For most routine projects such as tree removal, sidewalk repairs, or parking lot re-striping, your association manager should be able to wear the hat of a project manager.  However, for larger and/or more technical projects, such as community-wide street light replacement or major drainage work, your manager is not qualified to play that role.  Instead, the association should hire an engineer or a project manager.

This is mainly due to expertise.  For example, association managers have a basic understanding of accounting principles, the law, and landscaping.  However, no board expects their manager to do the association’s taxes, represent the association in court, or apply fertilizer to the common area turf.  Instead, the association hires specialists – CPAs, attorneys, and landscapers – to carry out these important functions.

When it comes to soliciting proposals, engineers and project managers have access to more vendors than the association or management.  Of this larger pool of vendors, they know which four or five to solicit bids from based on their reputation in the industry and the uniqueness and size of the project.  They will be able to answer technical questions and make decisions if there are differences of opinion – something you should not want your association manager trying to do.

Once the bids are received, the project manager will evaluate them to confirm that they meet the agreed upon scope.  They will confirm that each vendor has adequate insurance and required licenses, check references, and assure that each vendor is truly capable of taking on the job.  Ultimately, they will present the proposals to the Board, answer questions, and possibly even make a recommendation.

Once a vendor is chosen, the project manager will play the critical role of assuring that the work is being performed per the contract.  This is the difference between your new roof lasting 30 years as advertised, or only ten years because the vendor used two nails per shingle instead of four.

Yes, there is an additional cost to hiring an engineer or project manager, but it should not be viewed as “extra” or “optional.”  Instead, these important services are a crucial and necessary component of the project as a whole.  There are too many examples of Boards not hiring an engineer or project manager in an attempt to save $10,000, only to have to pay someone (and the association’s lawyer) $40,000 on the back end to correct work that was either unsatisfactorily completed or never completed at all.

Do it right the first time.  When you have a large and/or more technical project, engage the services of an engineer or project manager from the start.  Having the peace of mind knowing that it will be completed correctly, on time, and within budget is invaluable.