For those of you who follow our blog, you know that every year I post New Year Resolutions for directors of HOAs. For 2011, the resolutions focused on addressing the fiscal health of associations and in 2012 they focused upon individual development of directors.
As I have reflected upon the less than constructive interpersonal dynamics which have become far too common in some HOAs during 2012 and the venomous diatribes of a small number of HOA critics, I’m more convinced than ever that it takes both directors and residents of HOAs (and managers and HOA lawyers for that matter) to do their part to create harmonious and livable communities. As a result, I humbly offer for your consideration the following 2013 New Year Resolutions for Directors and Residents of HOAs:
● Review, understand and comply with the governing documents of your HOA. As a lawyer specializing in community association law, I can’t tell you the number of times that disputes arise because residents or directors haven’t read the governing documents and are not complying with them or enforcing them properly. Every resident (including every director) must be familiar with and comply with the use restrictions and rules of their communities. Directors have a fiduciary duty to enforce the terms of their governing documents in a fair and appropriate manner. It’s true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
● Look within to determine your true motives. In most cases, disputes in HOAs should be resolved quickly and reasonably. However, when folks become invested in their egos, seemingly simple matters can result in World War III. It’s important for everyone involved in a dispute to take an honest look at their motives. Residents should ask themselves if there is anything their HOA can do to make them happy or are they more invested in the fight. Directors should ask themselves whether their personal feelings about the resident involved in the dispute are coloring their ability to make decisions in a fair and impartial manner. The truth is that residents who don’t believe they have to comply with use restrictions and rules should rethink whether living in an HOA is a good option for them. Likewise, directors who let their personal feelings color their actions and use their position as a platform for power should rethink whether serving on the board is appropriate.
● Do not react in the heat of the moment. It’s human nature to react quickly and decisively when we are personally attacked. In the HOA context, personal attacks and just plain nastiness have become fairly common. Residents and directors need to stop and think before leveling personal attacks at each other. Instead of striking out, take a deep breath and look at what the underlying problem really is. In many cases, I think you will find that residents and directors just want to be heard (I mean really heard and not talked at) and treated fairly. Putting yourself in the shoes of the other person will help you see their point of view and to empathize with them. While the ultimate resolution to the matter may not be perfect for everyone involved, at least you can walk away with mutual respect and understanding.
As we end 2012 watching the dysfunction of the United Stated Congress as they snipe at each other and point fingers as the country teeters on the edge of the fiscal cliff, let us not follow their lead. Instead, for all of us living in and serving HOAs, let us treat each other with respect and work together to resolve conflict in a constructive manner. While the ultimate solutions may not make all of us happy – at least we can preserve the harmony in our communities by acting in an appropriate manner.