Condo Media - October 2010 - (Page 52)

FEATURE by Nena Groskind When Neighbors Bicker, What Should the Board Do? ow many times did we use the words “impossible,” “difficult” and “untenable” in the management column (see page 22) to describe association boards caught in the crossfire between warring neighbors? Too often, in the opinion of industry professionals, who deal first-hand with the headaches and liability concerns owner vs. owner disputes create for community associations. But while they agree these conflicts are problematic for community associations, attorneys and managers don’t entirely agree on the best solutions. H David Barrett, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, American Properties Team, Woburn, Mass. “The only time boards should get involved [in disputes between owners] is when there has been a clear breach of the condominium rules and regulations,” Barrett believes. The problem, he says, is that owners invariably use the “nuisance provision” included in most condominium documents “to drag boards into their fights.” His advice to boards is to handle these disputes on a case-bycase basis, to mediate, where that seems appropriate and helpful, but to avoid taking sides and to insist on definitive evidence of an alleged violation before deciding if an enforcement action is justified. With noise complaints, he says, boards should advise owners to document the problem, with logs, recordings and (even better) with police reports, which “can provide a strong argument for the board to act.” The board’s intervention also is easier to justify, Barrett says, if the problem affects more than one owner. “We don’t want people having wild parties and blaring their stereos at all hours,” he says. In addition to disturbing other residents, “that will have a negative impact on property values” by discouraging prospective buyers from moving into the community. “So it clearly falls under the board’s authority to address issues affecting the common area.” But boards have to be aware of the limits of their authority, Barrett emphasizes. With noise complaints, he notes, “We can’t tell owners not to walk on their floors or force them to walk a certain way. At some point, you have to tell complaining owners, ‘there is nothing more the board can do.’” Henry Goodman, Esq., Goodman, Shapiro & Lombardi, Dedham, Mass., and Providence, R.I. Goodman views the nuisance provision itself as a huge nuisance for community associations, requiring boards to act as policemen (responding to noise complaints) or as boards of health, called on to mitigate the effects of second-hand smoke. To avoid these nowin situations and the liability risks they create, Goodman thinks associations should revise their nuisance provisions to eliminate the obligation — or perceived obligation — for boards to become involved in disputes owners should resolve themselves. And in Goodman’s view, that means virtually all disputes in which owners become involved. “If one person is doing something that annoys another, why should the board be caught in the middle?” he asks, noting, “If one owner fires a pistol into another’s unit, that owner 52 CONDO MEDIA • OCTOBER 2010

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Condo Media - October 2010

Condo Media - October 2010
From the CED’s Desk
President’s Message
CAI News
CAI Regional News
Asked & Answered
Homeowner’s Corner
CAI-NE Annual Conference & Expo
Vendor Spotlight
Board Member Insight
Industry Perspective
Advertisers Index
Classified Service Directory
Statement of Ownership

Condo Media - October 2010