K.G. from Litchfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We are having difficulties with our neighbor, and President, who is literally harassing everyone in our three-unit condominium complex. They do not comply with the By-laws themselves, yet send nasty emails to the other two units if they see someone outside and they “suspect” they are doing something wrong. We agree and vote at meetings where all four unit owners and the troublesome daughter of the harassing unit owner, attend. But then when we go ahead with what is voted on and they say we changed the rules. It just is not true and we are at our wits end. How does one deal with unhappy unit owners so that the other two units can enjoy their lives in this lovely setting? There must be some way to deter them from future attempts to harass everyone.
Mister Condo replies:
K.G., extremely small condos like yours face extra challenges when it comes to everyday items like rules enforcement and governance. In an ideal situation, everyone behaves neighborly and lives in accordance with the rules and regulations. In a situation like yours, one Board member has decided that he will serve not only president but also as judge and executioner. All parties need to understand that while there are rules of the association that should be obeyed, there are also rules of governance and state and local laws that must be obeyed. Harassment and the sending of nasty emails can be construed as abuse and the Board president could actually find himself on the receiving end of a lawsuit if a unit owner’s rights have been violated. In a worst-case scenario, it is possible that the police could be called by a unit owner who has received nasty emails or has been yelled at.
If any unit owner observes another unit owner violating a rule, a complaint is registered with the Board for action at the next Board meeting, whenever that is. At that time, the accused unit owner has an opportunity to address the accusation and offer defense. After hearing the unit owner’s side of the story, the Board may then vote to take action as outlined in the association’s by-laws. That may mean a fine or a letter demanding that the rule-breaking stop. If the rule-breaking continues there may be an escalation of fines but that is about all the Board can do, short of bringing a lawsuit against the unit owner, which is unusual unless the rule being broken is outrageous, such as deciding to change the exterior of the building or other flagrant architectural modification of the physical building.
No association has “on demand” rules compliance. It is never acceptable behavior for one unit owner to harass another unit owner. If the community cannot get along on its own then it may be time to bring in the hired guns. Consult with an attorney about your specific rights. If necessary, bring suit against the Board president for violating your rights as a unit owner. Personally, I would sell and move out. I am sure there are other properties in your community that would be far more enjoyable to live in. Even if you get the President to behave better as a President, you still have to live with him and his “troublesome daughter” as you put it. Who needs those kinds of neighbors? Good luck!