M.L. from Fairfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Hi! I’m on the board of a condo association in Fairfield County. We’ve been having some issues lately with some of our unit owners mistreating hired staff (gate house, maintenance, etc.). We currently don’t have a rule about civility or bullying and I’m wondering if you can point me in the direction of some examples of such a provision.
Mister Condo replies:
M.L., I am sorry to hear about your residents mistreating anyone, let alone the folks that have been hired by the association to maintain and protect the unit owners and the common elements. Honestly, you can’t create rules to create civility. However, you can educate your residents about the relationship between themselves, the Board and management company, and the contractors or workers that are there to work. They may not like hearing it but the reality is that no one works for any resident of the association. Unit ownership does not entitle you to anything more than ownership of your unit, enjoyment of the common grounds, and a vote at the annual meeting. The Board is the only governing body of the association and they are the ones that are elected by the unit owners to conduct the business of the association. A similar analogy would be the relationship between a taxpayer and a city employee. Sure, your taxes pay for the salary of that person but that does not make you their boss. They report to a supervisor or department head who reports to a Mayor of First Selectman.
Begin with education. Send out a newsletter or letter reminding residents that employees and contractors of the association are to be let alone to do their work while on association property. Residents are expressly forbidden from disturbing them in any way. If they are unhappy with observed work or behaviors, they are free and encouraged to contact the property management company and/or the Board to make their complaints known. Hopefully, that will curtail the problem. However if necessary, consider drafting a rule at your next Board meeting as follows:
The association shall, from time to time, hire individuals and contractors to perform work for the association. These workers report directly to the Board and/or Property Manager. These workers are not to be approached by any resident while on the common property. Any resident observed disturbing these workers will be reminded of this rule with a written warning. Subsequent offenses will carry a fine of $25 per occurrence. Depending on the seriousness of the disturbance, the police will be called. Verbal and/or physical abuse is punishable by law.
That should certainly suffice. You’ve asked nicely but you also have a stick to enforce the rule if you need to. Residents that cross that cross that line could find themselves in a different type of community association, the local jail. I seriously doubt it would come to that but you never know. All the best!