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Subject: Harassment complaint
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Author Messages
KathyA3
(Virginia)

Posts:11


07/15/2021 10:00 AM  
I sit on a HOA board and since we have been on the board, there has been consistent harassment from a particular group of members. Harassment has consisted of attempted officer removal for no cause, petitions brought to change bylaws that are unenforceable (lawyer opinion), request for financial info without proper purpose. Accusations of secret board meetings (not happening), emails sent to board with accusations- BCC to entire membership. Refusal of committee heads (2) to communicate respectfully to members. Refusal from this group to speak to Treasurer/assistant. Spreading rumors to the membership that the board is going to sue them (not true). How do I know when enough is enough and what recourse do I have as a board member. Even with all of this, we continue to have accomplishments in the sustainabilty of the HOA. We are located in Virginia. Thank you for any info you can provide.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:8290


07/15/2021 10:38 AM  

Sounds like quite a thorny problem Kathy. I feel like I'm able to helpful if I know more about your HOA, OK? How many are on the board? How many homes? detached or condos?

Do you know what's motivating the group to constantly attack the Board? Do you know how many actually are involved?

What do the following quotes mean, Kathy? I don't quite get it. "Refusal of committee heads (2) to communicate respectfully to members. Refusal from this group to speak to Treasurer/assistant."
MaxB4
(Maine)

Posts:701


07/15/2021 10:45 AM  
My wife and I had a similar situation where we lived. We felt our health was more important that dealing with crazy people. Put our house on the market, moved and never looked back.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2154


07/15/2021 11:27 AM  
Posted By KathyA3 on 07/15/2021 10:00 AM
I sit on a HOA board and since we have been on the board, there has been consistent harassment from a particular group of members. Harassment has consisted of attempted officer removal for no cause, petitions brought to change bylaws that are unenforceable (lawyer opinion), request for financial info without proper purpose. Accusations of secret board meetings (not happening), emails sent to board with accusations- BCC to entire membership. Refusal of committee heads (2) to communicate respectfully to members. Refusal from this group to speak to Treasurer/assistant. Spreading rumors to the membership that the board is going to sue them (not true). How do I know when enough is enough and what recourse do I have as a board member. Even with all of this, we continue to have accomplishments in the sustainabilty of the HOA. We are located in Virginia. Thank you for any info you can provide.



Our attorney refers to these folks as "vocational dissidents", most communities have them, and HOA boards are a favorite target.

Right now this group is in control, and the board needs to take back control of the interactions. Your job will be to discredit them, and fortunately they will discredit themselves if you play your cards right. Your main weapons are transparency and controlled communications.

* Make it obvious that the board and committees are doing everything by the book (and clean up your acts if you need to). A website and regularly published newsletter will be very helpful, since the rest of the community can see that the complainers are spreading wrong information. Toot your horns regularly about all of the good things that are happening. But avoid social media or interactive sites like the plague since it will give the bad actors a platform - if they want to spread their nonsense around, they can do it on their own dime and their own time. All HOA communications should be one way, informational only.

* You'll also need to change how you interact with this group. They're looking for conflict, controversy and drama - don't give it to them. Your communications with them need to be brief, factual, and the most boring communications in the history of the world. No back and forth arguing, no explaining. They want info, you provide it, done. Changing how you communicate can take some doing, but it's important. If you don't allow them to suck you into their drama nine times in a row but you slip on the tenth time, you've just shown them that they have to act up ten times to get what they want.

When we were dealing with our group, I created some short, bland and boring scripts for us to use as needed. We board members and PM often reviewed these to keep them fresh in our minds. The main trick was to never get pulled into unscripted interactions. Any association business was communicated through official channels only. If I'd bump into one of these folks in the community, it was "hey, how are you, oh is that the time, gotta run". It took us about a year and a half before the group finally gave up, but they did calm down.

DeidreB
(Virginia)

Posts:106


07/15/2021 1:06 PM  
Overall I recommend you read the Virginia Property Owner's Association Act, your HOA's By Laws and Declaration of CCRs and other HOA governing documents, thoroughly. Know them VERY well. Look introspectively for any mistakes the board or management company may be making with respect to the Virginia POAA or governing documents especially regarding open meetings and transparency (common stumbling blocks). Always be learning and always try to be transparent and patient while addressing complaints: are we doing something improper? Communicate with the individual/s respectfully and let them know when and how you are addressing concerns. Answer their emails in accordance with the relevant passages of the governing documents. Remember you are volunteers and must act as one (as a board) so don't let this become personal. Most of all, remember that owners can express themselves freely. If you really think reputational harm is being done, talk to your HOA lawyer . But be sure to develop & maintain thick skin as a Board while being open minded to making improvement and remember that these trouble makers are not uncommon and usually do themselves harm over time. And every now and then they are right. Keep up the great work serving your community. Here's the Va. POAA: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacodepopularnames/property-owners-association-act/
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:17640


07/15/2021 2:45 PM  
Kathy,

The best way I can think of in handling these issues is to be transparent.

Newsletter articles - A group of residents brought a bylaw proposal to the board to abc. In reviewing the proposed amendment with legal counsel, it was determined that such an amendment would be unenforceable. Therefore, the board will not bring the issue to the membership.

All board meetings are open to members. Our current schedule is: dates/time/location

You may have heard about the following accusations: These are simply inaccurate and anyone can verify the inaccuracy by reviewing meeting minutes available on our website.



Note: if committee heads are not communicating respectfully - they need to be talked to and, if necessary, removed. Agree or disagree with a point of view - one needs to be respectful when they are in these positions.

MichaelS56
(Minnesota)

Posts:205


07/15/2021 4:24 PM  
The state of Minnesota has a harassment law that we have incorporated into our Rules and Regulations. This was done not because of owners harassing Board members but owners harrassing vendors and their staff. There some very good suggestions that have been made by other voices.
JanR2


Posts:0


07/15/2021 4:54 PM  
Gosh, I wish it were unit owners doing that to me. But it's .. fellow Board members.
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