Eugene Burger Management Corporation

Susie contacted Eugene Burger Management Corporation about managing BTH and asked me to talk with it when it called back. Here’s my report. It seems worth considering as an alternative to ACI.

On 6 April 2010 Susie asked me to talk with Eugene Burger Management Corporation, which she was gathering information about to help one of the Berkeley Town House directors in the search for a new manager.

Mary Jacobs (maryjacobs@ebmc.com, 415-561-0800) called back. She is the District Manager for the San Francisco Bay Area, though she has been working for EBMC for only 2 months.

She said that EBMC is expanding its portfolio and has an interest in managing more senior housing communities, so it would like to consider managing BTH.

Jacobs lives in the East Bay, and she would like to see BTH and talk with some people here (including, she hopes, at least one Director). She said she would be able to visit us tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon about 3 or 4 p.m., Friday morning, or a morning, afternoon, or evening next week.

What Jacobs told me is similar to what ACI’s McCormick has said, with the following exceptions:

EBMC is much bigger than ACI. EBMC has about 400 employees (including several Burgers).

EBMC managers commute to San Francisco from around the area, so when it manages a community it usually tries to assign to it a manager who lives nearby.

Often a community that EBMC manages has particular domains (such as landscaping) that it wants to manage itself. In those cases, the management agreement assigns to the community the responsibility for those domains.

EBMC normally manages third-party vendors, but EBMC also has a handyperson employee that it sometimes sends to buildings when this will cost less than hiring a contractor, or when the need is urgent.

Board training is intermittent and casual, taking the form of occasional communications advising boards of new statutes, new informative Web sites, etc.

The accounting system used by EBMC is Yardi.

When EBMC takes over the management of an association, it begins doing the books with its system as of the assumption date and does not convert prior records to the new system.

When a homeowner fails to pay assessments, EBMC usually sends one reminder letter and thereafter refers the delinquency to the Board of Directors for a decision on how to proceed, e.g. whether to refer the matter to a collection agency.

The usual recordkeeping practice of EBMC is as follows. EBMC takes the last 2 years of paper records from the community and files them in the San Francisco office. As time passes, it purges the obsolete records, i.e. records older than 2 years except longer-term-valuable records such as construction plans and warranties. It returns the purged records to the community. Whenever a Director or a committee or an ordinary community member wants to inspect or copy a record, the requester asks for it in writing (e.g., by email) and EBMC informs the Board of Directors of the request. Upon approval of the request by the Board of Directors, the requester goes to EBMC’s office and performs the inspection and/or copying there.

In addition to the usual practice, there are variations. A client may choose to give EBMC copies of records rather than originals and keep originals at the client’s location. A client may choose to digitize its records. A client may choose to use a commercial disclosure service, such as CondoCerts and deposit digitized records there for access by members and prospective members.

EBMC has a Web site that houses Web sites for many or all of the communities and other properties that it manages. To see examples, go to the EBMC home page and click on “PROPERTY WEBSITES”. On the new page, under “search properties” choose “Owners Association” and “California”, then “Search”. You then get a page with a list of 68 properties, keyed to a map. You will see that the properties have related but distinct Web sites. In various cases the sites offer such features as on-line maintenance reporting, records access, assessment payment, access to the member’s own payment history, floorplans, neighborhood information, and slideshows of the property for prospective members.

Observations: Yardi is one of the best-established high-end property-management software systems. It is curious that EBMC has no properties now in the East Bay. We should ask why not. But we could also hope that EBMC would have several managers living in the East Bay wanting to take us on for their own convenience. EBMC’s usual record-management system would be hard for some at BTH to swallow, so some thoughtful discussion of variations would be wise. On balance, allowing for Jacobs’s brief tenure at EBMC so far, I think EBMC deserves to be considered as an alternative to ACI.

Susie also found a few quite disparaging reviews of this company on Yelp. They all apply to the Rohnert Park office. To get a more representative sample of customer opinion, one could easily contact customers comparable to BTH, since EBMC makes its list of clients available to the public.

Supplement, 1 May 2010: An anonymous reader using vituperative language but no hard evidence has called my attention, three days in a row, to accusations of criminal behavior against EBMC and to a history of litigation against EBMC in Marin County. Looking for confirmation of the criminal charges, I found a group of complaints, all apparently by the same (unidentified) person. The complaints likewise provided no evidence, except for an excerpt from a court opinion, but that opinion rejected the charge against EBMC. The complainer in 2006 asked other victims to file complaints in the same forum, but apparently no others did. All this suggests to me that the complaints are dubious. However, EBMC apparently has not chosen to submit any rebuttals in that forum, nor has any satisfied customer of EBMC done so. As for the litigation in Marin County, there is indeed a list of 79 cases from the 1980s until 2009. The most recently decided case was brought by Margaret A. Seltzer, acting as her own attorney, against EBMC and others, and it ran from 2003 until 2009. (Seltzer is an attorney and owns a condo in The Headlands View Homes in Sausalito, which EBMC manages.) The court ruled against Seltzer many times during the case, charged her for defendants’ expenses, and ultimately ruled in favor of EBMC, awarding it attorneys’ fees at Seltzer’s expense. Seltzer filed a related complaint in 2008 claiming “fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress”, and in a February 2010 court opinion Seltzer’s complaint was dismissed under the state’s “anti-SLAPP” statute, which prohibits abusive lawsuits. There are many more cases that one might study, but these are the first I have seen, and they portray EBMC as a victim of litigiousness, not a malefactor.

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