S.P. from Hartford County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We have a contentious group of condo owners who were voted off of the Board. Now these owners are making unfounded complaints and harass the new board members with Sunday night emails and with spreading rumors. Do we have any recourse to stop their bad behavior?
Mister Condo replies:
S.P., there are times when condo living and condo governance can be a tremendous challenge to one’s patience and common decency. My best advice to you will be to simply refer to your condo documents and follow them to the letter. You cannot stop people from spreading rumors. However, you can keep unit owners properly informed of what is and isn’t happening in their community with regards to community governance and capital improvements. The sitting Board has the advantage of being the official voice of the community. However, if the Board does not take advantage of their authority and the opportunity to properly communicate don’t be surprised if the folks spreading rumors don’t gain an upper hand. It is a political process and should be treated as such. That being said, if Board members are being slandered or can prove libel there may be individual remedies including bringing lawsuits against the perpetrators of such crimes. I would advise anyone who feels they are being slandered to consult with a personal attorney and discuss possible legal remedies.
As for the rules enforcement portion of my solution, I am fairly certain that your by-laws do not allow for individual unit owners to make direct contact via email or other with your Board members and demand immediate action. Complaints, unfounded or otherwise should be logged and discussed at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board. If they are truly unfounded, they can simply be acknowledged and tabled. The folks raising the complaints are free to continue to complain but unless they can document where rules or by-laws have been broken the Board is not required to take any further action other than acknowledgement that a complaint was filed.
I do have one question of concern for your association. It is not uncommon for community associations to have unit owners with differing opinions. It is also not uncommon for factions to arise within communities as individual groups tend to unite over shared complaints (too many renters are being allowed, club house fees are too high, and so on) or over shared desires (let’s purchase the neighboring acreage and add a park, let’s install vinyl siding and modernize the look of our buildings, and so on). It is not common that people band together just for the sake of being annoying to each other. Is there an issue dividing your community that cannot be resolved? It might make sense for each group to try to understand what the other group is trying to accomplish. Let me be clear; I am not saying to give in to unreasonable demands. I am suggesting that there may be some common ground for folks to work on together that can help unite the community. I can only imagine this general discord spills into other areas of common interest living that can make for a mighty unpleasant condo living experience. Sometimes a simple olive branch can prevent a war. It’s certainly worth looking into. All the best!