Summit County property managers rush to meet Colorado licensing requirements
Local property management companies rushed to meet new Division of Real Estate licensing requirements by July 1. The extensive — and expensive — licensing process involves a 24-hour course, a test designed by the Department of Regulatory Affairs, as well as fingerprinting and a background check for all community association managers.
“We want to make sure everybody has a good amount of education, and we believe there are some consumer protection issues here, that someone without a background check may embezzle money, among other things,” said Eric Turner, education, communication and policy manager for the Division of Real Estate. “There was no background check, so anybody could say ‘Hey, I’m an association manager’ and start managing homeowners associations.”
He added that the new law would allow the Division of Real Estate to audit association management companies.
Community association managers (or CAMs) are tasked with working both homeowners and board members, helping supervise maintenance, provide financial statements, and secure bids for needed services. Since the new requirements were announced in January, 1,200 people have taken the exam to obtain a license.
Those who have taken the needed steps, but were not able to pass the test before the July 1 deadline, are able to apply for a provisional license that will last through Dec. 31. Those who are new to the field can apply for an apprenticeship license, which is easier to obtain, but requires supervision and expires after a year.
“Our industry is very unique, very quirky. We deal with the largest investment someone has — their home. It’s a very personal matter,” said Carmen Stefu, president of the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Community Associations Institute. “That’s what makes it special: you deal with people and their largest investment, and you must be ultra-educated to do that right.”
The Community Associations Institute has offered classes, seminars and other resources for property managers several years before DORA’s new regulations came into play. They also supported the “community association manager practice act” that was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2013, leading to this year’s licensing requirements.
CAI also offers designations testifying to the education and training of property managers. CAMs who are already designated only need to take part of the test to become licensed; no classes required.
“Having a designation after your name in this field does matter,” Stefu said. “We really just want to offer everyone as much education as we can.”
The cost of business
While most of Summit County’s property managers have stepped up to the plate and gotten licensed, the process is not cheap.
Pat Miller, community association manager for Wildernest Property Management said the company sent in 22 applications before July 1, with each license (regular, provisional or apprentice) costing $205 each.
On top of that, each test costs $90, with each retake at $85. Miller added that the cheapest online course they could find came in at $399. The one-time company certification, another requirement, cost $175.
“Our company has put a boatload of money in there,” Miller said.
While Miller, and nearly a third of Wildernest Property Management’s team were already certified, they still had to take part of the test to obtain a license. She added that two employees applied for an apprentice license, and four applied for a provisional license.
“The bummer was someone missed one question, and needed to retake the test but they didn’t have a timeslot available before July 1,” Miller said. “People are failing this test left and right — it’s not an easy test.”
Libby Jocelyn, president of Alpine Meadow Management said that her company rushed to get licensing once the requirements were announced on Jan. 1.
“It was a very short window,” Jocelyn said. “All along throughout the process they continued to change the rules. We were constantly scrambling.“
Jocelyn’s company manages eight homeowners associations, as well as three timeshare associations.
“I think it was possible to get it done,” she added. “I applaud everyone who got it done, because it was hard to do unless you are a member of CAI.”
So far, DORA maintains that property managers will need to renew their licenses annually. More information on the new requirements is available at http://www.cai-rmc.org.
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