As a member of board, you've volunteered your time to serve your building or homeowner's association with the best interest of your community in mind. But as every board member knows, even with the best of intentions, your board may face opposition from your fellow shareholders or homeowners—some legitimate, some decidedly less so. So knowing how to work with non-board members and how to handle conflict within your association are essential elements in building and maintaining a strong community.
The Pest May Have a Point
It's likely your board has already encountered residents who are unhappy, demanding, hostile or all of the above. But when does a person cross the line from simply being a harmless annoyance to becoming an actual problem?
"Problems become more significant in the case of an owner who is unhappy with particular decision or policy," says Ronald L. Perl, a partner at Hill Wallack in Princeton, where he is a partner-in charge of the firm's community association law practice group. "Say someone wants to change screen door that's not approved by architectural committee. He or she disapproves of the committee's decision, but the board sides with the committee. Now there's a conflict. In response to that conflict, the unit owner declares 'war' and makes demands that are unreasonable—such as wanting to see all the meeting minutes—and approaches the board with aggressive demands that are designed to harass."
"Rather than try to work through decision," Perl continues, "it really becomes a war—and the weapon is harassing the board. That's when it really becomes a true annoyance. A situation like that is detrimental to entire association because it distracts the board and keeps them from making important decisions."
Because board members are often neighbors and perhaps acquaintances or even friends of other residents, HOA members don't always respect board members' right to personal time. It's tempting for fellow owners or shareholders to stop board members outside their homes, in common areas, or by the mailbox to raise questions or concerns about the community. While their concern for their homes may be warranted, it may border on being overzealous. This often occurs because many residents simply do not understand their board's duties—or their limitations.