There’s a lot of talk, along with articles and commentary these days about online bullying. This can take place on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. It can take the form of inappropriate pictures that someone secretly takes of others and then posts on the internet or just in the mean and inappropriate communications that seem to be an all too often occurrence. But this is not the only place that bullying is taking place. Bullying can and is happening in the realm of homeowner associations as well. In fact, it seems to have escalated greatly in recent years. In what forms can we see it manifested?
Some homeowners take the stance that they should be able to do whatever they want regardless of the restrictions within the CC&Rs and the rules. They may try to push the HOA manager and/or HOA board around when all they’re doing is enforcing the documents of the Association. Rather than simply complying with the rules, they’ll make great efforts to try and find some kind of fault in the Board, manager, or other homeowners to rationalize or excuse their own behavior. They can often be insulting and condescending in their pushy, bullying behavior.
Some want to make demands on how the HOA Board and/or manager should act, communicate, or maintain common areas within the Association
They can often be unreasonably critical. They seem to feel that their perspective is the best or only one that should ever be considered. They can be self-proclaimed experts. Often the bully is the educated or intellectual person that thinks they are smarter than all of you Board members. They can get very pushy, insulting, and even obstinate when the Board does not want to do or see things their way. Often their involvement, and even interference, can be very costly to the homeowner’s association.
One such person recently moved out of their Association causing several remaining members to actually celebrate. What these people may actually add to the Association is overwhelmingly superseded by their attitude and the angst and damage that they can and do cause.
Sometimes a person with bullying tendencies becomes a Board member
This can be difficult for all involved. They can try to drive the whole Board, and when allowed to, can become a sort of dictator. These unfortunate situations can result in very poor treatment of homeowners, other HOA board members, and/or the manager. This person has to be right even when they’re horribly wrong and they’ll run over people in the process with their controlling and bullying behavior.
What are some signs that you may be encountering a bully?
When you hear comments like:
- “I can do whatever I want with my property”
- “You can’t tell me what to do”
- “I will see you in court”
- “If you don’t (fill in the blank), you’ll be getting a letter from my lawyer” – (sometimes, it seems that a friend or relative who happens to be a lawyer will then send you a threatening letter to continue bullying you into making the decision they want you to make).
- “I want a list of all the members of the Association so that I can tell them what you did or how bad you are.”
These and other similar remarks are indications that someone may be trying to bully you as a Board.
So, what do you do?
First of all, as an HOA board member and a Board as a whole, you have to be careful not to use your position to bully others. You must treat your owners fairly, even the bullies. If they bring up legitimate issues that need to be addressed or corrected, then do so.
You do not, however, have to succumb to every whim of the bullies in your community. Learn and know what’s true and correct and behave in an above-board manner accordingly. Seek legal help when needed, which will be money well spent. Know that even if the bully has some followers, that the majority of people in your community will likely be able to see through the bullies’ tactics and will support you if you are truly trying to do things rightly and fairly. Finally, work together and support your fellow HOA board members.