Handling Resident Complaints Making Sure Every Voice Is Heard

By all accounts, most boards of condominiums, cooperatives or homeowners’ associations are doing their best. After all, they’re just groups of democratically-elected volunteers with a fiduciary duty to act in their constituents’ best interests and to preserve – or grow – the value of their properties. It’s a noble – and often thankless – pursuit. And while the vast majority of boards are conscientious and responsive to issues within their communities, they are not infallible. 

Boards make mistakes – sometimes willingly, sometimes not – that can evoke the ire of residents. And when this does happen, those residents have every right to complain – so long as they make their feelings known in a productive manner. And ‘productive’ doesn’t mean cornering the building treasurer at the pool, or haranguing the board secretary in an elevator on a Saturday morning.

No matter the size or economics of a given building or association, there should be an orderly way for shareholders and unit owners to let their board know when its conduct or decision-making is off base. And there should be a subsequent procedure for following up on those complaints, should residents feel that their issue is being ignored. Following the appropriate steps will help maintain a tranquil communal environment while ensuring that the association functions optimally. And in the rare scenario in which a board is intentionally engaging in malfeasance, a resident acting in good faith can better effect meaningful changes to get things back on track.

Do Your Homework

While the numbers may vary by demographic and size of a community, there is usually a good chance that a board is fielding its fair share of complaints, of varying levels of urgency and credibility. So it behooves a resident to be as informed as possible before speaking out, in order to ensure that his or her particular gripe is accurate and supported by evidence.

“Owners need to fully investigate their claims before levying accusations,” warns Scott J. Sandler, Managing Partner at law firm Sandler, Hansen & Alexander, LLC, in Middletown, Connecticut. “They should attend the board meetings, inspect association records, and confirm that their grievance is in fact legitimate. If the claim does prove valid, then the owner should attempt to address it with the members of the board. If the board members refuse to address the claim, then the owner may work with his or her neighbors to decide whether to remove those board members. The owner may also contact his or her attorney to discuss other legal action that may be available.”

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