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Dec 5, 2022

Upset Community Association Members? Here’s What to Do.

Sponsored Content provided by Mike Stonestreet - Founder, CAMS (Community Association Management Services)

Board members often face complaints from property owners about things that aren’t against the community’s rules. This can be difficult for the board to handle because they may not be able to help resolve the issue. In this blog post, we will discuss some things board members can do when they receive complaints about something not addressed in the governing documents. We will also touch on neighbor-to-neighbor disputes, communication best practices, and more.

What is There to Complain About?

There’s nothing quite like the shared experience of being a homeowner in an HOA. Everyone is in it together, bound by the same rules and regulations designed to keep the property values up and the neighborhood looking nice. But sometimes, things can still get touchy even when everyone is playing by the rules. For example, maybe one owner likes to play their music a little too loud, and the couple next door needs to get their toddler to sleep. Or perhaps they habitually park their car in the “wrong spot.” Maybe their dog leaves unwanted presents on someone’s lawn, or kids ride their bikes through Ms. Mercer’s flower bed. Whatever the case, it’s important to remember that as long as these things are not specifically against the rules, there’s not much the association can do about them. 

Addressing Complaints

Being a board member requires skill. While you want to make everyone happy, you also have to realize that not everything is possible - or even allowed. So what do you do when an owner comes to you with a complaint about another owner’s behavior? Well, first of all, it’s important to listen. Sometimes people want to be heard and may not be looking for an actual solution. But if they are looking for an answer, you can do a few things. 

First, you can explain why the association cannot do anything about their neighbor’s behavior. This might be because it’s not mentioned in the governing documents or because it would be too logistically difficult to enforce (for example, no one can sit in Ms. Mercer’s yard guarding her flowers 24/7). Second, you can offer alternative solutions to the member - such as mediation or talking to their neighbor directly. Or third, you can simply provide a sympathetic ear and tell them that you understand their situation. Whatever you do, remember that as a board member, you’re there to serve all community members - so always keep that in mind when addressing complaints.

Neighbor-to-Neighbor Disputes

There’s an old saying that good fences make good neighbors. But even the best fences won’t stop every conflict from arising between neighbors. So what should you do if you find yourself in the middle of a neighbor-to-neighbor dispute? The answer is simple: stay out of it! As a community association board member, you are not responsible for resolving every little disagreement within the neighborhood. Getting involved in such disputes can often do more harm than good. Instead, if approached by one of the parties involved, remind them that the association is unable to take any action on their behalf and suggest that they try talking to their neighbor directly. More often than not, a quick, friendly conversation is all it takes to resolve the issue.

When to get involved in neighbor disputes

Though we preached about not getting involved in neighbor disputes in the last paragraph, there is one scenario in which the board should step in: if there is an allegation of a violation of the Fair Housing Act. In such cases, it is essential to contact your community manager and the association’s attorney as soon as possible. By taking prompt and decisive action, board members can help protect all homeowners’ rights while ensuring that the association complies with the law. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination because of race, color, nationality, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), familial status, and disability.

Amending the Governing Documents

Governing documents are essential for maintaining order in any community association. However, these documents can also be frustrating when they don’t address specific behaviors causing problems. In such cases, board members have a few options. One is to look into amending the declaration or rules and regulations. However, this is only possible if the governing documents allow such changes. Another option is to facilitate the communication of everyone involved in the complaint. This may seem like a simple solution, but it can be surprisingly effective. By listening to all sides of the issue, board members can often find a way to resolve the problem without making any changes to the governing documents.

Since you’ll inevitably have to deal with owners who are upset about something, here are some tips on how to handle those complaints. 

First and foremost, remember to be sympathetic - after all, they are your neighbors. If the HOA can’t solve the problem (like noisy kids or a barking dog), try to offer alternative solutions. For example, suggest mediation or recommend local resources that may be able to provide assistance. And last but not least, always stay calm and keep communication clear. By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to appease most property owner complaints - at least until the next one comes along!

Is your community getting the Trusted Guidance it deserves? If you’re unsure of the answer, reach out to the experts at CAMS today at 867.672.2267 or https://www.camsmgt.com/choose-cams

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