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Subject: Lawn Maintenance - Habitual Complainer
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05/18/2006 1:10 PM  
HELP! We have a habitual complainer in our community. A couple years ago we began mowing the grass according to healthier practices, which is taller as opposed to scalping. The lawn hasn’t looked this healthy in years!

One homeowner believes scalping the lawn saves on the number of mowings per year. Previous to this the homeowner complained about weeds in the lawn, which thrive in a scalped lawn. It is a vicious circle.

Because the lawn is now being cut at higher level, the new complaint is about tire tracks left in the lawn and the grass being mashed down where the tires have passed. Well, the grass “appears” mashed because the grass is taller and when the tires roll over the grass, it does lie down, but it has been cut.

Can anyone help me with a response to this homeowner. Providing evidence from all the agricultural extension services in a 6-state area together with lawn care professionals prescribing the healthier taller mowing has not made an impression. Lawn cannot be mowed by hovercraft!

There are some people who complain just for the sake of complaining, I know. But, if anyone has a "good" comeback for this, please share.

A side note to this. The homeowner rents their unit and no longer physically lives here and yet the complaints persist. It does not seem to be a problem with other homeowners, yet the issue is raised every year by this individual nonetheless.



05/18/2006 2:07 PM  

I would ignore this person. It is obvious the George Toma himself couldn't convince this man of the right mowing practices. I practice the same thing you do and have a healthy, lush lawn. I think the best thing to do is simply ignore him or tell him that his complaint has been heard.


05/18/2006 3:49 PM  
Joyce, you provided authoritative references. That is the only response necessary. Ignore future complaints unless they provide references which support their personal preference.


05/18/2006 4:10 PM  
Yup, ignore them.


05/19/2006 6:54 AM  
Unfortunately I think you hit the nail on the head with your subject line 'Habitual Complainer'. It may not matter how scientific, logical or convincing the material is you provide this person with, he may just move on to his next line of complaint.
Sometimes the best tactic is silence because this isn't adding any fuel to his fire.


05/19/2006 7:33 AM  
You are so right SwanB. It has been a pattern by these people to move from one thing to the next to complain about. We have ignored them, but they are persistent. There seems to always be "something" to complain about.

I had hoped there might be something that could be done to silence them.

I had considered sending a letter stating "case closed" on the lawn maintenance "preference", but I suppose they would complain that we were violating their free speech rights. And, so it goes...... life in an HOA. Sigh!

Thanks for every one's input.



05/19/2006 7:50 AM  
Send them a harassment letter if the complaining continues. Some people have nothing better to do...


05/19/2006 9:06 AM  
Sending a harassment letter is a good point JulieS. I hadn't thought of this. We had a situation in our HOA made very ugly by a Habitual Complainer when I was Violations Director. Unforutnately the situation escalated right before I joined the board due to misinformation on rules given by a board member to the habitual complainer. After a few months of letters of complaints targeting the neighbors and my time spent investigating the claims and smoothing ruffled feathers, etc. I sent a detailed letter to the complaintants indicating each recent complaint, my steps reaching my conclusion as to lack of violation or offense with notation of our rules backing this and a brief thank you note for the amount of time the required complaints were spent on these issues. Of course I copied the letter to the neighbors who weren't very happy with the thank you until I pointed out it was laced with sarcasm and then they got it.
We never heard another thing from the complaintants until the escrow company notified us of the sale of their property-yahoo!
However I don't think this can be accomplished neighbor to neighbor. It only worked because I had the title Violations Director behind my name and wasn't one of the neighbors.


05/20/2006 6:41 AM  
Every HOA has one of those. I think it must be mandatory that each HOA gets at least one complainer. In our case here, it seems to be the President of the association. He wants everything done right now and gets angry when it has to be tabled for further investigation because of legal matters.


05/20/2006 7:09 AM  
Thanks DavidH4. It sure is tough to deal with, isn't it. So much for the "carefree" living in a "low maintenance" community!


05/20/2006 7:15 AM  
I don't think you should ignore them. I'm a big fan of community and realizing that the board serves at the pleasure of the community.

You have a number of options. Send a letter stating why it makes sense to mow at the frequency you are doing. If that doesn't work, provide some information from an impartial source, such as an environmental agency or univeristy with recommended cutting heights. If that still doesn't work then ask the complainer to recommend a mowing frequency and put it to a community vote. If the majority of the folks want to save a few bucks then try it. After that, you may opt to survey the community again and stick with the most popular option.

To make things easy, just do an email survey then phone or letter the ones that don't respond. You might even want to publish the results by name -- it ensures no funny business.


05/20/2006 7:28 AM  
I think you have done enough. Ignore that idiot. Sooner or later, he will find something else to complain about.


05/20/2006 10:55 PM  
As a professional water manager in the state of Florida, I can tell you that it is indeed prescribed for the predominant St. Augustine turf here that mowers be set at the highest setting and that no more than 1/3 of the leaf blade be removed during a single mowing to ensure the best health of the turf.

More importantly, it's clear that you've already gone beyond your fiduciary duty to check in with agricultural extension professionals and present your professional complainer with hard validation of your mowing practice, for which you deserve kudos.

You are dealing with an inconsolable person whose personal belief outweighs the advice of experts. Every community has a professional complainer, more commonly known as a gadfly. Gadflies are often retired captains of industry who feel displaced and choose a single issue, no matter how trivial, upon which to crusade. Gadflies can never be satisfied, yet decline to help out with the general affairs of the community until they reach a boiling point, at which time they make horrid, clueless Board members. In contrast, true leaders, either retired or not, volunteer their time on HOA Boards for the betterment of the community.

Move on and take care of the important issues within your community. If tire marks in the grass are the most important thing in the life of your community's gadfly, the person needs a hobby.

The idealistic suggestion would be for your Board to invite him to serve on, or begin, a committee that has nothing to do with landscaping. The concept is to make the person, who feels like an outsider, feel more like a mover and shaker with "ownership" of something within the community.

Reality normally shows that your gadfly won't take the invitation. Make the effort nevertheless; if he responds negatively, his response will be the best road map that you could have in the light of what's real and what's not. Validation either way is good.


05/21/2006 5:12 AM  
Thanks KurtL. Your suggestions for "ownership of something in the community" has been implemented and you are so right in your assessment.

This particular individual did serve on the board for two years; his only agenda was not to spend any money. He contributed nothing more than show up for meetings, sitting silently until money was discussed. That was the only time he perked up so that he could vote "no" no matter what the issue was.

Prior to serving on the board he complained about the cost of insurance. He was given the opportunity to secure bids from other insurance companies; and guess what? He did nothing.

This individual's constant complaining, with lawn maintenance being his primary focus, is narrowing the pool of homeowners willing to serve on the board. Thus, my almost desperate search for a remedy.

Your comments were very insightful and comforting, and I appreciate them.
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Forums > Homeowner Association > HOA Discussions > Lawn Maintenance - Habitual Complainer

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