Condo association directors are tasked with making decisions that benefit the entire community as a whole. Unfortunately, there will be some disagreements from time to time, and condo association residents may even be vocal about their digressions. These types of disputes are usually dissolved rather quickly, but occasionally a resident may escalate the situation to the point of harassing board members. For directors and board members, addressing harassment has to be done carefully. In this article we will examine ways to address harassment, including acceptable and unacceptable condo association communications.
Before board members can begin to craft their response, they must first determine if the behavior fits the definition of harassment. Under federal law, “harassment” is defined as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such person that causes substantial emotional distress in such person and serves no legitimate purpose.”
California law has a slightly less broad definition of harassment; “unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose.” Notably, the “course of conduct” must actually have caused substantial emotional distress to the petitioner in order to be classified as harassment.
By either definition, condo association directors and board members would need to provide that the behavior exhibited towards them is more than just an “annoyance.” Disgruntled residents or former residents may choose to display their animosity through letters, phone calls or in person, but regardless of the medium, board members on the receiving end must follow their governing documents in regards to their response.
Communication Dos and Don’ts
Communication can go a long way in diffusing conflict, which can help prevent them from escalating into harassment. Here are a few dos and don’ts in regards to communication with association members.
Do follow the guidelines and restrictions that are in place.
Typically, the governing documents will have specific terms concerning communication with residents, so if board members haven’t read up on the subject, they may want to start there. Additionally, some states may have guidelines that need to be followed as well. Florida, for example, requires condo associations to respond to inquiries sent by condo owners through certified mail.
Don’t reply too quickly.
It is not a good idea to fire off a quick reply, especially in a heated situation. If a response is required within a certain amount of time, a simple acknowledgement of receipt may be sufficient enough, or can at least serve as way to give the board more time to craft their response.
Do enlist the help of others.
Ask other board members for their input, consult with the association’s attorney, or hire a third-party mediator if necessary. Enlisting the help of others helps keep communication open and unbiased, and lets both sides communicate their needs.
Don’t ignore it.
Sometimes association members just need someone to listen to them. Remember that residents can be very passionate about community issues because they have more than just money at stake; their condo is their home.
About Kevin Davis Insurance Services
For over 35 years, Kevin Davis Insurance Services has built an impressive reputation as a strong wholesale broker offering insurance products for the community association industry. Our President Kevin Davis and his team take pride in offering committed services to the community association market and providing them with unparalleled access to high-quality coverage, competitive premiums, superior markets, and detailed customer service. To learn more about the coverage we offer, contact us toll-free at (877) 807-8708 to speak with one of our representatives.