HOA Homefront – Is this manager qualified?

After choosing the type of management service you want, how to assess a manager’s qualifications?

California HOA managers are unregulated with no required license or minimum training. Rental managers are required to have real estate agent licenses, but not HOA managers. There is a wide range of qualifications and experience in this field and industry credentials indicate experience and dedication.

Business and Professions Code 11502 defines a “Certified Common Interest Development Manager” as one who takes 30 hours of instruction in specific subjects from a professional association of HOA managers. Section 11504 requires managers to disclose annually whether they are “certified” and prohibits false claims of “certified” status. While certification is not mandatory, disclosure is required.

Four organizations educate and qualify Californian managers: Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM); California Association of Community Managers (CACM), Community Association Manager International Certification Board (CAMICB) and Community Associations Institute (CAI).

IREM is a national organization with approximately 20,000 managerial members offering training and various qualifications in real estate management. Its managers are mostly nonresident, but over 300 California managers hold the Accredited Residential Manager (ARM) qualification. The ARM requires 45 hours of instruction in either rental property administration or CID administration and passing a half-day exam. The ARM does not qualify for certified status in California.

CACM is a California organization founded in 1991 by a group of experienced managers and currently has 1717 managerial members. 1,330 active managers are Certified Community Association Managers (“CCAM”) certified. The CCAM includes 36 hours of instruction and qualifies managers as “Certified”. CACM has introduced a more advanced credential, the Masters of Community Association Management (“MCAM”), which includes a minimum of 5 years of CCAM status, a comprehensive written exam, a written case study analyzing an HOA and an oral presentation, and 28 additional hours of instruction.

CAMICB maintains the Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) credential. Originally associated with CAI when it was founded in 1995, the organization is now an independent certification body. Earning the CMCA requires either two and a half days of instruction, five years of experience, or CCAM certification and passing a 120-question exam. California currently has 1,267 CMCA managers.

The Community Associations Institute consists of 64 Chapters including 8 in California. Founded in 1973, CAI trains managers in the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. CAI offers three qualifications: Association Management Specialist (AMS), Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM) and Large-Scale Manager (LSM). The AMS credential requires earning the CMCA credential, two years of experience, and two additional days of instruction. Currently, 708 California managers hold this qualification. Managers with the AMS designation qualify as “certified” in California after completing the CAI’s 8-hour California Law course.

The most common general management qualification is CAI’s PCAM designation. This requires five years of experience, nearly 100 total hours of instruction, and the preparation of a 100-200 page case study of a large HOA. About 80% of applicants reach the PCAM on their first attempt. Currently, 295 California managers hold this qualification. Larger or higher profile properties may prefer PCAMs or those working towards them. The LSM credential requires a PCAM and additional training related to large associations.

Ask for credentials and make sure YOUR manager has one (not just anyone in the office). Proven performance in vocational training is helpful in evaluating prospective managers.

Kelly G Richardson, Esq. is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a partner in Richardson Ober DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for advising community associations. Send questions to Kelly@rodllp.com.

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