Do you have difficult people in your condo or HOA? It seems that these days the loudest voice will win an argument. Who’s right or wrong doesn’t matter, it’s all about intimidation. People with a chip on their shoulders will always make their presence known in your condo or HOA. This is not a new problem but in the last few years we have lost civility in dealing with each other. In almost every Condo or HOA there is that one or two, or even a group of people, who wish to dominate. That does not make for a happy community.
Difficult people vary, but the hardest to deal with are those that have no respect for the rules and regulations. Community association living is all about rules, regulations, and mutual respect. By obeying the rules, a more positive residential experience can be had by all. Yet, there will always be those few who feel they’re above the rules. And once put on notice they are quick to threaten a lawsuit. Worse, they encourage other members to disregard rules and regulations. What can you do?
Advice for Confronting Difficult People in Your Community
Never make a move until you know what the shot is. Get as much information as you can and be sure of the fact pattern. Speak to all stakeholders before you step in to address the situation. Above all know what the governing documents say about the situation. Difficult people all think that they are lawyers and they will make legal threats. Never let a difficult person dictate what the rules are and always have backup to enforce your point of view. Get tough but never be demeaning and always take the high road. Stand up and do something about difficult people in your Condo or HOA.
Above all know what the governing documents say.
With the facts you are invincible. All too often they will try to game the system so try to stay one step ahead of them. As Winston Churchill once said “never surrender.” It is also about precedent and if you give in once then like dominoes it will all fall down.
Red Flags to Recognize Difficult People
Do you have difficult people in your Condo or HOA? If you’re not sure, look for red flags like these conversational gems:
- “I’m calling my lawyer and I will sue you and the association.”
- “I don’t have to pay my maintenance fees because the service is lousy here”
- “I’m going to do whatever I please and if you don’t like it you can call the cops.”
- “This association has no authority to enforce any of these stupid rules & regulations.”
- “I’m going to make things real difficult for you and your family”
- …and in the end they may even threaten violence. In this case call the police because that is assault.
- “I want to see every document generated by this association going back five years.”
This list of nasty comments goes on and on and it must ended right away.
What If the Difficult Person is a Board Member?
What happens when a difficult person gets elected to the board of directors?All too often this is the case and it has all the makings of a very harsh situation. If a person with a nasty disposition gets this kind of power it can snowball into an ugly confrontation. The difficult board member will try to control the board and bend the rest of the board to his wishes. That’s why it’s important that members of an association should vote and know who they are voting for. Residents will suffer, some will get preferential treatment and others will be on a “hit list.” This type of board member will make life difficult and put the association and the other members of the board in harms way, exposing the entire community to liability.
‘Quiet enjoyment’ of your property is a right.
If a board member is out of control, their actions must be revealed to the board of directors. Attend a meeting and during the open forum, where owners can speak and articulate your issues. Be sure that you have clearly read the rules and can present the facts in a calm manner. Be sure to stay within the required time limit so that you have a chance to present your full position. It doesn’t hurt to accompany this with a formal letter to the board and go on record with your problem. Board members on their own have no right to use their power to influence any actions against a member. If one board member steps out of line the consequences have the potential to fall on the entire board.
A board officer, such as the president, who is abusing a member cannot be removed from the board of directors. They can be demoted by the rest of the board and not be an officer (President, Secretary, Treasurer). A membership vote is not required for this action. Present your case and see if the board will remove this person from office to serve in the capacity of a director.
If all else fails, there is always election season. When the board member in question’s term is up, run for the board, and use the power of your vote.
It’s a Right, not a Privilege
“Quiet enjoyment” of your property is a right. This is more than a nice phrase but a legal covenant that is common in real estate law. Associations have the right to warn and fine a person. If you are the victim of a difficult person let the manager know. Speak to your community association manager and put it in writing. If you have to take this to an attorney do not hesitate. If bad behavior is not terminated at once it will never end. Try to resolve issues in an amicable manner, but don’t ignore it or it will only get worse.
Condos and HOAs can present a beautiful lifestyle. Don’t let any individual deny you that privilege.
Mitch Drimmer is a respected thought leader in his field and has led numerous continuing education classes in collections, His articles have been published in key trade journals and newspapers, and he is a speaker at educational seminars. Drimmer is also a former board member of the Florida Community Association Professionals (FCAP) and earned his company the distinguished FCAP Reader’s Choice Award for collections four years in a row. Throughout his career, Drimmer has worked with community associations to help them see their way through tough times, especially during the real estate crash. He is a passionate advocate for community associations and has participated in the legislative process over the years trying to bring fair and equitable legislation that serves community associations.
Drimmer earned a BA in History from Hunter College and served as CEO of Drimmer Industries, Inc. in New York City for 35 years.