Rambo at the Reigns When Boards Abuse Their Power

The homeowners association is, in theory if not always in practice, democracy in action. Once elected via popular vote by the members of the association, the board members—again, in theory, if not always in practice—represent the organization as a whole. As representatives, they make their own interests subordinate to those of the community.

To some degree, this system works quite well in New Jersey homeowner associations. The vast majority of building and community association boards run their respective communities in good faith, and with the best of intentions. But, human nature being what it is, there are a few who use their position as directors to bully others, push irrational personal agendas and generally make mischief.

But what happens when the board as a whole, or just one influential member, shirks this responsibility? What happens when democracy goes out the window, replaced by dictatorship? What happens when the Jeffersons and Madisons morph into Caesars and Napoleons? How can the situation be prevented? How can its adverse impact be arrested? Can a tyrant be impeached?

Warning Signs for Individuals

It's the HOA equivalent of abstinence: The easiest way to prevent a board member from turning into a despot is to avoid electing him or her to the board in the first place. The difficulty lies in identifying the potential tyrant. While anyone is capable of egomania when given the keys to the proverbial car—power corrupts, as the old saying goes—there are certain traits potential dictators have in common.

Communication is a two-way street. The best of arguments, if wasted on tuned-out ears, does little to persuade. The most obvious trait a potential problem board member possesses is a fundamental inability to listen. What are some warning signs of this deficiency?

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