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Difficult Residents ... and How Co-op / Condo Boards Can Best Deal with Them

Debra J. Oppenheimer, Esq. in Featured Articles

Where we live means a lot more to us than any other physical environment. Our home is our castle, where we feel safe. And it is generally our greatest investment. We can easily get defensive of our personal space and quickly lose sight of community issues. It's worth recognizing that, to one degree or another, we all have this in common.

It is difficult to remember the community needs when faced with a co-op shareholder or condo unit-owner who seems to be fighting just to fight. It is easy to imagine the folks who obstruct your meetings or fight the enforcement of the bylaws, house rules or covenants have malicious intent, or at least thoughtless disregard.

Control the Debate, Find Common Interests

So what does the board of directors need to do? You must stick to the rules and procedures that were adopted by the association. You cannot allow the difficult resident to force you to work outside the co-op or condo's rules. 

If you do not have procedures set forth to assist you with obstreperous conduct at a meeting, then adopt them.  Use your procedures to keep the enforcement on track as well as allow the board to function and complete its business during meetings.

Sticking to your procedures is

important, but do not allow

procedures to act as a roadblock.

While sticking to your procedures is important, if a solution presents itself through discussions and cooperation, do not allow the procedures to act as a roadblock.

Common interests are the basis for all discussions. The more clearly you identify how your interests overlap and become shared, the stronger you'll be in your response to the whole range of difficult behaviors.

Three Tips

These suggestions can help you through this difficult process:

  • Do not lose sight of your corporation /association's primary purposes, which are to maintain property values, maintain the common scheme of the community and maintain the enjoyment of all living in the community.
  • Don't lose sight that being a board member is a business position.  Make decisions based upon the needs of the business and the long-term goals of the business.  Don't make it personal.
  • The goal of the board is not to teach a lesson to a resident who does not follow the rules. The goal is to further the purpose of your co-op / condo.

While it is difficult to deal with neighbors who want a fight, if you can keep your goals in mind, you stand a greater chance of successfully handling residents whose conduct disrupts your meetings and makes your rules-enforcement difficult.


Debra J. Oppenheimer, a partner at Hindman Sanchez, has specialized in homeowner-association covenant and rule enforcement for seven years, after spending a decade as a Colorado Deputy District Attorney. A member of the Community Associations Institute since 2004, she taught "The Art of Persuasion" as an adjunct professor at Regis University. This is adapted from her article at the community-association law newsletter E-ssentials.

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