How 1st American Management Company serves as an arm and a bridge for Homeowner Associations

How 1st American Management Company serves as an arm and a bridge for Homeowner Associations

1st American Management Company, Inc. manages the day-to-day tasks for more than 150 homeowner associations (HOAs), representing over 10,000 resident members across Northwest Indiana. On behalf of an HOA’s board of directors, 1st American prepares budgets, manages maintenance, and enforces covenants and bylaws. This allows 1st American to serve as an arm to implement an HOA’s vision for a community, and as a bridge, communicating with residents.

“We’re hired for financial management, but we’re most often asked to handle more delicate tasks for the board,” said Peter Bylen, property manager at 1st American. “That includes things such as enforcement of governing documents or collections.”

Governing documents, often referred to as Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), are documents drafted by a developer before breaking ground on a subdivision. This entails establishing what land is under a given HOA’s umbrella, what authority it has, and laying down restrictions on how homeowners must use their properties–such as requiring them to mow their lawns once a week or prohibiting satellite dishes or antennas.

“These documents articulate the developer’s vision for the subdivision,” Bylen said. “It’s the responsibility of the HOA’s board of directors to enforce the provisions within, and at their direction, it’s our responsibility as well.”

Those covenants are living documents, however, with the HOA’s board of directors responsible for making amendments and additional rules and regulations to preserve the vision for the subdivision. Common examples of those rules are noise policies, limits on fencing, how many vehicles you can have parked, what types of pets you can own, or how elaborate your holiday decorations can be.

“Board members are elected to administer the association and act in a way that benefits the community as a whole, not themselves or any other individual,” Bylen said. “Our role as managers is to bring homeowners’ concerns to the board and communicate the board’s decision. We need to be a conduit for communications, both ways.”

Given that it involves someone’s home, enforcing the HOA’s bylaws and regulations at the board’s behest is a sometimes sensitive task.

“We always count on voluntary compliance,” Bylen said. “More often than not, people just aren’t aware they’re in violation of whichever regulation, and they’ll apologetically make strides to comply. Often times there might be a faction within a community that’s at odds with the governing documents or a decision made by the board, and we’re caught in the middle. It falls to us to communicate those decisions and explain the factors that led to it.”

An association’s board of directors is always subject to change, with new members getting elected year to year–often with new visions and goals that they task 1st American with implementing.

“When there are new board members, it’s a learning process where they learn what they can do and what we can do,” Bylen said. “We’re hired to help them, so it’s important that we understand what they want, and whether it’s realistic or even possible.”

Ultimately, 1st American is brought aboard by a homeowners association’s board of directors to manage finances, enforce existing rules, and be a bridge between the board and the community.

“We’re carrying out the responsibilities as the board wants them done,” said Renee Jeffries, Director of Property Management at 1st American. “It’s the board’s association, and there’s a lot of communication to ensure we’re fulfilling their vision.”

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