a mutually beneficial partnership—the management company and the individual agents try their best to serve their clients, and their client communities work with said companies and agents to insure that their associations run smoothly.

From time to time, however, the partnership, for one reason or another, breaks down. Maybe the agents have become unresponsive. Maybe an inveterate agent has retired, and her replacement is not up to snuff. Maybe the board has turned over, and the new members don’t mesh with the management company’s agents. These reasons might be obvious, but what happens when you’re not sure when a change of companies is needed? If change is unavoidable, how does a board proceed? What special concerns or challenges might they encounter along the way?
Why Change?

The relationship between association and management company is usually a deep one, and one that lasts for a long time. As in any long-term relationship, there are bound to be bumps in the road. Furthermore, the longer a working relationship lasts, the better the two parties understand one another—warts and all. Because switching management companies is not as simple as, say, switching landscapers or painters, it is not advisable to make a change for change’s sake, or because someone is having a bad day.

That said, there are any number of reasons a board might consider changing management companies.

Complacency is what we’re finding the most. Over time, both trustees and management companies can get into a rut. The management company may not visit the property as often as they used to—or as often as they should. They may take longer to respond to calls, or be slower to dispatch vendors to the building. Signs of the rut may include dirtier common areas, higher lawns and paint in more obvious need of a fresh coat.

When that happens, it shows in the facility. You can tell. That’s the major motivator.

Other property managers tell similar tales.

What we’ve encountered, the grand theme, is that the company is not responsive. They’re not doing what they’re expected to do. They’re not visiting the property. They’re not getting projects done.”

Complacency and lack of responsiveness imply a taking-for-grantedness, a lack of respect.

One longtime property manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to cast aspersions on any of his colleagues in the industry, says, “The number one reason for changing is a lack of follow-up. If you do not return a phone call, it festers. It becomes a larger problem.”

Indeed, the dereliction of duty, small though it may be, is a symptom of something bigger.

People want to know you respect them. Someone calls you, have the respect to call them back. It was gospel when it came to condo management—every one of these people is your boss.