C.G. from outside of Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We have two unit owners who constantly try to create problems by making untrue statements about board members. Constantly look for things to complain about, disrupt meetings. It has been suggested by other owners that they move. Anything we can do?
Mister Condo replies:
C.G., there are few things as uncomfortable as dealing with difficult unit owners who have decided to make a mission of disrupting the general civility of community association living. I am fond of an old friend who has retired from the practice of community association law who used to joke to me that “I have come to the conclusion that there are a lot of jerks who live in condominiums. Thank God for them as they have helped me put two children through college”!
The reality is that there is little in the way of legislation that can help you deal with disruptive unit owners. Making untrue statements about the Board is not a crime against the community association. It is possible that they are committing slander against the Board members but that would be a matter for the Board member who was slandered to take action against these folks. Meeting disruptions can be handled with implementation of stricter rules and procedures at meetings. For instance, you might want to implement Roberts Rules of Order for your meetings. That won’t stop them from being disruptive necessarily but it will limit their time for doing so. If they do not observe the rules for participating in meetings you can take additional steps to have them removed from the meetings. Before you do any such thing, I have to insist you consult with your community association attorney to make sure you are not violating any laws or their civil rights. They certainly sound like the type who wouldn’t hesitate to bring suit against the Board if they were slighted.
May I ask if anyone has tried speaking with them outside of a formal meeting setting to find out why they are behaving like they do? My experience has taught me that such behavior is usually brought on by provocation and that provocation had to do with a personal experience where these unit owners felt they were mistreated by the association. For instance, did they have a request for modification of their unit denied by the Board? Did they purchase into the community and shortly thereafter get hit with some sort of special assessment? Chances are they feel they were dealt with poorly at some point and they are now acting out to “even the score”. Of course, this is childish behavior but there is nothing in your condo docs that prohibits them from acting out.
If they verbally or physically assault a Board member or other association member, you may be able to get local law enforcement involved. Other than that, they have the right to attend meetings and express their opinions during time allotted for unit owner comment. They do not have the right to break the law. It will be the job of the Board and the association’s attorney to keep order at the meetings. I wish you all the best in doing so, C.G..