Imagine your own family, if you will—each person with his or her unique personality, attitude, experience and background. It’s inevitable that occasionally you might clash with sister Susie, brother Bob or even an uncle or an aunt. In an association or building, hundreds, if not thousands, of people live together, sharing common areas and trying to abide by the same rules and regulations. That’s hundreds of different backgrounds, experiences and personalities coming together and, like your own family, occasionally having disputes and disagreements.
When it comes to disputes between boards and owners or between two unit owners, Lisa Anderson, a partner in the law firm of Bender, Anderson and Barba in Hamden, Connecticut, says that every aspect of shared community living can be a source of disagreement.
“The most frequent disagreements I see are over maintenance and repair responsibilities and governance issues,” says Anderson, who is a trained mediator and facilitator. “There are often different opinions on how the community should be governed, and those erupt into board recalls and contested elections. It’s not unlike what we see at a national level with how much government there should be, the role, etc.”
Anderson says that boards and owners often have bitter disputes regarding the role of the management company. “The board’s job is to select and supervise the professionals it retains, but owners have a different perspective on this,” she says. “I’ll often hear, ‘I pay their fee, they should do what I ask,’ but the board is tasked with looking at the common good.”
For example, Anderson shares one true-life dispute in which a resident complained to her board about a tree outside her unit that she says ‘was going to kill her.’ Management looked into the situation and determined that the tree wasn’t in danger of falling, so they put out a bid for someone to take it down.