The HOA is essentially a business, and its operations affect a lot of people. As such, there are sure to be complaints and criticisms now and then. It’s impossible to please everyone all the time. There will be some homeowners who are on board with the rules or decisions made and other homeowners who push back. Knowing how to effectively deal with criticism is an important part of keeping things running smoothly.
When the HOA receives criticism, here are a few considerations for responding:
Get it in writing. Ask the person to put their complaint in writing and submit it to the board. This ensures that there is record of it and allows the board to follow up and address issues more effectively. In addition, it makes the homeowner stop and think about exactly what they’re upset about so that they can write it down rather than just saying whatever comes to mind. Plus, the board can ask questions for more clarity.
Stay calm. Don’t take criticism of the HOA personally. Make sure you are truly listening to the person and hearing what they have to say, then take a moment to process it and formulate your response. Avoid firing back in the heat of the moment and getting everyone more defensive. If you recognize that emotions are running high, let the person know that you understand their concern, you will discuss it with the board, and you will get back to them. Get their contact information and make sure to follow up.
Provide more information. Oftentimes complaints arise when members either do not have enough information, or do not understand the information they do have. You can show them what the governing documents say, but go a bit further and explain why the rule is in place and what the purpose of it is. Sometimes members don’t agree with rules because they don’t see the bigger picture and how they impact the community as a whole. If someone would like to see a rule added, removed, or changed, let them know the process for doing so.
Encourage involvement. If a homeowner doesn’t like how something is being done (or not done), invite them to become more active in the association. They can run for a spot on the board or join a committee. This will allow them to be more proactive in initiating change and influencing how the HOA operates.
There will always be people who are unhappy with the HOA, and they are often the ones that speak the loudest, but don’t let that overshadow the fact that there are many people who are satisfied with what the HOA is doing and just don’t speak up. Keep a positive attitude and know that you are making a difference by serving on the HOA board. If you’re having trouble managing complaints, work with your property manager to see how they can help and what insight they can provide. Kuester is proud to support HOA communities with a wide range of issues.