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Question: Do you have any advice on dealing with hostile neighbors? There is a couple in our HOA that make the rest of us miserable, with their constant complaining and badgering of the Board about rule violations.

Answer: Difficult people rarely change their ways. But if there is someone in your group that has the ability to communicate to them what you have just described, it might make a difference. Maybe they don't realize how abusive they are. Also, the Board is not required to respond to every opinion and complaint. If it's pointed out to these folks that their demands are likely to fall on deaf ears if they are aren't more restrained, that too, may help them change. But if they refuse to mend their evil ways, simply refusing to respond to them may be the best alternative.

There is an excellent article in the article archive titled "Dealing with Difficult People" that will be helpful in understanding personality types and how to cope successfully with them.

Question: Our Board is considering a surcharge to owners that rent out their units. Any problem with this?

Answer: This kind of surcharge is illegal since it changes the homeowner fee allocation. Changing that allocation takes a 100 percent approval vote of the membership and, possibly, their mortgagees. However, if any resident causes extraordinary costs to the HOA like damage to common elements, those costs can be passed on for reimbursement. It is fairly common to charge Move In/Move Out fees when there is documentable costs incurred by the HOA but those fees should apply to all residents, not just renters.

Question: Our HOA has provisions in the governing documents, requiring Board approval for certain additions like awnings. The Board recently received several requests for awnings and the Board has decided not to allow awnings of any kind. Is this a correct interpretation of the Board authority?

Answer: It's reasonable for members to assume that since the awning option is mentioned in the governing documents, the intention was to allow them. The Board cannot enact a policy that contradicts the governing documents. If the Board feels that awnings aren’t desirable in any form, the governing documents should be amended by an appropriate vote of the membership. Otherwise, the Board should honor the provision as it is written, arrive at a awning standard and approve requests under those conditions. Adopting a standard is important because of consistency, quality and curb appeal considerations. It also saves both Board and petitioner a lot of time and guesswork.

Question: Our regularly scheduled Board Meeting fell on a holiday. At the last minute, our management company informed us that they could not make the meeting and failed to provide reports or materials for us to review. I cancelled the meeting and reschedule it for another date. Some directors disagreed with my decision stating I was letting the management company run the HOA instead of the Board. Was I wrong?

Answer: A board meeting scheduled on a holiday is never a good idea and the management company should have advised you well in advance about not being available to attend. Presumably, there was just a miscommunication. But you made the right decision to reschedule.

One of the most important benefits of professional management is the counsel the manager provides. Having the manager attend Board meetings is critical to get objective feedback and adequate information for the Board to make informed decisions.

It sounds like some directors are maneuvering to self manage. In most cases, this is a very bad decision. There is a lot more to it than they imagine, not the least of which is having to collect money and enforce rules on neighbors. It rarely works and all members suffer the consequences. The management company is hired to manage and distance the directors from these sources of conflict.

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