When a complaint reaches the doorstep or inbox of a homeowner association board member, it’s worth reading.
However, that doesn’t mean drastic measures must be taken. You should know the entire circumstance and each party’s side before finding an appropriate solution. Here’s IKO Community Management’s tip for handling HOA complaints:
Talk to the complaining party face-to-face. If your homeowners association doesn’t offer regular surveys for residents to voice their concerns, you may not know a problem is festering among your neighbors. Other times, a board member hasn’t done anything to assuage a problem brought to only their attention.
A good first step is to schedule a face-to-face meeting with the resident to air out any concerns. If you can talk it out, you’re good to go for the future. Here are a few tips:
- Be open, patient, and pleasant during discussion. You may be tempted to tune out of the conversation after a hot-headed accusation, but be patient and listen carefully.
- Use problem-solving phrases, such as "How do you suggest we approach this?" or "I think I have a solution.”
- Don’t leave the door open. Try to solve the complaint as quickly and calmly as possible, so no one can overthink the situation.
- Avoid discussing this with other homeowners or HOA board members unless you strongly believe that they have a say in the issue, too.
Remember that you're in a position of authority. Avoid looking like the bully by being transparent, polite, and respectful toward every resident -- even when they have an HOA complaint.
Read the HOA complaint letter. Many residents will put their complaints on paper, if a face-to-face meeting with an incompetent HOA board member didn’t yield their desired results.
When you receive this paper, read it. In every complaint is a shred of truth.
Start a log to track mentioned residents or board members and the type of complaint, whether it’s legal, property-based, noise, or other reason.
Next, look at your HOA’s bylaws or county ordinances to cross-reference the complaint letter and the community’s law. If you find a problem, make a copy of the letter and send copies to both parties with an explanation of how you’ll resolve this dispute without dramatic measures.
Consult the mediation committee, or hire local mediation services. This is a less expensive option compared to legal action, and most HOAs come with a mediation subcommittee or board that’s in charge of handling neighbor disputes.
If your homeowners association doesn’t come with a mediation subcommittee, schedule a date and location with a local mediation service. They’ll send a third-party professional to sit down with the disputing parties with the goal of compromising.
Bring up the possibility of small claims court. By this time, the complaint is usually dealt with in a respectful manner. However, if a neighbor is insistent, it’s time to mention taking the argument to small claims court.
Because most states say residents are entitled to something along the lines of "quiet or peaceful enjoyment" of your home, the resident will likely ask for compensation for the nuisance and subsequent loss of rightful enjoyment. They’ll come up with a justifiable, reasonable sum.
For example, you can ask for up to $5,000 in Maryland, according to The People’s Law Library of Maryland.
However, the caveat is that the HOA still governs their single-family home, condominium, or apartment. This warning of legal action may be enough to persuade the resident to commit to another, less pricey resolution.
If you need more help with this touchy subject, download IKO Community Management’s Guide To Conflict Resolution & Community Harmony by clicking on the button below: