Handling a CC&R bully within your community association

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There’s an old saying that goes “good fences make good neighbors.” The philosophy behind that adage is that we can all get along better when we mind our own business. That might prove challenging when you are sharing common areas with other people such as in a condominium complex.
Not only will you be sharing parking areas and a courtyard but you also have to adhere to the same rules as everyone else within your little community. These rules are spelled out rather succinctly in the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions otherwise known as the CC&Rs. It is the responsibility of every community association to develop their own CC&Rs before the first homeowner arrives (which means it must be done by the developer).
The goal with establishing the rules is to create the proverbial “level playing field” for all the owners and residents. Unfortunately, in some communities that level playing field is tilted by a CC&R bully. This is someone who takes adherence to the CC&Rs to extreme levels and can cause great disharmony among the neighbors. When these kinds of disturbances are created it will fall to the HOA to find a way to resolve the matter.
Stopping CC&R Trouble Before it Escalates
The most effective way to manage the community association is to keep the lines of communication open. A board that isolates themselves from their neighbors is just going to stir up unnecessary trouble. Keeping these lines of communications opens means being available to discuss any potential disputes that might arise. In other words, don’t wait for the monthly HOA meeting to settle a dispute if it can be handled quickly. The last thing you want to do is to have a situation that is allowed to fester among neighbors. This is where a CC&R bully could gain some traction as they try to assert enforcement over every rule in order the makeup for a slight infraction that has been asserted against them.
Example:
Suppose there is a rule in the CC&Rs that prohibits any type of laundry to be hung on a balcony. This is a decent rule that would be a benefit for all the residents especially when it comes to the overall appearance of their complex.
However, in associations that are near a beach it’s a hard temptation not to throw a damp towel over the railing of a balcony for a few hours in the sun. Will an incident like that bring the world crashing down? Obviously not but a CC&R bully who might have been in a dispute over a parking space with that neighbor will want to bring the full wrath of the HOA down upon the towel hanger. If you have established that open door policy then all complaints should be brought directly to you as opposed to two neighbors starting a feud between themselves. If you can resolve the matter diplomatically before it escalates then you might be able to diffuse that bully’s antics.
The Need For CC&R Mediation
In extreme cases of dispute it might be necessary to bring in outside mediation. Often these matters go beyond minor infractions of the CC&Rs and instead deal with big issues like residents who aren’t homeowners that cause problems or major disputes with the HOA management practices. If guidelines for mediation have been set up in the CC&R then it should be the right of any homeowner to request such mediation. The benefit with this approach is that all sides have to agree to the outcome and not just on a handshake but in writing. If it is found that no infraction has occurred or that the actual regulation is vague then appropriate measures should be taken.
Hopefully no community dispute will go that far. In many cases even the most strident of CC&R bullies is often someone who just wants to be heard. If you can find a way to make them more inclusive and not so alienated then they just might become that ideal neighbor.
This article is provided by The Management Trust.

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