Dealing With “the Crazies” Within a Homeowner Association

Yesterday, I was co-presenting at a Washington Community Association Institute (CAI) seminar on community building and annual meetings.  When discussing owner engagement in association matters, an attendee asked how a board should respond to “the crazies,” and went on to describe a protracted dispute between several renegade homeowners and her board of directors.

As soon as the board member finished asking her question, several other attendees’ hands shot up, wanting to share similar experiences within their homeowner communities.  The co-presenter and I ended up discussing the issue for several minutes before getting back to the main points of the presentation.

When I was driving home, I realized how often I have heard similar complaints from board members and association managers, with specific mention of “the crazies” within a community.  As I thought further, I came up with the following suggestions:

If you are a board member or manager, keep in mind:

  • Not every complaint needs to be addressed.
  • Not every issue must be resolved by the board or manager.
  • Not every email needs an immediate reply.
  • Not every phone call or in-person exchange at the mail kiosk or elevator requires an “official” response.

Just because a homeowner raises a community issue, it does not mean action has to be taken by the board or manager.  There are some issues that simply do not rise to the level of formal association action, no matter how strongly a homeowner protests, cajoles or threatens.

If a legitimate question or issue is raised by a homeowner during a chance meeting onsite or via email or phone call, a board member or association manager can respond by stating the issue will be discussed at the next board meeting.  When you get down to it, very few issues are truly emergencies requiring immediate action.  In reality, how much is ordinary business that can or should be conducted during formal association activity (i.e., board meeting)?  Think how refreshing it would be to let go of a significant percentage of email traffic by simply printing off the email, placing the issue raised on the agenda for the next board meeting, and discussing it then.

If you are an “association crazy” or potential “crazy,” keep in mind:

  • Board members live within the same community (or own units/homes there) and pay the same assessments as you.
  • Board members are volunteer (unpaid) lay persons without formal education or training in association and corporate governance.
  • Board members are subject to the same governing documents as every other homeowner.
  • Contrary to claims by some, board members are not out to rule the world or get kick-backs from each contractor and the management company.
  • Threats to sue the board and association are usually counter-productive and result in added legal expenses and assessments to the association, to which you are a member.

The key to reducing disputes between the “crazies” (and also rationale) homeowners and boards and managers is to rely strictly upon governing documents, set reasonable expectations and pursue enforcement actions consistently and uniformly.  If at the end of the day the homeowner(s) are still acting irrational, try following the suggestions described in an earlier post entitled “Dealing With Problematic Homeowners.”

Good luck within your own communities and let me know if you have additional suggestions I can add to my toolbox.

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