Tough Calls Boards Must Use Common Sense and Resources

Board members find themselves acting as referees so often, some may feel like they're wearing black-and-white striped shirts. Maybe they're mired in the middle of a conflict between homeowners because one group of gardening enthusiasts is at odds with a group of parents over whether to use a limited space to grow flowers or install play equipment. Another day might find them settling a dispute between two unit owners who are about to duel over noise or food odors.

Settling these conflicts often involve tough choices on the part of HOA administrators, who must weigh the positions of different groups against what's best for the building community at large. It's a balancing act with political, personal, and practical considerations.

Common Problems

For Lori Burger, senior vice president of the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) and of marketing and business development for Eugene Burger Management Corporation in Rohnert Park, California, the typical pet peeves among homeowners usually boil down to what she calls the Three P's: “That's people, pets and parking,” she says.

By contrast, most of the conflicts between residents and boards come down to money, in Burger's experience. “Anytime a board increases expenses or there’s a budget issue, it usually stirs up conflict,” she says.

Mary Faith Radcliffe, a principal with RCP Management Company in Princeton, agrees. “In these difficult economic times, a board is often conflicted between raising the maintenance to keep the development in top condition, or cutting back to help the homeowners financially,” she says. “Boards face this difficult decision with the expectation that some of the homeowners will not be happy, whichever decision is made.”

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