Dealing with difficult residents can be unpleasant or downright stressful. Taking the time to deal with an angry homeowner can be an opportunity for the HOA board to gain some valuable feedback. Learning how to handle difficult homeowners is an important skill for a community manager. If you’re an HOA board member or even if you’re just a fellow homeowner, it pays to know how to identify and prevent disruptive behavior in an HOA community.
Dealing with Difficult Residents the Responsible Way
Living together in a managed community comes with a lot of benefits, but it has its occasional downsides, as well. That’s even more so if you are part of a community management team.
You get to have a direct say in decisions that can improve the quality of life in your community. Be a member long enough, and you will also have experience dealing with difficult residents, as well. There is really no way to avoid certain difficult residents or homeowners, especially in the more compact communities or in condominiums.
Even if you and the rest of the HOA team members have been extremely considerate and fair with your association rules and regulations, there will still be some people complaining. That’s the reality of HOA management, but there are ways to help the problem by looking beyond the immediate issue the resident is unhappy with.
When Disruptive Behavior in HOA Community Crosses the Line
Ultimately, it comes down to how well you can balance between resolving the homeowner’s issue, and the need to put a stop to disruptive behavior in an HOA community.
Ideally, you can turn difficult residents into satisfied owners with the help of a few changes.
On the other hand, the HOA board and the community itself should not have to put up with a resident who is truly disruptive. The occasional outburst is fine, even expected. Extreme behavior that affects daily life in the community, however, should be addressed as soon as possible.
How to Handle Difficult Homeowners
HOA governing rules can be your first reference when it comes to dealing with difficult residents. Many communities have governing documents that list in detail certain behaviors that are clearly out of line. Hopefully, your governing rules should also be able to guide you on the right action to take.
It’s great if everyone can amicably solve the issue by talking and coming to an agreement. In the case of repeat offenders and extreme behavior, though, then consider referring to the HOA rules.
1. Get Involved
It’s tempting to just try to live with the issues instead of properly dealing with difficult residents. It’s all too common for community managers to turn a blind eye, especially in cases involving long-standing members of the community.
It’s your responsibility, however, as part of the board to enforce the rules. As an HOA board member, you ignore conflicts between owners at your own peril. Some regulations may even find you liable for failure to do your fiduciary duty by overlooking these feuds.
As unpleasant as dealing with difficult residents may be, it’s just better for everyone if a director or board member gets properly involved.
2. Listen Before You Interject
Dealing with difficult residents starts with taking the time to listen. Even repeat offenders have the right to be heard, and a community manager needs to take the time to evaluate their complaints.
Simply let the homeowner talk about why they are upset. Like all of us, sometimes talking out feelings or emotions on a topic is what they need. Verbally going through their issues may also help the upset resident narrow in on what really needs to be dealt with.
Sometimes, learning how to deal with an angry homeowner is just a matter of letting them run out of steam. Once cooler heads prevail, you can now move on to looking at what needs to be done.
3. Study and Address the Issues
Learning how to handle difficult homeowners also means finding out the “trigger” issues that turn otherwise friendly neighbors into irate residents. Take the time to gather as much information as you can.
Don’t worry – most residents, upon finding someone willing to listen, will voluntarily provide you just about everything you’ll need to know about the issue at hand. After listening to their concerns, verbally or physically list out action items agreed upon by both parties.
4. Follow Up with the Residents
It’s important to set a time to follow-up with the resident to keep them in the loop. Even if you don’t have an answer or clear solution by the deadline, letting them know of any progress and your time estimates on when the issues will get resolved will satisfy anyone.
It shows them you care about their issues, and that you are actively working to make it better for them.
You may be playing an active part in the solution to the complaints of the residents, or the HOA board may delegate the issue to a service provider with the expertise to solve the problem.
Whichever side you are on, it’s always a good idea to have a last follow up and check with the owner if they were satisfied with the way their issues were resolved.
Dealing with difficult residents can be a chore, but there’s a satisfaction in knowing that your solution satisfied a homeowner.
5. Act on Long Term Solutions
Nobody wants to deal with difficult residents regularly. Once the issues are resolved, look into preventing the issue from coming up again. The long term solution may involve a major repair or a capital improvement, and your board should be prepared to implement them as needed.
Dealing with Difficult Residents Is Part of the Community Relationship
A clear difference between a normal business and an HOA is that a resident can’t easily find a different HOA for the services they may not be satisfied with. As residents in the same community, keep in mind that a community manager can use this as an opportunity to build trust between residents and the association.
Remember that the resident most likely will remain part of the community, so it’s best to try and understand their obstacles and be able to move forward with them.
Dealing with difficult residents? We can advise you in resolving issues with difficult residents as well as all the other management needs for your HOA. Let us know how we can help your community association.
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