Verbally Abusive Unit Owner Not Following Condo Rules

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P.M. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I’m on the board of our association. For the most part we have a very cooperative community. However, we have one unit owner who continually defies bylaws. He comes to the annual meeting and is belligerent, confrontational and just plain nasty. He parks in clearly marked no parking spots, let’s his dog off leash, refuses to submit required registration/unit info sheet and yet complains he’s the victim. Do we have to be verbally attacked during meetings? I get that some people get a little excited and that’s ok but this guy is brutal. Any tips on handling difficult owners?

Mister Condo replies:

P.M., the human condition lends itself to all types, doesn’t it? Community associations are made up of all types of people. For every association member who is pleasant, there is likely to be one who isn’t. Dealing with all of these various personalities can be a real challenge in an association meeting environment. It adds a level of people management to a volunteer leadership position that can be challenging enough without dealing with someone who is belligerent and nasty. Ideally, unit owners play by the rules they agreed to live by when they entered the community. From your description of this individual I am guessing he either never read the rules or couldn’t care less that he is in regular violation. It’s time to make him care and you do that by enforcing your association rules.

I would start with attempting to curb his rule breaking activities. If your association has a “fine” system in place and it is consistently and fairly implemented across the board to all unit owners and residents, I would begin documenting his violations, asking him to appear before the Board, and levying fines against him for each and every occurrence. If he fails to pay his fines you can always place a lien against his property. That may not get him to stop breaking the rules but it will certainly get his attention.

His behavior at meetings is another issue altogether. There is a difference between belligerent and nasty as opposed to verbally assaulting. If he breaks any laws, call the police and have him removed. No unit owner has the right to swear or make threats against anyone else. This isn’t a condo governance issue; this is a criminal matter for which the police should be called. As for keeping order at your meetings, may I suggest using Roberts Rules of Order? The process doesn’t allow for too much comment from unit owners except at designated times. If the unit owner refuses to keep quiet when not his turn to speak, you can ask him to leave. Again, the police may be needed to escort him from the meeting if he becomes verbally abusive and threatening. You should work closely with your association attorney to see what rights you have as a Board to ban him from any meeting where he exhibits this behavior.

So, you have a bit of a challenge before you, P.M.. If you do nothing, his abusive behavior will likely continue. It could even escalate into something worse where the verbal abuse becomes physical. I wish you good luck in correcting this behavior and bringing peace and order back to your community association.

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