Board members and property managers have all experienced finger pointing, in which the accusation, “You let them do it, so I can too!” is front and center. Lawyers and property managers all too frequently see the trouble that results when a rule is bent for one owner and then other owners demand similar treatment.
Kenneth Sheppard is vice president of residential management at Foxfire Management Co. in Concord, New Hampshire, which oversees properties throughout the state. He hears regularly from frustrated board members who are in a pickle after ignoring a rule—or, worse, a bylaw—to do someone a favor. That pickle turns pretty sour once neighbors notice the inequity.
“I always preach that everyone is to be treated the same, whether it’s a board member or a board member’s neighbor or friend, so they don’t put themselves in a position where someone can come back and say ‘you did this’ or ‘you did that—why not me?’ And it’s the correct way to do it,” Sheppard says.
Bylaws, rules and regulations vary by association and location, but “they’re there to protect everyone’s best interest and the property values, and for the most part, everybody understands that.”
When board members cave in, they may run into trouble with others, who use it to divert attention from their own violation, citing a now-popular “precedent.” Rule-bending then becomes the inevitable monkey wrench thrown into discussions. “You have to bring them back to the current situation and focus on that,” Sheppard says.