Inter-Unit Owner Disputes

Another subject that arose in my course today dealt with when it is, and when it is not, necessary or appropriate for an association board and/or manager to get involved in a dispute.  This is a commonly arising issue, as many community association residents would rather have someone else (usually the manager) deal with those difficult conversations.

About a year ago, when this subject came up on Donna DiMaggio Berger, Esq.’s blog, i was directed to another source, from another colleague and friend, Stephen Marcus, Esq..  Stephen, in turn, pointed us to a publication from the “New England Chapter Attorneys Committee,” which provided guidance to “assist association boards, property managers and legal practitioners in determining when it is appropriate for a board to seek enforcement of a rule or restriction…”

So here, re-transcribed, is their guidance:

COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS INSTITUTE

NEW ENGLAND CHAPTER

ATTORNEYS COMMTITEE

PRACTICE STANDARD ON HANDLING INTER-UNIT OWNER DISPUTES

The following guideline is published by the Attorneys Committee of the New England Chapter of the Community Associations Institute to assist association boards, property managers and legal practitioners in determining when it is appropriate for a board to seek enforcement of a rule or restriction contained in the community’s governing documents upon the complaint of a resident.

ISSUE: Within the context of rules and restrictions enforcement, it often occurs that alleged violations are brought to a board’s attention through the complaint of a resident.  In these situations, there are instances where the complaining resident effectively seeks to have the board intercede in what is, in realty, a personal dispute between the complainer and the complained of resident. For instance, Owner A complains to the board that Owner B constantly plays his stereo at an excessive volume late at night.

DISCUSSION: Although it is not possible for there to be one guideline which can adequately cover the myriad of situations which can arise in a community association regarding inter-neighbor disputes, as a general proposition, a board should not become involved in what is, in reality, a personal dispute between two residents.

Rather, only if it appears that a complaint of violation of the condominium documents (a) impact the general good of the community, (b) adversely affects the common elements or more than one unit, and (c) has reasonable basis in the board’s judgment, should the board seek to address the violation.

Absent all of the foregoing factors, where the matter is clearly an inter-neighbor dispute, a board, rather than becoming a tool of the disgruntled resident should refrain from involvement, except that, in appropriate cases, the board may offer its good offices to suggest alternatives to aid in the resolution of the dispute.

I’m not certain what the current status of the New England Chapter Attorneys Committee is, or whether this has been repealed or superseded, but I provide it for whatever value it may have. It seems like pretty good guidance to me.

And I invite Stephen Marcus, or others, to comment on the current status of this guidance.

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