1. Empathize and Acknowledge.
Not all complaints make sense. However, don’t dismiss it by ignoring it completely or calling it “too nitpicky”. All homeowners have a right to voice their opinions.
Most importantly, don’t take it as a personal attack, even if sometimes they come to you upset and yelling. Instead, empathize with them and take it as a sign of involvement and genuine care for the community. Bear in mind that they came to you because they trust that you can resolve it.
Thank them for their input and let them know they are heard. Never make promises except that you’ll see what you can do.
2. Have Them Submit a Complaint Letter.
If the complaint is against a neighbor, a HOA board member, or a HOA rule, ask them to submit a formal complaint letter with themselves identified as complainant. It is very important to have a written record of the complaint and a paper trail to track the dispute. This also helps with verification, follow ups, and resolution.
Have a clear protocol on how to handle complaints. Have an email account set up to handle complaints and a board member to receive and respond to them. If you use a HOA management company, use them to your advantage. You can have all complaints run through them and empower them to verify complaints.
3. Check Your Governing Documents and the Law.
Check your bylaws and CC&Rs for any related provisions on how to resolve the complaint. For example, with issues like persistent dog barking or loud music, your governing documents would have rules and solutions to help you resolve the complaint.
If there isn’t any, check for federal or state law that may be related to the homeowner’s complaint. However, the law can be too general or too vague sometimes. It’s best to consult with your association’s attorney for legal matters.
4. Deliberate with the Board and HOA Manager.
If the governing documents and the law fail to turn up any solution, it’s time to discuss the complaint with the Board and your HOA manager. Examine the situation and strive to come up with a win-win solution.
In the event that a win-win solution is impossible to have, strive to be fair and just. Decide based on the evidence you have at hand and for the best of the community, even if that means the resolution is not in the complainant’s favor. Have the resolution on record as well for documentation.
5. Communicate The Resolution Well.
It’s very easy to deliver a win-win solution to all involved parties. However, if the final decision is unfavorable to the complainant, they may reject it and it may cause a big rift between them and the Board.
When you communicate an “unfavorable decision”, make sure to come from a place of empathy. Explain how and why the Board has arrived at the decision. Tell them that the Board only has the community’s best interest in mind. Be transparent and don’t put the blame on anyone.
Photos by Amy Hirschi, Daniel Fazio, and Dylan Gillis on Unsplash