Q&A: Does Manager’s Duty Extend to Tenants?

Q&A: Does Manager’s Duty Extend to Tenants?

Q. Our property manager feels she should treat tenants and owners equally. As trustee, I feel that the property manager's duty is first to the owners who reside here, and then to rental tenants. 

For instance, if there’s a noise issue between two resident owners, the board has encouraged them in the past to first attempt to resolve the matter between themselves before coming to the property manager. We have incidents now where the non-residing owners who rent their units feel it’s the duty of the property manager to run interference between resident owners and the non-resident’s rental tenants. It seems to me that if the owner/landlord wishes the property manager to take care of their tenant, they should have a separate contract with the agency to do just that. Our contract with the agency isn’t clear on this subject. 

 Should owner/landlords expect the property manager to handle their tenants on their behalf?

                —Concerned Board Member

A. “This question raises a few distinct issues, and I will address each,” says Gary M. Daddario, an attorney and partner at Winer & Bennett in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. “First, generally it is necessary to treat all residents in the same manner. Specifically, anyone residing on the association’s premises is subject to all of the rules and restrictions on an equal basis. And, to the extent the association addresses a violation, it should address violations regardless of which resident is involved and pursuant to a standard procedure that remains consistent from case to case.

“That said, almost any set of governing documents includes language making it clear that membership in the private organization that is the association is a benefit of unit ownership. In other words, renters are not members of the association. So, ultimately, if the association needs to take action to enforce a violation, formal action is directed towards the owner of the unit—not the tenant. In some states —including Massachusetts—the Condominium Statute explicitly makes unit owners responsible for the misconduct of their tenants.

“Finally, when it comes to the property manager’s duties, all must remember that the property manager is an agent of the board. Not only is it not the property manager’s job to mediate disputes involving the tenants of unit owners, but arguably, the property manager cannot be hired separately by individual unit owners to do so. The property manager’s function is to carry out the will of the board and, by extension, to act in the best interest of the association. Depending on the conflict, the best interest of the association may not be in line with the best interest of a unit owner with a problem tenant.  

“In sum, when these situations arise, the property manager should first assist the board with a determination as to whether or not anyone is in violation of the association’s rules. If so, the property manager’s role should be to assist the board with a consistent enforcement process which primarily targets the owner of the unit, regardless of whether or not a tenant resides in the unit.”            

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