Unfortunately, some community associations have curmudgeons – bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous people who treat the board of directors, managers and residents with disrespect, derision and sometimes even contempt. These individuals believe they are always right and that they can always do a better job than those in charge.
Curmudgeons, regrettably, do exist. But if you identify them, attempt to communicate and take steps to ensure they don’t adversely affect operations, the association will be OK. Some of these people could even become valuable, beneficial community members. Really!
Identify. You’ll know one when you see one, but the main trait of curmudgeons is the belief that they know how to operate the association best and that the board or manager is incompetent.
They often attend board meetings simply to complain and criticize. Rarely do they have truly constructive feedback or praise. They are rude and disrespectful. They always focus on what is wrong with the association instead of what is right.
Curmudgeons often tell association staff or vendors how poorly they are performing their tasks or attempt to assign them new responsibilities.
They like to be “arm-chair everythings,” meaning they are quick to question past decisions, but not willing to help. No association decision is ever a good one and every aspect of operations can be improved.
Moreover, curmudgeons tend to enforce the association’s restrictions, believing they are the only ones who care and the only ones who can do anything right.
They are quick to approach residents and tell them how they are breaking the rules.
Handle. When dealing with curmudgeons, it’s important to remember the old saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Establish lines of communication; it may help disprove the notion that the association isn’t being operated properly.
You also might consider inviting curmudgeons – depending how bad they are – into association leadership roles. Ask them to serve on a committee or run for the board. This serves two purposes: It will give them a firsthand look at the challenges of operating the association; it also might bring them into the spotlight, where their actions are on display for others to criticize. Sometimes a taste of one’s own medicine goes a long way toward curing the curmudgeon condition.
If trying to work with the individual isn’t effective, take a firmer posture. The association should stand its ground and not allow the curmudgeon to intimidate the board, manager or other members. If the individual is ruining the productivity of association meetings, set clear meeting rules and firmly enforce them.
Stop. It’s also important to know when not to engage curmudgeons. Some thrive on confrontation and will do whatever it takes to agitate and intimidate. If the association is being bombarded by demeaning questions and comments, answer a question once or address a comment once, if appropriate.
When they’ve gone too far and engage in harassing or even violent behavior, it’s time for other tactics. Their behavior could put you in danger and create liability for the association.
Limit communication as much as possible. Contact law enforcement and your attorney to see if any action can be taken. Individual board members or the association’s manager may seek a protective order or injunction against harassment. A judge also might grant an injunction that forbids an individual from attending meetings. However, an injunction is only appropriate in serious situations, when the association cannot function with the curmudgeon in place.
It’s truly unfortunate when associations are confronted with curmudgeons, and it may seem like you’re stuck, but you’re not. There are tools to deal with them. Some of these individuals, when given the information and perspective they need, even turn out to be model residents and board members. No, really!
by Augustus H Shaw