More residents face HOA, condo bully boards

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


Wow. What is it about Association-Governed Living that brings out the Bully in certain board members?

The two reports I share with you below give you a glimpse into the ugliness that seems so pervasive in common interest communities. In fact, I’d hardly describe this sort of behavior as promoting any sense of harmonious community.

What’s at the root of HOA conflicts?

I am not aware of any social science research of Association-Governed Common Interest Housing. But I have some personal theories. It comes down to three things:

1. Arguments about the Money

In HOAs, everyone is obligated to pay for a vaguely defined set of services and living standards. But what one resident considers well-maintained and secure, another resident sees as unnecessary or wasteful.

To illustrate, think about the last time you went hunting to buy a house or lease an apartment. How many homes did you tour? Half a dozen? More than a dozen? Too many to count?

Surely, you noticed that different people live vastly different lifestyles. Some are neat, tidy, and organized. Others, not so much. Some people haven’t cleaned in months, and have neglected their homes for years. Some people have meticulously maintained their home and added top notch upgrades – only the best of everything. Others were more cost conscious, keeping the property in good repair, but with basic decor.

What happens when you put all types of people in the position of sharing expenses for maintaining, repairing, and potentially upgrading common property?

You inevitably have disagreements between the penny pinchers and the design divas, between the obsessively clean and the laid back and disorganized. Some people are willing to spend a fortune for what others see as minor  improvements. Not everyone is equally obsessed with maximizing property values, and, truth be told, any group of 2 or more people probably cannot agree on what will enhance values.

So you end up with owners and residents fighting over how much money is to be spent, as well as bitter battles over spending priorities.

2. Power and Control by Majority

The premise behind Restrictive Covenants (also known as CC&Rs) is based on a simple, but onerous principle: you should be able to control how your neighbors use their properties, as well as what they look like. It’s all about control, and who has the power to make decisions about enforcement of rules.

In an Association-Governed Community, that control falls – in theory – to the majority of homeowners (or shareholders in a cooperative). In practice, control belongs to whoever holds a majority of voting interests, which is not necessarily a majority of people who own and reside in the community.

Either way, there will always be a disaffected or even offended minority. And sometimes that voting minority can consist of nearly half or even more than half of the people who own or reside in the Association. That’s why there is commonly an “Us vs. Them” mentality in homeowners, condo, and cooperative associations.


3. Disrespect for opposing views and preferences

Some people have conservative tastes and prefer beige and white decor. Others love color, and would prefer that their house looks like a box of Crayola crayons exploded inside and out. Some prefer an active lifestyle and others quiet and solitude. Some people love to socialize, others value their privacy.

People come from different ethnic or religious backgrounds. Education and income levels vary, too, in some of the larger, more diverse communities.

But when you have a system that creates winners and losers by majority, it tends to foster disrespect for the minorities on the losing side of many Association political battles. The attitude is, “majority rules, too bad for you.” In some Associations, the minority class is expected to conform to the norm, put up & shut up, or move out.

And when you combine power with a lack of respect for others, you wind up with the inevitable Bully Pulpit.


But…Isn’t bullying in Association Governed Housing an “isolated incident” based on “anecdotal stories?”

Uh, no. In fact, most abuse goes unreported. That’s Social Psychology 101.

But even if you were to buy into the HOA industry’s preposterous claim that bullying is rare, I want you to ponder the following question.

How much bully behavior and abuse over one’s HOA neighbors would you deem acceptable?


Harbour House condo owner feels bullied by her HOA

Now living in a construction zone nightmare

Wendy Ryan
6:55 PM, Jan 5, 2017

TAMPA, Fla. – The day after Christmas 2015, Karen Durrett’s life changed when her dream home became a flooded mess.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Karen told ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan.

Karen came home from work to find a major flood in her condominium caused by work being done in her next door neighbor’s condominium by Alvarez Plumbing Company.

A pipe broke on December 26, 2015 causing Karen’s kitchen, living room and bedroom to be filled with water, producing mold and moisture under her laminate floors.

Karen’s entire flooring inside her condo had to be replaced and she said it took three months of negotiating with Alvarez’s insurance company for a financial agreement to be worked out to repair the damage and replace the floors.

Karen then received permission from Harbour House’s Manager Perry Labord to begin work on her condominium and hired a licensed, insured contractor Han Van Iersel to replace all her floors and floor boards.

She chose to replace the flooring with acid-stained concrete and scheduled the allotted days with the building’s doorman, which Karen said was standard operating procedure for the Harbour House.

After the work began, a neighbor below Karen’s unit allegedly started complaining to LaBord about the construction noise during the sanding of the floors.

The next day, LaBord called Karen to inform her the work must immediately stop and a written plan must be submitted.

So Karen changed course, purchasing new laminate floors to replace the acid-concrete so she could finish the job as soon as possible.

Read more:


Sun Ridge Association Threatens News Reporter

November 2, 2016 NewsGuyRobert

FLEMINGTON, N.J. – November 1, 2016 – The battle between frustrated Sun Ridge Association homeowners and its management firm, Premier Management Associates, has heated up.

During an open meeting at the community pool, a homeowner accused representative Victoria Miller of questionable practices. Among the many accusations made in a monthly homeowners association meeting were sharing of confidential correspondence between homeowners and management; fostering a negative environment in the community and breach of trust. Miller denied the sharing of the letters. However, Premier Management Associates responded by promptly replacing her as the association management representative for the community, replaced by Debbie Haraburda.

South Jersey News Reporter Joe Kane is a radio host on several local radio networks. Also he has been a homeowner in Sun Ridge for years. This week he was greeted at the community pool house by a heated discussion with association management legal representative Jeff Sirot with the law firm of Curcio Mirzaian Sirot. According to Kane, when questioned about the important issues facing the community’s homeowners and the association, Sirot responded unprofessionally with threats hurled at the reporter, including a personal vendetta to bury him.

Read more:


3 thoughts on “More residents face HOA, condo bully boards

  1. The Big Cheap. majoritarian oppression, intolerance for dissenting opinions ? Whatever the dispute generator(s), they’re in churches, unions, animal welfare organizations etc. They may not be new phenomena, But one might suspect ‘boomer age’ folks with dis-empowerment rage & mediocre skillsets. But then one sees much younger folks hungry for power too . . .

  2. The point is, HOA structure breeds conflict and bullies. The governance model also has few checks on human nature. There’s a lack of accountability, combined with broad powers granted to board members. So, if one or more engages in misconduct, that tends to breed additional conflict and hardship.

    But even if there is a well-meaning board, many communities end up with a group of determined individuals with opposing political views. Then the political battle begins. And this division happens even in small associations without professional managers and a slew of contractors.

    But you’re right – board members are more likely to have allies in the manager (if there is one) and the HOA attorney. It can be very difficult to replace a rogue board.

  3. Focusing on the diversity and discord between and among the owners and residents is a needless distraction. A more meaningful analysis would focus on the group of determined individuals who actually control the community’s affairs. These groups of determined individuals may include the more aggressive owners and residents and some of the contractors who presumably work for the community, like property managers, association attorneys, reserve study consultants and construction/repair contractors. The majority of owners and residents are more passive and ignorant of the details of the community’s governing documents and look to the determined individuals as a source of knowledge and authority. If the determined individuals are not abiding by any fiduciary duty or business judgment rule, the community will suffer.

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