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Subject: Owner harassment of next-door tenant.
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Author Messages
PatJ1
(North Carolina)

Posts:290


12/01/2021 3:41 AM  
We have an owner, who rents out their unit, who is constantly sending in violations to the MC on the rented unit next door. We are stacked condos, 2 high. 4 units share a common outdoor entry way. We are a 40-year-old, low priced area. We do what we can to keep the community maintained.

Last year this owner went on a rampage against the tenants next door. Claimed she lost her tenants and couldn’t rent her unit because of them. Well, she did rent it and things were quiet for the past year. Her most recent tenant moved out and it’s available for rent again. She’s over there almost every day and we get a violation complaint.

Her complaints, with pictures:
Pieces of paper blowing in the parking lot.
An occasional child’s scooter at the front door, not stored, just resting. A ball on the grass.
She doesn’t like the items placed on the back balcony. Not garbage. A chair, and rug, and a wooden shelf.
Complained that they don’t park properly. They are too close to the white line.
Music playing during the day.

She has also called the police on them to report drug activity. I live in the next building, work at home, and have a clear view of the parking lot and have not seen any suspicious activity.

She is only focused on this one unit. Another neighbor had piled stuff up in the front yard of their unit that sat there for days, and she didn’t report that.

I pass the unit at least once a day while walking my dog and keep an eye on it. I don’t see anything that would warrant all the violation notices. Even when we had the MC doing violations they would only drive by once a month.

I feel her harassment is racially motivated. She’s used racial slurs while texting me. She also seems to have an issue with children.
In addition, the owner of the “violating” unit is a Board member. We don’t want to appear to be ignoring her concerns that could seem like special treatment, but this is ridiculous.

Our violations are covered under privacy laws. All the “violations” are corrected within a very short time.
Does a child really have to bring their scooter inside just to go to the bathroom?

Any suggestions on how to make it stop?



Board members are volunteers. Many have no idea what they're doing. Educate them. Don't beat them up.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4284


12/01/2021 4:21 AM  
This is a dispute between neighbors and generally I say the HOA shouldn't get involved unless abuse/misuse of the common areas and/or several neighbors are involved.

What has the owner of the other unit said about all this? If the neighbor is harassing his/her tenants, it's not the board's responsibility to fix that. If that's why he/she hasn't gotten involved and wants the board to play cop, tell him/her that's not the association 's role. If the unit doesn't get rented because of the neighbor from hell, that's his/her problem.

It sounds like you're on the board, but you don't have to respond if she uses the N-word or other offensive language. Block her number to drive that message home. As for everything else, the board should know what warrants their attention or not. Ignore the noise and speak up when the complaint is legit.

In fact, why not publish an article in the association newsletter or website providing general suggestions on getting along and reminders on when the board will get involved? That way everyone gets the message and she can't whine about being singled out

And hang on to those missives from her (especially those texts). If she tries to sue because "the board isn't doing it's job," you have some interesting things to show the judge and she'll have to explain why scooters on the lawn are bringing the neighborhood down - and prove it. Judges HATE listening to foolishness
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:10584


12/01/2021 4:28 AM  
This is an owner versus owner thing with one owner trying to use the HOA as a "weapon". So it's time for the HOA to stop being one. Simply change your violation reporting policy in a way the weeds out such behavior. Like make it have to be in writing and referencing the exact rule it violates when submitting. Stop HOA/MC from responding promptly. State there is a waiting period of X time due to the need to properly investigate. There is a X amount of time the violator has to respond.

STATE this loudly and widely what the policy is. That way you can start getting this person and others from using the HOA against a fellow owner. Threats to be sued have no bearing on the HOA. A HOA is NOT responsible for lease agreements or renters. So if they threaten a lawsuit just tell them to file it and will wait for the paperwork. The HOA can always counter-sue a better option if they were ever to file for dragging them into court etc...

Throw this back onto the owner and the police to handle. The HOA needs to get out!

Former HOA President
AugustinD


Posts:1905


12/01/2021 6:17 AM  
For the purposes of discussion, I will call the complaining owner "Owner K."

-- If there is any issue about the police reports, I agree the police reports and fallout from same are between the two neighbors.

-- This may very well be a 'driving while black' (or whatever race the owners are) situation. If so, of course it is unacceptable. If possible, consult the HOA attorney about whether the HOA should do anything with regard to the police reports. Like turn the texts with racial slurs over to the police? Because I have had it with rednecks. They make all our lives more difficult (of course, especially the lives of folks of color).

-- Of late I continue my quest for housing and while I see no unlawful redlining going on, it's clear the legacy of redlining has resulted in folks of color getting the short end of the stick today when it comes to housing appreciation. Doing things that may drive a family out of a HOA because of their race is not acceptable. I personally want Owner K put on notice.

