How to handle unruly situations and people within your community association (blog)
Do you live in a community association? If so, you probably bought into a community association with the notion that it would be worry free and stress free to some extent. Isn’t the idea supposed to be that all you have to do is pay the monthly assessment fee and everything is taken care of? I think that is what most people think when buying into a condo, townhouse or HOA community.
And perhaps it does actually start out fairly stress free or worry free. You have friendly neighbors and the board is fairly active and act responsibly and in accordance with their fiduciary duties.
But what happens once the friendly neighbor moves out and/or the makeup of the board changes to a more unruly style? This is unfortunately all too common within associations.
One of the keys in this situation is to identify the type of person or people you are dealing with so that you can react appropriately. This applies whether the person is a fellow homeowner or board member. The one key commonality in all of it is that it all revolves around DRAMA. You know, the dreaded “D” word!
Here are the most common unruly types and solutions on how to deal with them:
This is probably one of the most difficult situations to handle. The bully thrives on intimidation and seeks to do everything through expression of power and control.
The bully board passes out proxy notices to all the homeowners and sends the message that the expectation is that everyone is to re-elect the current board for a new term. The homeowners are actually afraid of electing a different set of board of directors as they feel the bully board might physically harm them as they live in close proximity of each other.
This is certainly a challenging situation. What seems to happen more often than not is that the current bully board stays in power and control due to the fear that is rampant within the community. The reality is that the homeowners are extremely uncomfortable with the situation and by avoiding the situation and by not standing up to the bully board, the homeowners are making matters worse. Avoiding tough situations never makes the matters better. Typically, the situation only gets worse. There are a few recommendations:
- Homeowners should call a special meeting and impeach the current board
- The homeowners should hire an attorney to help them forcibly remove the bully board members
- One unusual example that I heard about is that the board members open a separate bank account and start funding the new account controlled by the new board and/or new management company and no longer pay the assessments to the current board of directors.
- Please do not take any of the above as legal advice as I am NOT an attorney but rather simply food for thought
This is probably one of the hardest situations to deal with but taking a passive approach of acceptance is inevitably the worst course of action short of moving out of an association with a bully board.
The board has a list of pet projects that they want to implement and they are cosmetic in nature such as landscaping and interior hallway painting. There are other more important infrastructure type projects that are more pressing such as tuckpointing and roofing since there are several homeowners complaining of interior water infiltration issues. The bully board ignores the fact that several homeowners have water leak issues and proceeds with the cosmetic projects.
In this situation, the homeowners that are experiencing the water infiltration issues should all attend the next board meeting and state for the record the issues that they are dealing with and ask for immediate corrective action from the board.
If that does not work, then if you are not on the board and you care, run for the board. Take the time necessary to connect with other homeowners and explain that you want to make a difference. Don’t just accept this level of outrageous board misspending. Become part of the solution and not part of the problem.
They love to tear things and people apart. Nothing is every good enough, fast enough, or done right.
For example, a board member who simply finds fault with EVERYTHING that the manager/management company does and simply sends messages of disapproval rather than taking some level of responsibility for the conflict. Critics usually absolve themselves from any sort of responsibility or accountability. In order to have a successful working relationship, it is very important for both parties to take some level of responsibility when there is conflict.
In this situation, the community manager and management company should avoid reactivity and defensiveness at all costs. That would only exacerbate the situation. The manager/management company should calmly request a time to meet and talk about the currently relationship and dynamics rather than struggle with this uncomfortable dynamic. All too often, the property manager is forced to accept this painful relationship with the board rather than getting the support of upper management company, to meet with the board and seek a better healthier relationship.
The board is upset at the management company for not having a snow removal vendor in place by November 1st. The management company actually notified the board of directors in early September about soliciting snow removal proposals but the board ignored the notification. The management company never followed up until the board met on November 1st and realized that no snow contractor was in place for the snow season.
The reality in this situation is that the board was at fault for not responding to the management company’s notification and the management company could have followed up with a phone call to a board member to elicit a response. In most cases, each party could have done something differently that would have potentially avoided the conflict or tense situation. Unfortunately, it is fairly uncommon for both parties to accept some level of accountab
ility. In my experience, typically, the client blames the vendor/management company when something goes wrong. This is certainly the easiest course of action for the board of directors but does not lead to a very healthy working relationship. I certainly would not want to work with someone who would constantly blame me for everything that goes wrong and I am fairly certain that you would feel the same way.
They are always a victim of the circumstance. And rather than take any sense of accountability, it is always someone else’s fault.
The association has a management company that is doing a very poor job and one of the board members overcompensates for the poor performance of the management company. The board member responses to this situation by putting in an extraordinary amount of time to handle all the things that fall through the cracks. For example, the board member provides access to all the vendors and starts to solicit bids for the association rather than require the management company to do so. As a result, over time the board member burns out, gives up, checks out, and perhaps resigns from the board or decides to not run for re-election to the board.
In this sad circumstance, the board member and the board of directors should have simply gone back to the management company and given specific recommendations for areas of improvement based on the written management company agreement. Unfortunately, this is not very common and usually a board member ends up overcompensating for the situation. In this case, the board member and/or board is is stuck in victimhood. Rather than a
ctually taking action to make a positive change, the board member decides to fall victim and become passive and overcompensate. Once the written letter is sent to the management company, the board should simply hire a new company if the management company does not step up and improve their services consistently over a period of 3 to 6 months.
The board of directors is frustrated with the service of the management company even though they have not taken the time to check the management agreement to see what is exactly stated in the agreement. The board is simply FRUSTRATED. The board of directors in this example then simply sends a cancellation letter to the management company without ever even giving a fair notice or heads up to the management company. The manageme
nt company account manager even called the board every 3 to 6 months to check in with the board and the board never said anything about being frustrated. The board said that everything is “fine” each and every time.
This is pure victimhood where the board feels like it is completely the management company’s fault for everything. The board is frustrated with everything that the management says and does. The board has not even checked the management agreement and sent a cancelation letter to the management company without citing an excuse or valid reason.
In this circumstance, the board should have said something to the management company very early on when the board was feeling frustrated. Simply changing a management company without trying to make amends is NOT a long term solution rather it is a band-aid to the situation. Unless the board takes on a different communication style with the future management companys
, the same situation will repeat itself time and time again.
Feel free to leave a comment or a question to Condboss. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org