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Homeowners association directors can't delegate duties to property managers

Although a director may trust the property manager, the director may not delegate management duties to that individual or company.

November 06, 2011|By Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian

Question: The president of our homeowner association sits next to the property manager at board meetings, and the manager runs the meeting. She answers questions that owners ask the board and interprets the CC&Rs and bylaws. The property manager is the only one sitting at the board meeting that is aware of incidents occurring at our development. There are many incidents that happen in our complex that the board never hears about because most owners have a dialogue with the manager instead of the board directors. Because most owners don't attend board meetings, the only issues and incidents that get reported directly to the board are the ones the manager wants them to know about. When I brought this situation to the board's attention, one director refused to listen to me, saying he trusts the manager to take care of everything and if he didn't trust her, she wouldn't be working here. As an owner I find this attitude inappropriate. I am concerned about the association's operations, but what can I do?

Answer: There is a difference between trust and duty. Although a director may trust the property manager, he or she may not delegate his management duty to that individual or company. Ignorance of any events leading to liability, like ignorance of the law, will not excuse directors' inaction.

As for the president's trust, it too is misplaced. When the manager attempts to interpret the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws of the association, that person is making a legal determination that he or she is not permitted by law to make, unless the manager is an attorney. Any incorrect explanation could prove costly to the association and could result in misdemeanor charges against the manager.

Instructing titleholders to send notification of their problems to the manager is incorrect. Management works at the behest of the board and all notices should be sent to the board of directors, who have a statutory duty to act in the best interests of the association and its owners. The board decides what will be copied to the property manager. Even if the board never reads the letters from homeowners, it is responsible for knowledge of the contents and any liability for ignoring complaints.

Directors must recognize that employing property managers does not shield them from anything, and certainly not from liability. Directors were not elected to pass the buck to vendors.

Send questions to P.O. Box 10490, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or e-mail noexit@mindspring.com.

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