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Managing Conflict in Your Community Association

When large groups of people try to accomplish a shared goal, differences of opinion are bound to arise. Stifling differences of opinion is never a good idea. Community association management boards and companies that provide on-site community management value various perspectives and rely on diverse points of view to ensure that they’re seeing the big picture and making appropriate decisions. Community management decisions can cause tempers to flare and conflicts to erupt as all residents and board members are passionate about maintaining an asset as important as the community they share.

However, the overriding goal when it comes to managing conflict within a community association is to always disagree agreeably. Here are four ways your community association can amicably and productively handle conflict to ensure a peaceful and happy community.

Try to prevent conflict by using effective communication

Communicate, communicate, communicate. The majority of misunderstandings between HOA boards and residents emerge when one party or the other is not clear about reasoning, objectives or timeline. Board members should use all resources at their disposal (newsletter, phone calls, emails, written notices) to share information with residents, whether in response to a specific infraction or general information that impacts the community. Residents, in turn, are responsible for reading their community’s rules & regulations and asking to speak to a board member when something is unclear, instead of relying on neighbors who might be equally misinformed.

Remain transparent & accountable at all times

As fiduciaries for the community’s assets, your board is required to be transparent with financial decisions. However, some HOA boards forget that this standard should apply to all decisions and actions on behalf of the community. Frequent communication, clear follow-through and returning calls in a timely manner will build trust between residents and your community management team and ensure that everyone feels part of the decision-making process. When HOA boards take the time to clearly explain the reasoning behind decisions and residents feel heard, tempers are less likely to flare up.

Set up a face-to-face discussion

Trading email and phone messages lead to lost subtleties of tone, causing small misunderstandings to escalate quickly. If you are upset about a decision made by your HOA board or community management company, schedule time for a short in-person meeting. Simply talking through your issue and gaining a greater understanding of the motivations behind the decision can help you see the big picture as you provide valuable insight for your board.

Use third-party dispute resolution or internal dispute resolution

If all of the above tactics prove fruitless, California Civil Code Sections 5925 through 5965 require community associations and their homeowners to offer to participate in some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) prior to escalating the situation to the courts. Litigation can be costly, time-consuming and breed ill will within your community. ADR means mediation, arbitration, conciliation, or other non-judicial procedures that rely on a neutral third party to make a decision. The decision may be legally binding or not, depending on an agreement between all parties.

Instead of ADR, residents and boards may elect to use Internal Dispute Resolution (“IDR”), which is also mandated by the state under California Civil Code Sections 5900 through 5920. As long as the agreement reached internally by both parties does not conflict with the law and falls within the scope of authority granted to the HOA board, the result is judicially enforceable.

The bottom line is that residents, board members and community management companies all share the same goal: they want their community to succeed. Though various individuals might have divergent views on how to accomplish this, when all parties communicate clearly, show respect and restraint during challenging situations and enter dialogue with an open mind, they can reach an understanding quickly and painlessly, allowing everyone to return to enjoying the benefits of the community.

If you have questions about community management, your HOA board of directors or any other community concerns, call Keystone Pacific at (949) 833-2600 and we’ll gladly discuss ways we can help your community thrive.

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