The lapse highlighted complaints about the imbalance of power between condominium owners and the property managers.

Following a regulatory compliance problem that rendered Associa Hawaii unable to practice in the state, the property management giant has come into compliance with state laws governing such firms, state records indicate.

As of last week, the company’s Hawaii license was inactive, leaving one of the state’s major condo managers “unable to practice,” according to the state’s Professional and Vocational Licensing Division. The division regulates dozens of professions including dentists and medical doctors, as well as property management companies, which must be licensed as real estate brokers.

Following a report in Civil Beat about Associa’s inactive license, Associa Hawaii’s president, Pauli Wong, sent a letter addressed to Associa Hawaii’s “Valued Clients” saying that the inactive status was related to continuing education requirements.

Kapahulu end of Waikiki Hotels and condominiums.
One of Hawaii’s largest condominium management companies has had its license renewed by regulators. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019)

Wong didn’t say who was to blame – Associa or the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ licensing division. She said only that there was an “error in our principal broker’s license renewal” and that the “error was related to completed continuing education credits.”

In a brief phone interview on Monday, Wong declined to elaborate. She later sent an email indicating that Associa’s broker license renewal had not gone through because the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs had rejected one of the continuing education courses submitted by the company’s principal broker.

“Upon learning this information, we submitted the required paperwork to the DCCA to remedy this matter,” she wrote. 

By Monday, the Professional and Vocational Licensing Division indicated Associa’s broker’s license was active.

Advocates for condominium owners say Associa’s ability to operate without an active license required by law underscores the imbalance of power between the management companies and condo owners, who often face stiff penalties and legal fees for infractions of house rules. 

HBO TV host John Oliver offered a harsh criticism of homeowners associations, management companies and law firms that represent them in actions against homeowners in a weekend segment that singled out Associa for criticism. Click here to see the segment. (Screenshot)

These power dynamics have come under increasing criticism nationwide. Over the weekend, comedian John Oliver hosted a 25-minute segment on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” exploring disputes pitting condo owners against homeowner associations, management companies and the law firms that represent them.

Oliver’s segment included a local news report from Arizona about a neighborhood managed by Associa, which cracked down on an elderly homeowner, identified only as Ted, for putting a bench in his yard.

Oliver juxtaposed the report with public relations footage of an Associa executive saying the company’s goal was simply to help homeowner associations achieve their vision for maintaining their communities. But Oliver said in practice things can be messy – especially for residents like Ted.

“As long as that vision includes Ted doesn’t get to sit down,” Oliver quipped, “I guess mission accomplished.”

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