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Conflict between a Condo Board of Directors and residents is more common than you’d think.
With so many players, it is inevitable that disagreements will arise on decisions made, issues with the condition of the building and even conflicts amongst neighbours.
Trying to avoid conflict in the first place might be a good start, but the truth of the matter is you will eventually run into issues. So to reach an outcome that satisfies members of the condo board and residents, you need to establish a set of rules that help to streamline the dispute process. Here are a few things to consider when faced with conflict.
Common Conflicts between Condo Board of Directors and residents
Living in a condo means you instantly become part of a community. Although you can still enjoy your privacy, there are aspects of condo living, such as common space and condo regulations that can lead to challenges. In the worst-case scenario these challenges lead to conflict between the condo owner and the Condo Board of Directors. There are many reasons conflicts might arise, but some of the most common conflicts that affect Ontario condo boards include:
- Access to records
- Personal property
- Condo Managers
- Neighbour to neighbour
- Short-term rentals
- Enforcing Settlement Agreements
In many cases, condo owners are surprised when one of these issues is brought to their attention by the Condo Board of Directors. However, conflicts between the condo board and residents can be resolved when you use the right strategies to help keep things civil and productive.
Find Common Ground
With any dispute, the key to keeping things civil is to try to find common ground. As a member of the Condo Board of Directors, it’s in your best interest to find a resolution more quickly.
One of the easiest ways to look for common goals is to consider the value of the building and individual properties. Is what is being discussed something that will actually benefit both parties, even if it is a little unorthodox? If so, try sharing this view. Do you have any personal anecdotes that might help break the ice and make the other side see you are more than someone trying to rain on their parade? Have you taken the time to establish why you are all here?
By reminding the group what you are hoping to achieve, most people will see the greater good. This can encourage everyone to reach a mutually agreeable decision collectively.
Some common ways to help calm those involved would include:
- Making sure the rules of the condo remain fair from the get-go
- Ensuring resolutions maintain the value of common spaces and individual units
- Regrouping/reconvening at a later date if residents (or board members) become too angry
Residents and owners will want the same thing for the most part:
- To protect or improve the value of their unit
- To enjoy well-maintained amenities and common areas
- To be treated fairly
- To not feel singled out or threatened by tempers and anger
Finding common ground keeps tempers calm, while allowing people to see both sides are committed to finding a suitable resolution as soon as possible.
Stick to the Facts
As a condo board member, you have a certain role where emotions should be left at the door. It’s best to stick to facts only to resolve a conflict. For residents, there is no reason you can’t allow them to share how a particular issue might be affecting them personally, such as reduced quality of life, not being able to enjoy facilities due to constant repairs or seeing what seems to be unreasonable fees charged. As a condo board member you should be prepared to present valid reasons these things are occurring and what efforts are being made to resolve the issues.
If the issues are new, condo board members should take down the details, ask relevant questions and establish facts based on the initial conversation. This will provide the information you need to look into the issue. You will also help satisfy residents that you are taking their concerns seriously. In this case providing a date when you will report back to them can help set minds at ease.
Empathy About Personal Impact
Because you are dealing with someone’s home in most cases, condo board members need to remain empathetic. Residents might feel they have been treated unfairly if they have been fined for breaking rules or have been told they can’t make changes to their unit that will improve their home in their eyes. While residents also have to remain calm to discuss their issues, board members have to understand how certain issues are affecting a resident’s quality of life.
Setting an empathetic tone for both sides will allow the conversation to progress in a more positive manner with both sides looking for resolutions instead of heightening the conflict.
How to Handle Complaints
Keeping records of all complaints is an important step in conflict resolution for condo Board of Directors. Without clear records, it becomes difficult to track complaints and follow appropriate schedules for timely resolution. Condo property management and Board of Directors have a dependable reference and can create a paper trail to track progress.
You can also ensure you are using best practices to reduce the occurrence of conflict and expedite resolutions including:
- Complaint processing standards: All complaints must be handled in the same manner. Have a process in place and ensure all residents understand how complaints are to be submitted and processed. This way everyone is treated fairly, and the system remains efficient. Every condo is managed based on a list of rules and regulations which should include an outline of such processes.
- Track conflicts and resolutions: Maintain up to date records of all ongoing issues so you can easily refer to the status if anyone asks questions. This record can be used to update residents and board members at meetings as well.
- Full transparency: Anyone affected by conflicts and complaints should be kept in the loop. Whether it is maintenance issues and repairs, requests for remodels, issues with fines, special requests, etc. everyone involved needs to feel they can trust the process and those involved in resolving issues.
These basics can help ensure all conflicts are managed quickly and professionally.
Common Condo Board Challenges
Mistakes can lead to ongoing issues that never get resolved. Some common mistakes boards make when faced with conflict include:
- Failing to understand the condo rules and regulations
- Not applying the same rules to everyone
- Allowing issues to become a crisis
- Assigning a board member personally involved in the issue to resolve it
- Not responding in a timely manner
- Not having dispute resolution procedures in place, or not following procedures
When things can’t be resolved, it is often a good idea to work with a mediator such as a property management company. When someone mediates the issue, they provide an impartial party who can be more objective in the process. They should be aware of all the rules that apply, as well as the process. Property management companies can be excellent resources for setting up a conflict resolution process so that moving forward all conflicts are managed in the same way.
At the end of the day, conflict resolution is never easy. Tempers can flare and sometimes personal agendas can get in the way. Hiring an experienced property management company will allow you to resolve a conflict betwen a condo Board of Directors and residents in a professional manner, while keeping the best interests of the property, each member of the board and residents in mind. CPO Management Inc. has been working with condominium corporations for over 10 years, frequently acting as a mediator successfully resolving conflicts of various natures. If you would like more information on condo management to assist with conflict resolution, click here.