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“I want to be a community association manager when I grow up!" said no child, ever. It will probably come as no surprise that the community association management industry is pretty niche. It’s so niche that it is often lumped in with larger categories like “real estate” and “property management”.

Association Management vs. Property Management – 6 Myths Debunked!

“I want to be a community association manager when I grow up!" said no child, ever. It will probably come as  no surprise that the community association management industry is pretty niche. It’s so niche that it is often lumped in with larger categories like “real estate” and “property management”. 

Like anything, miscategorizations like these can take on a life of their own, causing confusion and frustration when expectations don’t match reality. It’s particularly easy for homeowners to confuse the two very similar roles of community manager and property manager, leading to misconceptions regarding the day-to-day operations of their community, the role of the board and the authority of the management company and the community manager. Rest assured we are here to help you understand who does what, and debunk some common misconceptions for you!

Community Association Management vs. Property Management - 6 Common Misconceptions 


Before we even start, let’s establish who is who.

Community Association

A community association, such as an HOA (Homeowners Association) or COA (Condominium Owners Association) is a membership-based corporation that helps oversee the rules, regulations, and maintenance of a community. Community Association membership is mandatory for homeowners within the community, and they are required to pay assessments to fund the association’s operations and upkeep. The Board of Directors is the governing body for community association. The board consists of homeowners in the community, who are elected by the other homeowner members to represent them.

Association Management Company

Running a community association is, in many ways, similar to running a business — it takes a great deal of work. That’s where the Association Management Company comes in! The Board of Directors hires a management company to aid in the day-to-day operations of the community.  This could include a variety of services such as accounting and maintenance, but there is generally a primary person in charge of managing the association - the community association manager. While the role of a management company is to offer a helping hand, the board still retains all decision-making tasks. 

Property Management Company

A property management company is a third-party service provider hired by an owner of a property to manage individual properties or units within a community. Property management companies are hired by property owners and are not membership-based organizations. 

Myth #1 Community Association Managers and Property Managers have the same job duties. 


The HOA’s focus is on maintaining common elements, enforcing community rules, and assisting in managing the community’s budget at the Board of Directors request. Common duties of a Community  Management Company and Community Association Manager include: assisting the Board in developing the budget, presenting financial reports, site visits to uphold governing rules, and assisting the Board in oversight of vendors that are contracted for the community. 


A Property Management company handles the physical assets of the unit at the owner’s request. Typical duties of a Property Management company  include collecting rent, addressing tenant issues, drafting leases, rent collection and arranging repairs for items inside the unit (a malfunctioning stove or dishwasher). The property management company manages any work in the unit. 

Myth #2 Your Association Management Company sets the community assessments. Rates are dependent on the market (just like rental rates!)


The Association Management company is not a decision-making authority able to set the association assessments, the Board is! While the Manager can advise the board and help them  understand the expenses associated with maintaining the property and develop a good budget plan, the assessments are ultimately a decision of the Board and must be  voted on by the homeowners.


A property management company follows the direction of (and only answers to) the individual property owner.  Property managers typically have more freedom and authority when it comes to decision-making on behalf of the owner of the rental property. The owner is largely hands-off, and rates are influenced by the “market” and individual lease requirements. 

Myth #3 Your Association Management Company Creates the Community Rules. 


The requirements of any particular HOA may be unique as they are drafted when the community is formed by the developer or builder and vary based on the community. They are part of the governing documents and are called the Covenants Conditions and Restrictions or CC&R’s. The CC&Rs are the same for all homeowners, and must be enforced fairly throughout the community. The board has the authority to make changes to the rules and regulations, but the governing documents dictate how they can exercise that power. Examples include:  parking restrictions, exterior paint colors, trash protocols, etc.. 


A Property Management Company creates a lease agreement when a tenant rents a property. A lease agreement determines the responsibilities, processes, and promises between tenant, property owner and property management company. Unlike community association governing documents or CC&R’s, they may change over time as new tenants occupy the unit and are not standardized from one renter to another. 

Myth #4 Your Community Association Management Company determines maintenance priorities for the community.  


The Board provides the association management company and manager with their priorities for the community as a whole. These responsibilities are very clearly spelled out in the association's governing documents. Examples include, whether the association or the homeowner will be responsible for things like: front yard landscaping, roofs repairs and replacement, painting and other exterior maintenance items! 


The Property Manager is often responsible for maintenance and repairs, but unlike Association Communities, a Property Management Company is responsible for interior repairs as well. Things like, painting a room, repairing appliances or installing a security system are all examples of property maintenance. These vary from lease to lease. The Property Manager also has much more freedom when determining what actions they will take. 

#5 Your Community Association Manager and Property Manager have the same licenses.


Fun fact! Washington association management companies are not real estate brokers. Your Community Association Manager is not a licensed real-estate broker, and the work they do is not considered a real estate activity. Your Association Management Company is hired by the Board, and their obligation and contract is to the association as a whole, and to the homeowners, as members of the association. 

CAI or the Community Associations Institute is a nationally recognized organization where Association Managers earn professional credentials and designations. 


In the state of Washington Property Managers must be licensed real estate brokers. Key components of property management are considered a real estate activity under existing Washington real estate licensing laws. A Washington Community Association Management company is regulated differently, with different obligations and different certifications than a Property Management Company. 

Myth #6 - Homeowners in a community association have the same responsibility and privileges as renters.   


Homeowners have much more responsibility and voice in their association than you might realize! For example, homeowner members have the authority to: 

✔ Elect the Board of Directors to represent the community association 

✔ Attend open board meetings

✔ Vote to reject the budget proposed by the board

✔ Vote on special assessments

✔ Vote in the election for a Board member position

✔ Serve on a committee

Homeowner’s have authority on some key matters that affect the community. This ensures homeowners are represented properly and your community is a well maintained, protected community. When you become involved in your community, you can effect change. As an active participant, you’re more educated on the functions of your community association. Getting involved is easy! A few ways to get started are to attend meetings, including annual meetings and board meetings or volunteering on a committee. 


Typically property owners only have an interest in owning rental properties and earning profits from them. Property owners hire Property Management so they don’t have to deal with the headaches that come with renters. As a result, Property Managers have much more decision making authority when it comes to the decisions related to the day-to-day repairs and ongoing maintenance, security, and upkeep of their property. Renters, however, have only the protections provided by law, and have very little control over things like rent increases and changes to the rules in the home they are renting.

Trust Your Experts!


The Morris Management Team is here to help. As an Accredited Local Management Company with over 20 years of experience in the Puget Sound area. 

We have extensive experience in helping guide important decisions. We are experts when it comes to community association management, including understanding governing documents, maintenance responsibilities, upkeep and enforcing community rules. We can help boards make educated and informed decisions that you can trust to protect your community and property values. 

Request a proposal now to get our professional team’s expertise in managing your community!


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