Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Should the Board get involved in disputes between neighbors?
His tree hangs over into my yard.
Her parties are too loud.
Just when should a community association board of directors intervene in a dispute between neighbors? It is human nature to want to get other people to side with your point of view. This is often the case when the combatants live inside a community association. The feeling is often that the party who has the board’s backing in the dispute has the rightful claim.
If the dispute is an obvious personal matter between neighbors such as an encroachment upon personal property, the association’s involvement would be improper. In fact, if the association did become involved in such a dispute, other owners would certainly object to the use of common funds to engage in such involvement. Other times it is not so obvious whether or not the association’s involvement is warranted.
If an owner complains about a neighbor’s loud parties and music, the board should find out if other owners similarly find the noise obtrusive. If other owners agree, then the neighbor’s behavior may have risen to the level of a general nuisance which is prohibited under the terms of the association’s governing documents. If a neighbor’s behavior violates one of the association’s rules or restrictions then it is incumbent upon the association to enforce the restriction against that owner. Upholding the documents is, after all, one of the board’s primary functions.
The matter becomes even more complicated when one of the combatants happens to be on the board and even more so when it is the President. Naturally, board members should resist the urge to use their position on the board to direct legal counsel to pursue personal matters. It becomes harder for a board member to do this when dealing with engaged and active fellow board members who will vote down any proposed action that appears to be personal rather than proper association business.
Neighborly disputes can quickly turn into community-wide conflagrations if not handled properly.