RAISED VOICES, REDDENED FACES, and angry gestures. You might think you are watching a congressional hearing on C-SPAN, but you are at your community's board meeting.
The erosion of civility in our society has begun to manifest itself in private residential communities. This comes in many forms—from rudeness and disruptive behavior at meetings to more dangerous and escalating behaviors.
While it is impossible to legislate civility, the proximity of a multifamily dwelling or a community with shared amenities heightens the impact of these behaviors and creates myriad legal issues and operational challenges for volunteer boards and their managers.
Perhaps the most difficult legal issue is the determination of when a lack of civility requires action in the form of regulation, enforcement or, in egregious circumstances, additional security measures.
Boards find the quality of life and the ability to conduct business diminished as limited time and resources are increasingly devoted to the personal interactions between residents and staff, instead of the operation of the community.
It is difficult to attract and retain good staff and contractors and, most importantly, no one will want to serve on the board or a committee.
Given the obligation of the association to protect the person and property of the residents, there is a point where regulatory and enforcement action is required.
Boards that address these issues and send a message that uncivil behavior is not tolerated will do a service to their communities.
Unlike that hearing on C-SPAN that you can turn off, discord in a community association cannot be stopped at your front door. Community association residents should realize that “living together" requires a level of civility and respect that we hope will flow upward at some point.
Donna DiMaggio Berger is a board-certified specialist in condominium and planned development law, a shareholder with the law firm of Becker, and serves as the executive director of the Community Association Leadership Lobby in Florida. She is also a fellow in CAI's College of Community Association Lawyers. firstname.lastname@example.org. Article reprinted with permission from Sun-Sentinel.com.
»Your Turn: Is your community struggling with civility? What solutions have you tried?
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