As an attorney and an apartment dweller, Michelle F. has seen it all when it comes to living with difficult residents. “I lived next door to twin toddlers whose parents were both attorneys,” says Michelle, who in addition to being a real estate attorney is also a member of the national Association of Real Estate Women. “They took turns sleeping late and brought the kids to the kitchen early. Every morning, one child screeched at the crack of dawn.”
Wanting to keep peace, and understanding parenting challenges, she didn’t complain to the neighbors until one morning when she had been suffering with a bout of the flu and finally fell asleep around 4 a.m., only to be awoken once again by a screaming child. “I was banging on the walls out of desperation, but the father screamed back ‘get used to living in an apartment!’” she says.
Can't We All Just Get Along?
The reality is that while most condo buildings or HOAs will, at one time or another, have difficult residents—a noisy neighbor, a chronic complainer, or perhaps a more difficult tenant who habitually breaks the house rules—Michelle and her other neighbors do not have to just ‘get used to it.’ There are several steps that should be outlined in the association bylaws that residents, management and the board can take to effectively solve the problems of objectionable tenants and cultivate a positive neighborhood atmosphere throughout the association.
Easier Said Than Done
Neighbors can complain about a host of things, but some of the most common complaints from people living in close quarters of a condo complex include noise, smoking and cooking smells, leaving belongings in shared hallways and vestibules, stealing laundry, and leaving exterior doors unlocked or ajar. Leaving a bike or a pile of toys outside your neighbor's door is a pretty clear-cut violation of their space, but because the concepts of 'noise' and 'disruption' are so subjective, dealing with them is somewhat trickier.
According to Judge William Huss, co-author of Homeowners Associations and You: The Ultimate Guide to Harmonious Community Living, (Sphinx Publishing; 2006), a vocal tenant morphs into an ‘objectionable’ tenant: “[When] the person who is complaining interferes with the normal atmosphere of the association’s activities.”