-- A scooter left outside for a few minutes due to a child using the bathroom is not a violation. If it were, then I would say the HOA is likely violating the Fair Housing Act by doing things that discourage kids from living at the HOA. Ignore any complaints about the scooter being left out.

-- Owner K texted you because you are on the Board. You are one of several "agents" of the HOA. As a director and agent of the HOA, I tend to think you have a duty to inform the Board of the content of these texts. I suggest you forward all texts to the Board in their entirety. Strongly consider consulting the HOA attorney about the racial slurs Owner K texted you. Then ask the HOA attorney and Board to consider whether to send Owner K a formal letter stating that it will not tolerate violations of federal and state Fair Housing laws, including Fair Housing laws pertaining to an environment hostile on the basis of either race or familial status.

-- PatJ1, my understanding is that you yourself have standing to submit a Fair Housing complaint, because Owner K sending you texts with racial slurs makes you (regardless of what race you are) feel the neighborhood is hostile to certain groups on the basis of their race and hurts you. (I realize I am not really getting the wording of this right. My point is one does not have to be a member of the race against whom an offensive slur is made to have a valid Fair Housing complaint.)

-- Have the Board inform Owner K that it will only accept snail mailed communications regarding non-emergency situations. Because of the racial slurs, Owner K is now "special." I think the HOA needs to protect itself.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2588


12/01/2021 7:36 AM  
I agree that this would be neighbor-to-neighbor and the fact that it involves tenants gives the association even less control, except the racial slurs may escalate this into Fair Housing territory.

It's possible that the complaining owner is violating some portion of the CC&Rs - but it doesn't sound like they're harassing the next door tenant directly, they're trying to get the HOA to do their dirty work. **If they do start to harass the tenant directly, the HOA will need to protect itself against a possible Fair Housing complaint.** Does your association have an attorney? I would at least give that person a heads up about what's going on. At the very least you'll want a paper trail demonstrating that the association did not ignore a hostile environment.

The complaining owner sounds like a "vocational dissident"/ankle biter as well as a bigot, and you may need to deal with them differently. Basically you want to remove the emotional benefit they get from their behavior, so any communication should be in writing, brief, bland, factual (no debating) and consistent. For example: "We have received your communication of {date} and have sent it to the board to address any violations of the CC&Rs." If you get the same thing over and over, acknowledge receipt of it but nothing further. (This was our lawyer's advice for dealing with someone who complained repeatedly over something that couldn't be verified and probably wasn't real).

It's also possible that the board/PM can push back against the racial slurs, same as with foul language or angry ranting. My stance is that you talk to me civilly and professionally - if you can't do that right now, get back to me when you can. (The problem with this is that it can undermine what I said in the previous paragraph - offensive people often feel that they're the ones being offended, and being stopped makes them angrier. 'Tis a conundrum.)
PatJ1
(North Carolina)

Posts:290


12/01/2021 9:18 AM  
Thank you. Great responses. Very helpful in sorting out my thoughts and create a plan.

Board members are volunteers. Many have no idea what they're doing. Educate them. Don't beat them up.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11659


12/01/2021 9:36 AM  
Pat

Look up benign neglect. Practice it.
MarshallT
(New York)

Posts:179


12/02/2021 6:10 AM  
Hi,

When asking for reports/written letters, make it a requirement that the person complaining cite the exact rule that was broken.

If this continues to be an issue, and you suspect it may be racially motivated, it may be time to speak with a lawyer. The HOA needs to stop complying with her unreasonable asks.
BenA2
(Texas)

Posts:1104


12/02/2021 9:22 AM  
I suggest handling each violation as they come in. If the board does not believe leaving a scooter or other toys out temporarily is a substantial violation, tell the complainant just that and inform them that it will not be enforced. I believe the board does have the discretion on how strictly they will enforce violations.

I do not think it is a good idea to not get involved. If a member makes a formal complaint, the board has an obligation to at lease investigate it.

Since you believe that this is a case of harassment, I would be very careful about just ignoring it. Several years ago their was a case where an HOA was held liable by HUD in a harassment case because they chose to ignore it. I do not recall the exact details but it was essentially one neighbor discriminating against another and the governing documents had a clause about living together peacefully (or something similar).

Here are a couple of legal sites that explain it much better:
https://www.allpropertymanagement.com/blog/post/hoa-responsibility-for-neighbor-to-neighbor-disputes-harassment/

https://hoalaw.tinnellylaw.com/hud-establishes-rules-regarding-discriminatory-activity-liability-fair-housing-act-will-directly-impact-homeowners-associations/
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