One of the most rewarding aspects of living in an urban area is the opportunity for people from a broad array of ethnic and sociological backgrounds to get to know each other as neighbors. That doesn't mean that managing a building or association that’s home to different people from different backgrounds doesn't sometimes pose distinct challenges, however. Sensitivity, good humor, and good communication are key to navigating these challenges and celebrating the diversity of residents and neighbors.
For some managers, economic status seems to be the biggest hotbed of potential conflict between residents. “Residents with larger budgets obviously have different concerns, desires and needs,” says Scott Seger, president of the Forth Group, a management company in Chicago. “This becomes very evident in properties that have a number of typical units and then a few penthouse units that are many times the cost/assessments of the other units.”
Usually, the disparity doesn't translate directly into conflict however. “Most people who buy into high-end units with less costly neighboring units are typically not creating issues for the majority,” says Seger.
But sometimes that's not the case, according to Keith Hales, president of Hales Property Management in Chicago. High-rolling owners with an over-inflated sense of entitlement may find themselves butting heads with more modestly-funded neighbors who are more accustomed to figuring things out on their own.
“Some wealthy owners are used to a higher level of service,” he says. “However, the association may not budget enough money to address those elevated expectation levels, which usually translates into a direct issue for the property manager.”