Question: I am a member of a homeowners’ association. Our board recently hired a new management company. The owner of the management company is also a resident/property owner in our community. Some of us feel that this creates a conflict of interest. What is your opinion on this? T.W. (via e-mail)
Answer: As long as the owner of the management company is not also a member of your association’s board of directors, I do not believe that conflict of interest concerns in the traditional legal sense are presented. There is no legal prohibition against contracting with a property owner within your community. I have seen a few associations which have bylaw provisions which prohibit contracting with association members, but such provisions are certainly the exception. There are a couple of different ways to look at this. Some may argue that because the owner of the management company also has an investment in your community, he or she will go “above and beyond” to ensure that the community’s needs are served, thus protecting their own investment and keeping their friends and neighbors happy. Others would argue that contracting with an association member is a bad idea, because friendships and internal community politics could obscure the objective viewpoint the board should have in dealing with contractors. Whether contracting with a neighbor or a total stranger, I always recommend that contracts between community association management firms and associations contain a liberal termination clause, with or without clause, upon reasonable notice (such as thirty days).