Dealing with difficult people in any setting can be a real challenge. But in homeowner associations, where the person who is difficult is your neighbor, there exists an entirely new level of difficulty.
Where we live means a lot more to us than any other physical environment. Our home is our castle. It is where we feel safe and generally our greatest investment. We can easily get defensive of our personal space and quickly lose sight of community issues. It’s worth recognizing that, to one degree or another, we all have this in common. In a homeowners association we are challenged to balance our individual and community needs.
It is difficult to remember the community needs when faced with a homeowner who seems to be fighting just to fight. It is easy to imagine the folks who obstruct our meetings or fight the enforcement of the covenants have malicious intent, or at least thoughtless disregard. But why are some people so difficult? That question is not always one that can be answered.
So what does the board of directors need to do? You must stick to the rules and procedures that were adopted by the association. You cannot allow the difficult homeowner to force you to work outside the association rules. If you do not have procedures set forth to assist you with obstreperous conduct at a meeting, then adopt them. Use your procedures to keep the enforcement on track as well as allow the Board to function and complete its business during meetings. While sticking to your procedures is important, if a solution presents itself through discussions and cooperation, do not allow the procedures to act as a roadblock.
Common interests are the basis for all discussions. The more clearly you identify how your interests overlap and become shared, the stronger you’ll be in your response to the whole range of difficult behaviors.
The below suggestions can help you through this difficult process:
- Do not lose sight of the association’s purpose. The purpose of an association is to maintain property values, maintain the common scheme of the community, and maintain the enjoyment of all living in the community.
- Don’t lose sight that an association is a business. Make decisions based upon the needs of the business and the long term goals of the business. DON’T MAKE IT PERSONAL.
- The goal of the board of directors is not to teach a lesson to a homeowner who does not follow the rules. The goal is to further the purpose of the association.
While it is difficult to deal with neighbors who want a fight, if you can keep your goals in mind, you stand a greater chance of successfully handling owners whose conduct disrupts your meetings and makes your covenant enforcement difficult.