Dealing with difficult homeowners is inevitable for board members of an HOA. It is just part of the job. Every community will face conflict and have its fair share of difficult people, so a key part of your job as a board member is to keep the peace and diffuse any difficult situations as they arise.
When conflicts happen, keep in mind that patience and communication is the way to go—do not get aggressive and turn a minor dispute into a major one. If you temper your reactions, listen and ask the correct questions, your community’s homeowners and the board will come to an acceptable resolution.
The most important part of correcting conflict is understanding the various kinds of behavior used by difficult people. Let’s discuss the behaviors that you should expect from difficult homeowners in your community.
Dealing with Difficult Residents | Common Behaviors You’ll Come Across
In order to know how to deal with difficult homeowners, you need to know their behaviors. We’ve round up a list of the most common behaviors of difficult homeowners:
1. Aggressive Behavior
Homeowners are often angry and exhibit an in-your-face behavior. When somebody behaves this way, it often is accompanied by threats or aggressive comments that can create tension and an uneasy encounter. Unfortunately, some residents can get out of control to an excessive level.
When a person uses highly abusive language, has extreme emotional outbursts like crying or yelling, or threatens the safety of yourself, the board, or other people, it might be necessary to get an outside party involved. If the behavior becomes overbearingly toxic or dangerous, think about getting law enforcement involved, if you must.
2. Passive-Aggressive Behavior
Some residents are overly aggressive, to varying degrees, and can be very difficult to deal with. On the other side of the spectrum, passive-aggressive people often have hidden intentions, and are not usually good at communicating their concerns. They can employ snarky attacks, such as harsh personal comments attacking a person’s character, that are meant to sabotage meetings or regular processes.
3. Victim Mentality
A victim mentality, in this case, is characterized by whining and complaining and blaming others for their troubles, even if they are the cause of their grief. This kind of complaining and whining is persistent and can be caused by a variety of incidents or people who they believe have victimized or attacked them.
This kind of person is somebody who refuses to move past issues and isn’t open to seeing other peoples’ points of view. This person is not flexible and may continue bringing closed items up, even after everybody voted to move on. This kind of behavior isn’t damaging or threatening, but dealing with it can often be time-consuming and drain your energy.
5. Have a Contrarian Attitude
We all know the contrarian—somebody who enjoys controversy and attention. This person always does or says something completely contrary to yourself or your board. With this kind of resident, disagreements are pretty much inevitable. Situations with these kinds of people can be very frustrating.
Dealing with these kinds of homeowners is not easy. But if you follow a few proven methods, there is a better chance of coming up with a resolution. If you encounter a difficult resident, consider the following problem-solving methods:
- Listen: Always listen, even if somebody is not being reasonable in the slightest. Showing them respect and the benefit of active listening is often what it takes to change their minds and lead to a healthy resolution.
- Take a second to breathe: Sit back for a second, and take a deep breath. If you or the HOA board immediately get defensive or aggressive when dealing with a difficult resident, the dispute will only worsen. Before you respond, sit back and take a deep breath and respond constructively and calmly. Sometimes easier said than done!
- Be direct: Do not assume that the difficult homeowner understands your comments or questions. It is very important to ask direct questions, such as “What are your concerns?” Asking direct questions makes conversations far easier.
- Compromise: Your board needs to compromise sometimes, so it is important to be open to compromise from time to time. In every situation, focus on the needs of the community.
- Change your approach, if needed: If what you’ve been doing isn’t effective, then change things up. You can’t control what difficult people do, but you can control your thoughts and actions.
As an HOA board member, you should be in the middle of any disputes regardless of the homeowners’ behaviors. As much as possible, try to understand where the person is coming from and put aside your emotions for a while. Another great idea is to plan the HOA annual meeting properly so that community members can accommodate the schedule ahead of time and join in. This way, any conflicts or common misconceptions can be addressed accordingly during the meeting.