For most Americans, our most valuable asset is our home. Since more than 14 million Californians own and live in a common interest development (CID), it would only make sense to place your most valuable asset in the hands of a qualified professional. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t ask your mechanic to fix a plumbing issue in your bathroom; you would place your trust in a specialist. While your mechanic may be a whiz with your car troubles, do you really trust him to properly repair a slab leak?

A board of directors can gain peace of mind by ensuring their community manager is a member in good standing and certified by the California Association of Community Managers (CACM). CACM offers California community managers the opportunity to make a commitment to professionalism, ethics and continuing education through the Certified Community Association Manager (CCAM) program. The CCAM certification requires community managers to complete 36 hours of study covering association management principles, applicable California laws, and ethics training.

Depending on your community needs, CACM also offers specific certifications through its Specialty Certificate Program. Managers can acquire in-depth understanding of many of the management specializations, including high rise, large scale and portfolio community management. The highest level of achievement in community association management is the MCAM, the Master of Community Association Management certification. The MCAM is the ultimate professional designation available for California community association managers.

CIDs are nonprofit corporations; your board of directors has the same responsibilities and fiduciary duties as any corporate board of directors. The difference is your board consists of volunteers whose careers rarely fall in the demographics of operating a multimillion dollar corporation. That’s where your certified manager comes into play; homeowners in your association need professional guidance on items ranging from the reasoning behind reserve funding, to the horrors of deferred maintenance and the need for adequate insurance. Not to mention proper budgeting, contract negations, and the unique laws that pertain to the community association industry.

The responsibility that is placed on the shoulders of you and your fellow volunteer board members is immense when you think about it. You are making command decisions regarding not only your home and investment, but your friends’ and neighbors’ investments as well. A wrong decision or bad advice made by a well-intentioned novice in the industry can have a catastrophic impact on the community – an impact that ultimately falls on the board’s shoulders.

Even though we all want a good deal and more bang for our buck, we need to remember the old adage: “You get what you pay for.” The price for a state-specific certified manager may run higher than that of a layman in the industry. But remember, as a board member you have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain and preserve your community’s investment. How better to do that than by hiring a certified professional. In some instances, it may be in your best interest to consider a manager with a Specialty Certificate based on your community’s needs. If your manager doesn’t have a Specialty Certificate, there’s no harm in contacting the management firm and requesting that your manager consider obtaining one to better serve your association.

In addition, knowing that members of CACM agree to abide by a Code of Professional Ethics and Standards of Practice is like a cup of cocoa on a cold winter’s night. These codes provide ethical guidelines for performing services related to the practice of community association management and hold individual managers and management firms to the highest level of conduct.

CACM California-certified managers also attend 30 hours of continuing education every three years as part of the recertification process. This includes attending extensive legal seminars and ethics courses to ensure each certified manager is up to date with the latest and greatest of legislative ideas and best business practices.

In the growing field of community management, boards shouldn’t settle for less than certified managers with state-specific knowledge who will serve their community with professionalism and integrity. Not sure if your manager is certified or not? Contact CACM at 949.916.2226, ext. 319 to check his or her status.

Susan Sharp, CCAM, is the New Development Coordinator/Management Consultant for J.D. Richardson Company in San Diego.