Common interest community association Property Managers ("CAPM") are much different than their "property manager" counterparts. In general, real estate property managers are responsible for ensuring that the common elements within affordable housing apartments or condo buildings that they oversee are functioning properly, much like a superintendent. CAPM’s on the other hand are fiduciaries of the properties that they manage. They act on behalf of the Board on a myriad of issues. They can be the face of the community, acting as the main point of contact for many residents and vendors. They enter into contracts on behalf of the Association, take responsibility for the Association’s finances and track delinquent owners to paying vendors, mediate and settle homeowner disputes, guide volunteer board members in the procedures of the Association, interpret or explain the Association’s governing documents or the law under which the Association is governed. And yet, with all of this responsibility, common interest community association property managers in New Jersey are not required to be licensed or certified. There are no state-wide standard requirements for managers, required training, background checks, and governing body charged with ensuring that managers have a minimum amount of knowledge and/or experience.
In 2008 Senator Christopher Bateman sponsored a bill (S-759) that would certify Community Association Property Managers and would require anyone in the business of property management for common interest communities to be certified under standards created by the Department of Community Affairs consistent with already existing national standards. The bill would not make certification a requirement, but would prohibit those without the certification from labeling themselves as "certified" in the field of property management. The act would also require all Associations in New Jersey to hire only certified managers, and would require that the contract between the Association and the manager include the insurance, bonding and certification requirements.
The two-year certification would require the property manager to reach a certain level of schooling and experience, and subsequently pass a written examination. Each certified manger would have to be bonded in the amount of $3,000.
The requirements for the sponsored bill are likely to be similar to those from a certification for community association property managers by the National Board of Certification for Community Association Managers (NBC-CAM). This certification requires classroom study and an exam involving subjects such as governance and legal matters, budgets, reserves and assessments, risk management and insurance, maintenance, contracting and human resource management. The certification, though not a guarantee of superior service or compliance all standards, at least sets a minimum standard for those who enter this field. The certification also requires that managers:
- Be knowledgeable, act, and encourage clients to act in accordance with any and all federal, state, and local laws applicable to community association management and operations.
- Be knowledgeable, comply and encourage clients to comply with the applicable governing documents, policies and procedures of the Client Association(s) to the extent permitted by that Client.
- Not knowingly misrepresent facts about materials, make inaccurate statements or act in any fraudulent manner while representing Client Association(s) or acting as a CMCA.
- Not provide legal advice to Client Association(s) or any of its members, or otherwise engage in the unlicensed practice of law.
- Promptly disclose to Client Association(s) any actual or potential conflicts of interest that may involve the manager.
- Refuse to accept any form of gratuity or other remuneration from individuals or companies that could be viewed as an improper inducement to influence the manager.
- Participate in continuing professional education and satisfy all requirements to maintain the certification.
Manager certification has been an issue since at least 1999 when the Assembly Local Government and Housing Committee discussed the pros and cons of such a certification, related to the proposed Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act. The current bill is presently being debated, and mirrors a similar bill introduced by former Assemblyman Bateman in 2006. The 2006 bill was abandoned before being put up to a vote of the Assembly. However, this certification may now be a necessary step in the field of common interest community management. There are new and larger associations cropping up across New Jersey, and an increasing number of management companies are being created to service these companies, some of which have no experience with condominiums, townhouses or cooperatives. Working with an experienced and certified property manager would bring comfort to a Board of Trustees who would hire a manager who has studied specific issues and subjects that will enhance their ability to serve the community. This is essential for volunteer, part-time Board Members who are oftentimes unable to choose a property manager in an overly saturated industry. It may also allow the quality CAPM’s out there to further distinguish themselves from those who do not fully understand the full breadth of their position, or who are unable to properly service their community.