Differences of opinion are bound to happen when boards try to govern their property, even within the best community associations. When it comes to major community management decisions, in particular unpopular ones like increasing HOA dues, tempers often flair among residents and board members alike.
When it comes to handling conflict within a community, the primary goal is to reach a peaceful solution even if it is to agree to disagree. Here are some of the top ways to resolve conflicts like a pro and turn controversies into win-win relationships with happy outcomes:
Find Common Ground
It is unlikely disagreements are entirely based on discord from top to bottom. Establish some common ground by working on the easiest items first and determining the points everyone agrees on. Doing so can help create positive momentum to hopefully reach agreements on the overall issue.
Try to See the Other Perspective
The first step toward a resolution is practicing empathy for the other person, showing respect or concern for their opinions. For example…
HOA President: I believe I understand what your concern is about the HOA clubhouse being too small for your needs. What is it that you would propose to resolve this to your satisfaction?
HOA Member: I strongly believe the HOA should enlarge the clubhouse and that will be to the benefit of all the HOA members.
HOA President: I understand your concern but there are at least two big issues with what you are wanting to accomplish. First, you would need to get 67% of the membership to agree to this enlargement by amending the governing documents. The second being the association does not have the funds to do this and we would have to get the HOA membership to agree to a larger assessment than what is allowed in the governing documents.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Using effective communication is a prime way to try to prevent conflict. Many misunderstandings, particularly those that pertain to HOA boards and residents, are results of one party or the other not being clear about objectives, reasoning or timeline. To maintain transparency to all residents, board members should use all avenues of communication to share information with residents including newsletters, phone calls, emails, written notices, etc.
Whether in response to a specific infraction or general information that impacts the community, communication is key. In turn, residents are responsible for reading their community rules and regulations and asking to speak to a board member when something is unclear, instead of relying on neighbors who might be equally misinformed.
It’s Not Personal
The easiest way to figure out who has the weaker argument in nearly all debates or conflicts is the person who resorts to personal attacks rather than the subject. A wise board member believing their argument is strong sticks to it without retreating their position or discrediting the other party. A smart debater attacks the problem at hand, not the person, and moves beyond personalities.
Speak Your Piece, Then Listen
While the action of listening might seem obvious in a conversation, it is possibly the most abused, unfollowed feat. Not taking the time to truly listen can detrimentally result in a negative discussion and outcome. If the disgruntled party believes they are not being heard, or worse yet, continually interrupted, it is unlikely they will be agreeable to anything. Everyone deserves to have their voice heard.
Transparency + Accountability Are Key
As fiduciaries for community assets, your HOA board is expected and required to be transparent with financial decisions. Unfortunately, some boards forget this standard should apply to all actions and decisions on behalf of the community. Regular communication, clear follow-through and returning calls in a timely manner helps foster trust between your community management team and residents, ensuring everyone feels part of the decision-making process. When HOA boards take the time to openly explain the reasoning behind decisions while also making residents feel heard, issues are less likely to occur.