When it comes to questions of home and hearth, even the best of friends may argue. So it should come as no shock when co-op and condo associations, boards and residents fall into disagreements. It's what's done to settle or hopefully prevent these disagreements that can make all the difference in the world.
As with marriage or any relationship, good communication can go a long way in preventing disagreements—or at least stopping them from getting out of hand. "People have an inherent need to live in harmony," says Peter Glanvill of Wilkin Management Group in Mahwah. "The old adage that the root cause of all problems is broken communication is true."
Listen First, Talk Later
Every community, no matter how well run, will have resident complaints. Homeowners may have issues with a neighbor, or with groundskeeping, or with an unexpected assessment. The single most important way to prevent those issues from escalating is for associations and boards to listen. "It's almost a philosophy that a homeowner's association must adopt," Glanvill says. "It's not as simplistic as saying, 'let's talk.' It's a realization that board members and residents both have the best interests of the community at heart. It should start from there."
One way to reduce the number of resident issues is to ensure that everyone understands the rules and regulations of the community. "Most problems arise from rules and regulation enforcement and interpretation," says attorney David Byrne of Stark & Stark in Lawrenceville. "And also from confusion over who's responsible for what."
Associations will save themselves a lot of headaches by making sure that residents have read and understand the bylaws and know what their responsibilities are in terms of taking care of their own property and needs. "The more transparent board members can be with residents in their daily operations, the better their chance of avoiding problems," Glanvill says.