With over 17 years as an HOA attorney, I’d like to think
I’ve seen it all. Then again, as soon as I think I’ve witnessed it all, I talk
to a homeowner who shares an outrageous story of conflict that leaves me shaking my head.
The bottom line is community living, whether a condominium or homeowner
association, brings out the best and worst in us all. Inevitably, conflict
I spend my professional life attempting to extricate clients
from disputes with common interest developments. If only I could reach
owners—and board members—before they became entrenched in their positions, we
might be able to head off conflict before it arises.
With this thought in mind, I came up with the following 3 common themes that may serve to stop conflict in its tracks:
- There is almost always More to the Story. Whenever I hear about a board or owner acting “unreasonably” or “harassing” based on some act or acts, I ask, “What’s going on behind the scene?” A Board [owner] does not ordinarily act that way unless there’s more to the story. Guess what? There almost always is an underlying issue, protracted history, or other factor or factors that contribute, or are the primary, source of the conflict. Thus, address the underlying issue when it first arises, rather than let it fester into multiple other areas of conflict, can eliminate unnecessary quarrels.
- You get More Bees With Honey Than With Vinegar. I know, it sounds trite, but it is so true. I also know that when dealing with community living and/or the single largest investment in our lives, emotions and egos spike. We do not want to back down and often its “about the principle.” As a result, we engage our “adversary” aggressively. But aggression is met with aggression. I’ve found that a cooperative, collaborative approach for resolving HOA disputes is often more effective, quicker, and certainly less expensive than the adversarial route.
- Litigation is Expensive. Common interest development lawsuits are not cheap. They often include comprehensive discovery with numerous depositions and voluminous documentation to produce and review. Because emotion, versus objective business decisionmaking, abounds, once litigation commences, it is difficult to turn off. It is common for even the most basic HOA lawsuit to spiral in excess of$100,000, or more, in fees per side. Plus, most cases involve a prevailing party attorney’s fee provision, which means high stakes poker—if you lose, you not only pay your legal fees and costs, but the other side’s, as well.
Actually, the three points above are not secrets, they are well known truths. If you follow them, you (and your homeowner association) can hopefully stop conflict before it devolves into a full blown dispute. Good luck!