The Right Way to Handle Neighbor Conflict
What’s worse than having a grumpy neighbor? A disruptive neighbor. Getting involved in a neighborly dispute can not only lead to a sore relationship, but it can also bring many more troubles down the road. As an HOA member, it’s important to understand the standards and rules behind neighborly etiquette. As the saying goes, “Love thy neighbor — do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When faced with a dispute, you may find yourself secretly hoping your neighbor will come to their senses. But on the other hand, you feel caught in a game of cat and mouse. When addressing conflict, we recommend strategic thinking as the best way to solve the problem. To better assist you, we have compiled 5 steps for handling conflict with a neighbor.
Step 1. Pick your battles - define the problem
How severe is the issue? - Before a conflict begins, you may want to consider if the level of annoyance is severe enough to take things to upper-level management. Remember, no one is perfect — it’s common to have a neighbor dispute from time-to-time.If at all possible, allow time for you and your neighbor to have an open and honest conversation to help calm the fire.Before meeting, take a few hours or even a day to reflect on the issue. This will help ease any awkwardness or tension during the conversation. If having a conversation is not possible, you may need to proceed with addressing the issue by referencing our CC&R.
- Common topics of HOA disputes:
- Property boundaries
- Health code violations
- The physical appearance of your home
As an HOA community member, you should have been given a CC&R to better help you understand the bylaws and regulations that come along with living in your HOA community. Before taking your problem to the next level, be sure to reference your CC&R as your first resource in any situation. Most CC&Rs will have a section that discusses issues regarding community violations and your rights as an HOA member. This also includes any HOA signed documents that may have been addressed when you first became an HOA member. Keep in mind that all HOAs are different — what you consider a violation may not always be the case. An HOA is only able to enforce rules that are laid out in your CC&R.
- For example, an HOA violation regarding pets. Depending on the guidelines outlined in your CC&R, you may be able to submit a complaint regarding your neighbor's dog continuously barking — as in the dog is causing consistent disruption that affects your daily life. On the contrary, you may find that you are not able to submit a complaint about your neighbor’s dog running around in the front yard without a leash.
- In more severe situations, if you feel that your problem could be classified as discrimination or harassment, your HOA board of directors is required to address the issue. According to (Code of Fed. Reg. §100.7(a)(1)(iii).), effective October 14, 2016, an HOA is required to address members’ claims of harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability. This includes harassment by other residents, board members, managers, and vendors. The law requires that boards take prompt steps to investigate and end the harassment.
Step 3. Put your ducks in a row
After thoroughly reviewing your CC&R, you should conclude how you would prefer to address the issue. If you find that further action is necessary, your next steps will be to fully prepare yourself with proof of the issue and any documentation that may pertain to the problem and/or neighbor. This could also include your part in having to provide your neighbor with a written notice addressing the issue and your desire to take further action with your HOA board of directors. As uncomfortable as this may seem, this can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. Once your neighbor receives their notice of the complaint, they may have a change of heart and be open to resolving the situation.
Step 4. Address the complaint
If you find that your neighbor is not willing to cooperate (even after addressing the issue in person), we suggest proceeding with your HOA board of directors. Here is where you will need to contact your HOA about scheduling a date to be put on the HOA board of directors’ calendar to discuss the issue. If your neighbor is not available to meet, consider alternative dates that may work best for them. Depending on your HOA guidelines, having your neighbor be present during the meeting may not be required. As a rule of thumb, always confirm with your HOA board of directors on their recommended protocol.
- Once confirmed, you will be asked to present your complaint and any documentation during the meeting. This will help validate any evidence toward the issue. Keep in mind that your HOA is not a court of law — their decision in the matter is not bound by any standards of evidence.
Step 5. The final conclusion
Once the meeting has adjourned, your HOA board of directors may need 24 hours to come to a final decision. Once decided, your HOA may request a follow-up meeting to discuss a resolution. It is always in the best interest of your HOA to keep peace among fellow community members. If in the situation you feel unjustified, you might consider taking your issue to a legal counsel.
Should I address a legal counsel about my HOA complaint?
As an HOA member, you may assume that your HOA board of directors will easily handle the issue — unfortunately, this may be easier said than done. If you find that you are not satisfied with the outcome of your HOAs decision, addressing a legal counsel may be your next option. Take into account that this could come with some drawbacks — depending on the severity of the situation, you may find that it could cause more harm than good. Unfortunately, legal disputes have been known to come with many financial hardships and emotional stress. As a suggestion, consider weighing your options before proceeding to take legal action. For example, make a list of your pros and cons so that you have better clarity of the situation. Ask yourself if the results of the outcome will make a positive change. Or perhaps your desire to go further with the issue is because of past resentment about your neighbor.
Resolving Neighbor Conflict Recap
As they say, “If there’s a will, there’s a way. If someone has the desire and determination to do something, he or she can find a method for accomplishing it.” Conflict is natural — there will always be times when you hit a bump in the road. You may find yourself torn between the best interest of your family and a neighbor. Communication is key and should always be considered when addressing any conflict. In times where resolution is at a standstill, keep in mind the following 5 steps.
The 5 Steps:
1. Pick your battles - define the problem
- As we first mentioned, the first step to resolving a dispute between you and your neighbor is to define the problem. If at all possible, ask your neighbor to have an open honest conversation so that both you and your neighbor can find common ground.
- The purpose of your HOA CC&R is to provide you with the guidelines and regulations that come along with living in your community. This should be your first tool of reference in times when you feel that your dispute should be taken a step further. While referencing your CC&R, make sure to check for any signed documents and or agreements that you may have signed when you first moved into your community.
3. Put all your our ducks in a row
- After referencing your CC&R, you should conclude how you would like to address the issue. If further action is necessary, we recommend gathering all proof and any documentation that be needed to present to your HOA board of directors. Depending on the guidelines outlined in your CC&R, this step may also come with the requirement to provide your neighbor with a written notice of complaint before addressing the board.
4. Address the complaint
- Once all documentation is gathered and your neighbor has been addressed with no success of a solution, you will now be ready to request a date to meet with your HOA board of directors.
5. The Final Conclusion
- Here is where your HOA should be able to help address the issue so that both you and your neighbor are evenly justified with the final decision.
- If you feel that the resolution between your HOA board of directors and neighbor is not justified, you might consider contacting a legal counsel to address your case. Keep in mind that this can take time and come with many financial hardships. As a suggestion, consider making a list of pros and cons so that you have better clarity of the situation's outcome.
Most residents share a common vision for their community— after all, you moved into your community for similar reasons—whether it’s proximity to work, school district, or access to amenities. While you all share a single vision for the community, oftentimes the ideas abouthowto achieve the vision are as varied as the number of people who live there. Because of this, conflict in communities is inevitable. The good news - when conflict resolution is handled properly, you can enjoy better relationships and improved harmony within the community.