As an HOA board member, you probably have dealt with difficult homeowners in the past. Effectively handling disputes with community members are very important, but overlooked, part of your responsibilities as a board member. It is impossible to completely resolve every complaint that arises, but if you follow the right process a resolution will come more times than not. In this article, we will go over some ways you can deal with difficult homeowners as a board member.
Ask that complaints be in writing, Especially if You Have a Community Manager
If owners strongly believe in their complaint, they should put it in writing, and at the very least identify themselves. This is ideal because it allows you to have a hard copy of the complaint and allows you to follow up and gather more information if necessary.
Some homeowners may be concerned about revealing their identity. In this case, what you have to do is explain why you need their name and information, and assure them that you will keep their identity and information confidential, if possible.
Use Your HOA Management Company to Your Advantage
If you have a community manager, direct all disputes and complaints to them. The manager should be trained in conflict resolution and be able to effectively resolve heated situations. Some complaints will be rather easy to resolve and verify, but others will be more difficult to handle. If they can not be verified easily, the community manager should still investigate the situation and explain the resolution process to the homeowner in question.
Give Your Manager Power—but Not Too Much Power
As a board member, you need to meet with your community manager and learn more about their company or organization. If the company has a customer service department that deals with homeowner complaints, do not give them too much power to handle these disputes. Too often, these customer service departments have very little or no knowledge of your association’s governing documents, so they can’t resolve difficult situations with homeowners.
If you grant your community manager a fair amount of power to resolve homeowner complaints, make sure that they have the necessary knowledge of your association’s rules and regulations. If they don’t have this knowledge, they will not be able to give good advice to homeowners and resolve disputes. They will likely give terrible advice and only make these disputes far worse.
If You Don’t Have a Property Manager, Consider Collecting Complaints Informally.
If you do not have a community manager and your board doesn’t have enough time to receive complaints in writing, consider collecting them informally. Many board members collect them through a town hall community meeting. Others take things a step further and set up a community “complaint box” or provide an email box that will receive complaints.
Another option is to set up a committee with board members who are ready to hear homeowner complaints. There is no one way of handling disputes and complaints, but make sure that your method works with the schedule and abilities of your board members, especially if you don’t have a community manager.
Understand When the Board Needs to Act On a Complaint
If there is not enough information to resolve a complaint right away, additional investigation will be necessary, and the board should consider taking action as well. It should be placed as an item on the board meeting agenda within a certain amount of time, ideally within 90 days, depending on the severity of the complaint. While you are waiting for the complaint to be addressed at the board meeting, keep in contact with the complainant.
If the complaint is about another homeowner or a vendor, speak with these individuals to gather more information. After this, the dispute should be handled by the board of directors, and the complainant should have the opportunity to testify on his or her behalf. The board should act on a complaint when there is insufficient information or if the community manager is not capable of completing the task.
Learn More About How Cedar Management Group Can Help You Deal With Homeowner Complaints
At CMG, we offer our services to a diverse set of communities, including HOAs, condo associations, commercial associations, and golf & club communities, among others. If you are looking for professional and personal community management services for your association, contact us online, give us a call at (877) 252-3327 or request a proposal online.