With neighbors living in close proximity to each other, all mutually bound by set rules and edicts, communities with associations are oftentimes fertile ground for spats and disputes. The best boards of directors and property managers understand that disputes between owners may arise from time to time and should strive to settle them as reasonably and quickly as possible in order to promote community harmony and quality of life.
Disputes sometimes arise between neighbors that develop into ongoing issues and conflicts. Noise complaints involving loud pets, music, movies, parties, children, and others are common instigators, as are strong and noxious odors, and neglected lawn and landscaping maintenance.
Most communities will already have bylaws and/or rules in place to enable them to arbitrate over these disputes and use enforcement measures as reasonably necessary. When owners/residents bring their disputes before a community’s board, the directors should seek a thorough investigation and obtain all the pertinent information before deciding whether to take any action.
In many cases, the property manager may need to become involved in the investigative process. Managers should focus their efforts on assessing whether any laws or rules were broken, the evidence and details behind the altercation, and how the given situation or dispute unfolded and/or evolved. The manager should look to the association’s governing documents and/or rules to guide their investigation, findings and ultimate recommendations to the board for its vote and decision.
Needless to say, incidents involving allegations of violations of federal, state or local laws may require legal action by the association and/or the involvement of law enforcement. Associations should consult with highly qualified legal counsel regarding any such developments.
Association directors and property managers should understand that disputes between owners often become very personal matters of great concern to the individuals involved. Directors should acknowledge the importance of the entire issue to the parties involved, but should endeavor to always maintain their impartiality and avoid any sort of favoritism.
By focusing on the facts behind such conflicts and relying on the community’s governing provisions, association directors and property managers will be able to find reasonable resolutions and mitigate any potential for further disruption.
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