Are You Part of the Problem – Or Part of the Solution?

Today, I think it appropriate to talk about responsibility. This is because I have had many telephone consulations in the past few weeks and prepared for two speaking engagements – one on dealing with difficult people and one on painless enforcement – and this is what comes to light. Almost all HOA and CONDO Association disputes arise not because someone is right and someone is wrong, but because both parties could have handled things in a better way. For example, many boards could do a better job of “educating” the membership on ways that they can participate in a more beneficial way in their HOA. I’ve seen more success with a “consensus building” approach than a heavy handed approach.

These are things that turn boards against an owner:

 Defensive Behavior: A homeowner does something that violates a rule, often unaware. When called on it, instead of apologizing or correcting the behavior, the owner becomes defensive. Sometimes  behavior is even blatant . That’s the worst. Thumbing your nose at the rules is arrogant. If a homeowner disagrees with a rule, he or she can work for change and it will likely happen if a rule is unreasonable.

A sense of entitlement: A homeowner comes to the manager or board demanding something, not asking. Or an owner ignores some of the rules, believing them to be useless or unenforceable. We are a society of “high entitlement” and many are not used to being told “no”.

Unconstructive Criticism: A homeowner complains about many things, but never steps up to volunteer to serve or provide any constructive feedback. Sometimes owners who are dissatisfied go to their neighbors before addressing the board and offering an opportunity for change.

These are things that turn homeowners against a board:

Overzealous Rule-Making: Sometimes boards get carried away and enact rules that they think are for the benefit of the members without “checking in” with the members – and it turns out that the members hate some of the rules and are mad at the board for not floating the ideas before adopting something. (Hint – California law no longer allows that!)

Abuse of Power: Some boards get carried away with power and wield it inappropriately. Some treat homeowners disrespectfully. Some boards are petty or childish and make decisions based on emotions, and easily form grudges.

Lack of Transparency: Some boards operate in a void, hiding behind closed doors. Sometimes its not hiding, just a lack of understanding the open meeting laws. Some things I see that get owners really riled are resistance to answering questions, refusal to provide records that the law requires be provided, and failure to provide any kind of regular reporting to the membership.

Next time you find yourself in a dispute with anyone, no matter who you are, ask yourself the question: Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? Is there anything that I can do differently to cause a shift in the right direction?

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