Ain't Misbehavin' Dealing with Problem Residents and Celebrities

Living in a co-op or condo building is a lot like living in a small town. When everyone abides by the rules, life flows along smoothly. If that stops, though, and one person disrupts the flow, those smooth waters turn rough and trouble can ensue, causing hardship for everyone involved.

That same kind of trouble can brew within a co-op or condo community. Beyond simple noise issues or late night parties, the problems caused by some residents can be far more serious, throwing building harmony into a tailspin, or even putting the physical or mental well being of other unit owners in jeopardy.

When these kinds of issues rear up, the board and management must step in to remedy the situation. How a “problem” resident is dealt with can make the difference between a happy building community and one in turmoil.

When is a Problem Really a Problem?

Dozens—sometimes hundreds—of different personalities rub shoulders with each other on a daily basis in co-op and condo buildings throughout the city. With that many variables, there are bound to be complaints or issues that arise from time to time. The real difficulty often lies in trying to sort out the serious problems and separate them from mere personality conflicts.

“It’s a question of degree,” says attorney John VanDerTuin of the firm Balber Pickard Battistoni Maldonado & VanDerTuin. A resident poses a potential problem if he or she “is acting in a way that presents a danger to the safety or well-being of other residents or seriously impairs other residents’ ability to enjoy their home.” Beyond that, since every co-op’s bylaws vary and the limits of what a community will tolerate is vastly different from building to building, “[The definition] of disruptive behavior is really what the majority of residents decide it to be,” VanDerTuin says.

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