Contributed by Dana M. Wilkie

Artificial intelligence remains an elusive concept to many, including those in community associations. That doesn’t mean community association board members and managers can’t learn about it. Or that they can’t use it now with a little bit of forethought and determination.

Take the following examples of how artificial intelligence could make the job of a board—and the lives of homeowners—a whole lot easier.

Imagine the scenario: A pipe bursts inside an empty condominium unit and floods the building. Sensors detect the break and send instant alerts to staff that allow them to assess the flooding and push a single button to summon a trusted plumber and clean-up crew to the home.

Or take a popular device like Alexa. With a voice command during a board meeting, relevant documents display on your virtual screen. Another prompt sends a link to the document to all community residents.

“AI is the future of our industry because it keeps costs down, allows the management company to stay competitive from a pricing standpoint, and helps the manager recruit talent because the jobs are more rewarding,” says Cat Carmichael, PCAM, with Strategy 1 2 3 in Broomfield, Colo.

For community associations, artificial intelligence can help with gathering, consolidating, and interpreting information, says Nicholas Bartzen, a community association attorney with Bartzen Rosenlund Kasten in Chicago. “If it helps managers do their jobs more efficiently, and helps boards collect necessary information more cost effectively, then AI should be a tool in the toolbox of each community association,” he says.

Embracing AI makes sense for community associations despite the barriers, says Carmichael, a past CAI president. “The key to making bots work is having a robust database that the software can search and provide an answer. This is one of our industry’s weaknesses now.”

Still, community association professionals and leaders worry AI interferes with an essential element of the industry—building community.

Homeowners might use AI to promote false ideas among association members and taint trust in boards and managers, says Jeff Westendorf, a community manager in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Janet Newcomb, president of Springhurst Townhomes Homeowners Association in Huntington Beach, Calif., and a past chair of the CAI Homeowner Leaders Council, worries relying too much on AI may do a disservice to the community. “I worry a lot about accuracy of response, customer frustration, and the possibilities of increased conflict generated by such a system,” she says.

A lack of understanding about AI and its long-term effects can have a powerful impact. “As an insurance and risk management professional, AI scares me,” says Joel Meskin, CIRMS, an attorney and managing director of community association products at The McGowan Companies in Fairview Park, Ohio.

Using AI in community association law is another sticky area, according to Scott D. Weiss, an attorney with Kaman & Cusimano in Nashville, Tenn. If a board uses AI to compose amendments, fine policies, board resolutions, and other legal documents, Weiss wonders if AI will recognize restrictions that federal, state, and local laws placed on the language in its documents.

Boards also must consider practical governance issues surrounding AI. Mitchell Drimmer, president of Axela Technologies in Miami, believes “An AI policy should establish guidelines for implementing and managing AI technologies within the community, fostering trust, and minimizing potential risks.”

Drimmer urges boards to review and understand the purpose and goals of AI for their community and consider issues such as informed consent, data security, and procedures for addressing bias and discrimination. Policies should be reviewed and updated periodically as technology improves and goals change, he adds.

Despite the uncertainty, it’s clear that boards and managers will have to acknowledge—if not embrace— AI technology going forward.

>>Read more about artificial intelligence in community associations in “2024: An AI Odyssey” from Common Ground March April 2024. 

Dana M. Wilkie is a journalist based in Ormond Beach, Fla. Joni M. Lucas, editor of Common Ground magazine, contributed to this article.

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