Dealing With the Disruptive How to Handle Problem Residents

Living in a condo means putting up with certain occasional inconveniences: that curious odor emanating from the neighbor’s unit, the downstairs saxophone player who practices every Tuesday afternoon, or that one resident that insists at every meeting that the board is spending too much money (even if they are way under budget). But sometimes life’s minor irritations get way out of hand: what if the neighbor floods the board’s inbox with creepy, threatening emails, or the saxophone player holds nightly concerts way past curfew? This more extreme behavior can make life difficult for residents, property managers and board members alike—and it's not okay.

“Community members should not have to tolerate an owner who is truly disruptive,” says attorney James A. Slowikowski, a principal with the law firm of Dickler Kahn Slowikowski & Zavell, Ltd. in Arlington Heights. “For example, in the units, there may be certain annoyances that result from normal use and they are considered reasonable noises from normal activities which are part of the typical use of the unit, such as footsteps, televisions or stereos, use of appliances. However, these activities should not be allowed to become excessive where they become so disruptive that they interfere with the other residents’ use and enjoyment of their units.” Fortunately, there are effective strategies that can help you overcome tricky situations, whether it is a resident that is constantly bending the rules or one that is verbally abusive to the board.

When the Going Gets Tough

Occasional disruptions are just part of the price of communal living but there might be situations in which residents cross the line, often, more than once. A difficult resident may continue to break the rules, even after they have been in trouble for them. “We had a situation where a resident worked overnight shifts and their child would throw wild parties in the common area, complete with property damage, alcohol and even fireworks,” Slowikowski recalls. “Residents complained several times and the police were summoned but the disruptions would continue until the association filed a suit.”

Difficulty can extend beyond noise and odors as well. “A truly difficult resident might refuse to listen to reason and facts but just want to rant at meetings,” says Christine Evans, president and CEO of Vanguard Community Management in Schaumburg. “They are generally disrespectful and may not allow the board to explain why something is the way it is or they might make broad insulting statements such as ‘you’re all thieves’.” These residents can prolong meetings, obstruct the passage of association legislation and create an overall unpleasant and inefficient environment for all present.

How can boards and residents distinguish between situations that are just another day in condo living and ones that are truly unacceptable? “Behavior that interferes with the other residents’ use of the property, threats of damage to property or injury to others, unsanitary condition and a health hazard, in my opinion, are not reasonable and the association must address the conditions,” Slowikowski explains.

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