HOA Board Member Tip – Handling HOA Complaints in your community
As a representative of the HOA Board, you work hard to put your community’s best interests first—to ensure that everything is running smoothly and that the standards of the Association are being maintained. Hard as you may work on the community’s behalf, you shouldn’t be surprised to receive complaints from homeowners. They may be infrequent or they may seem to pop up nearly every day, but sooner or later complaints will most certainly happen—and it’s important to respond to them appropriately.
The first step is having the right attitude about them. It’s easy to feel as though those who complain are simply ungrateful for your hard work, or that they just like to be negative. This will doubtless be true in some scenarios, but you can’t operate under that assumption. It’s just not healthy. Instead assume that all homeowners are genuinely interested in the wellbeing of the community. When they complain, it’s because they feel they have a valid difference of opinion, or it’s that they simply don’t understand what the HOA is doing—perhaps due to their own lack of comprehension, or perhaps because of poor communication on your part.
That’s the first step in making sure complaints are handled rightly: Keeping the lines of communication open. Be certain that your board is explaining its actions and its reasoning in the most transparent way possible. Make it clear that you’re doing what you think is in the community’s best interests. Don’t foster a culture of us vs. them. Instead show what you’re doing to make the community better. If people have complaints, then, hopefully they will at least be based in respectful differences of opinion, not in mistrust.
Addressing Complaints Head-On
Some further tips for addressing complaints include:
- Make it a matter of consistent policy to only act on written complaints—unless it is a real emergency of some kind.
- Gather all the information you can about the issue in question, so that you can offer a truly thoughtful response.
- Take the initiative of inviting the complainer to meet with you somewhere for a discussion—not in your home or in his/her home, but in a neutral area.
- Listen to the complaint and try to leave your emotions out of it; honestly appraise the relative merits of the complaint.
- If you reach a compromise or pledge to take any particular action to address the problem, make sure you hold up your end of the deal—even if the owner does not.
You don’t want to make the mistake of spending time addressing every single person who utters a negative word about the HOA, so ensure that you’re unerring in only responding to true, formal complaints. Follow these tips and see if you can resolve some of these issues better, and without anyone losing their temper.