Who's the Master Here?
Many owners in community associations would be surprised to learn that they are governed by not only their immediate homeowners’ association, but by a master association as well. Master associations vary greatly in terms of the scope of authority and responsibility. Master associations can have extensive responsibilities and assets such as roads, sidewalks, infrastructure, golf courses, marinas, community centers etc. etc. etc. Other master associations exist only to maintain a relatively limited number of items that are shared by one or more associations. More recently, master associations are being set up under “pre-construction declarations” for the sole purpose of governing the air space condominiums prior to the air space units being built out as separate residential or commercial condominiums.
While some master associations, such as those that are the umbrella association covering a number of separate condominiums or HOAs, actively govern their owners, maintain common areas and levy assessments for common areas common to its sub-associations, other master associations don’t receive the time, attention or resources they need. Annual meetings go year after year without a quorum, Board positions go unfilled, budgets become stagnate and governing documents get ignored.
Especially where there is little authority given to the master association after construction, master associations sometimes fall between the cracks until an issue arises that the master may need to address. Boards assume their manager is keeping tabs on master association’s activities. Managers may assume they don’t represent the master and therefore shouldn't devote time on those activities. The key is to know what role, if any, the master association and master declaration affect the activities of the sub-association and to communicate to make sure everyone understands their relative roles. Right now, many associations are finishing up budgets and planning for annual meetings. While in this planning mode, now would be a good time to look at the relationship between your association any master association it is a part of, and whether or not that relationship posses a liability to your community.