Dealing With Difficult Owners Proactively Through Community
At the heart of condominium, I keep reminding myself “It is all about the people.” And I do that because so often it is easy to get lost in the idea that condominium living is about the building, the by-laws, the policies, the regulations, the rules, the policing, the arbitration, and the process.
Many times the corporation – the binding framework that we have all bought into – takes over as the spirit and the focus of the community. And when it does, it sets the community agenda to that akin to an ever-growing police state: order can only come from rule, and rules must be expanded extensively.
And it is easy to fall into the police state approach to condominiums because as boards we seem to spend the majority of our time attempting to resolve issues – flooring approvals, maintenance needs, financial budgeting, and owner conflicts. It seems pretty easy to think if there were rules to limit every action, then there would be less for the board to deal with. If it’s outlawed in the rules, then the board wouldn’t be burdened with resolving conflict at every meeting – it would be self-apparent to the owners what is and isn’t allowed, and peace would rule.
Sadly, as many boards have found out, that rules are hard to enforce, and the more rules that exist it seems the more the board is required to address cumbersome owners. The attempt to legislate problems away through the bylaws failed.
So I keep going back to the thought “It is all about the people.” And that is the secret to problem resolution – focus the actions of the corporation on the people. Owners recognize they are part of a community, but in many cases there is no opportunity to interact with the community in a positive way. Sadly, the only time owners interact with boards and management companies is when there are complaints the owner is lodging, or when having complaints lodged against them.
The most successful boards in managing conflict are those that focus a lot of time interacting with their owners, and taking measured action to make their owner’s living experience encompassing of the other owners and of the building. It has been proven over and over that just like patients are less likely to sue doctors if the patients have an emotional or familiar relationship with the physician, it does follow those owners that have emotional or familiar relationships with other owners, the board, and the building are less likely to cause conflict – rules or no rules.
Indeed, the number one expression that I hear from owners who are in conflict with their board or another owner is their isolation from their condominium community. They use terms including “uncaring, unreachable, difficult, unknown, faceless, distant, and elitist.” They use terms that express their actions might have been reconciled had they felt a stake in their community. But without any stake in the community, an owner has no basis to feel care or concern for anything but their own actions.
So take thought that building bbqs, community events, movie and game nights, tours, organized festivals, seasonal decorating, organized fitness and bike tours, business clubs, and anything else you can think of to hold in your corporation will do a lot more in reducing tension between owners than any amount of rules and regulations can. Because, at the end of the day, owners with emotional or familiar relationships with their neighbours will be your best resource, and least disruptive stakeholder, in the corporation.
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