How to Handle Disruptive Residents

The Board of Trustees are tasked with a great responsibility. Not only do they have the power to create a well-run and highly-functional Association, they also have the ability to create an enjoyable community for every resident to live in. Upholding all of the Association’s rules helps create this safe and fair space for everyone, but certain residents tend to break the rules from time to time. This is okay on occasion, but when one minor broken rule turns into a string of bad behavior, the Board of Trustees — and management company, if applicable — must get involved. Here’s what you can do to effectively deal with disruptive residents and keep your Association running smoothly. 

Distinguish Between Minor and Major Problems

The first step the Board of Trustees must make is determining whether a problem can be described as harassment that genuinely inflicts pain on someone else, or whether it’s a less serious issue that can be solved calmly and in a timely manner. Harassment may include a resident rudely interrupting an Association meeting, repeatedly sending harsh emails or threats to board members, or intense altercations with other residents. On the other hand, something as minor as a noise complaint — despite its annoyance — can be mediated simply. When situations become sticky, however, the board should step in to deal with the person directly. 

Still, it’s important for the Board of Trustees to never become too complacent about certain annoyances. Although it can be difficult to gauge exactly how serious a situation is, it’s always important to make a smart and informed decision. When board members do not take action when they should, residents have the power to turn the situation into a legal one.

An Individual Letter

If the Board of Trustees is convinced that one resident is indeed harassing another, one potential solution would be to write a letter to the person in question. The letter can address the specific behavior, and highlight in what way it violates the rules of the Assocation. This way, residents have a formal, well-written insight into what they’re doing wrong, and how it affects the Association at large. If the board consistently enforces the rules in a fair manner, then problem residents are more likely to see that their disruption is not a biased assessment on the board’s part, but a legitimate concern. While certainly not threatening, the letter should be firm, and inform the resident that certain punishments — such as a fine — can be handed out should the infractions continue.

Document the Incident

Sometimes, residents who exhibit bad behavior do so in a repeated pattern. These residents are often the toughest ones to deal with. A great way to combat this sort of behavior is for the Board of Trustees to encourage the offended resident to document the incident. The Board of Trustees can also do this as well. This documentation should include the date, time, and a thorough description of each and every incident. This puts a “face” to each problematic occurrence and shows that the board is on top of the problem. If a resident truly does not think that he or she should follow the rules, and constantly puts others in unfavorable positions, then it’s worth mulling over whether this resident should truly be a part of the Association at all. As long as the Board of Trustees follows the rules of their governing documents, then the court system won't penalize an Association for evicting a resident.

Be Communicative

Although several situations might be genuinely problematic, some disruptive residents may just need to be talked through the issue. This may be a person who’s simply unaware of how loud they are actually being, for example, and is not necessarily looking to cause trouble. In this scenario, the best thing to do is to exhibit the kind of open and honest communication that board members should strive for with residents day in and day out. Transparency regarding the rules, as well as genuinely listening and explaining, will do wonders.

The resident in question may just need a minute to explain their side of the story. When residents and the Board of Trustees are able to calmly talk through issues, residents are more likely to comply with the rules and feel validated in their concerns. This will help build lasting trust and respect between both parties. 

No matter how well an Association is run, there’s bound to be problems from time to time. Residents may break rules unknowingly, or have a truly malicious agenda. Whatever the reason or cause of disruption is, it’s up to the Board of Trustees to take careful and considerate action. Whether it be mitigating the concern calmly and rationally, or having to step in with more serious intentions, the Board of Trustees have the power in their hands to handle whatever trouble comes their way.