Dealing With the Disruptive How to Handle Problem Residents

Living in a condo means putting up with certain occasional inconveniences: that curious odor emanating from the neighbor’s unit, the downstairs saxophone player who practices every Tuesday afternoon, or that one resident that insists at every meeting that the board is spending too much money (even if they are way under budget).

But sometimes life’s minor irritations get way out of hand: what if the neighbor floods the board’s inbox with creepy, threatening emails, or the saxophone player holds nightly concerts way past curfew? This more extreme behavior can make life difficult for residents, property managers and board members alike—and it's not okay.

When the Going Gets Tough

Occasional disruptions are just part of the price of communal living but there might be situations in which residents cross the line, often, more than once. A difficult resident may continue to break the rules, even after they have been in trouble for them. “While there is no set definition as to what a disruptive resident is, it often involves the type of behavior that affects multiple people or persists over a long period of time,” says attorney Stewart Wurtzel of the law firm of Tane Waterman & Wurtzel, P.C. in Manhattan.

“Sometimes it may only be a matter of degree but certainly, any behavior that is a danger to neighbors or staff cannot be tolerated. Physical threats or assaults, banging on doors, causing intentional flooding are all the types of conduct that require stern action by the board and management. These circumstances are very different from the gadfly who speaks his mind endlessly at meetings in an obnoxious or disruptive manner or who accuses the board of improprieties or illegal actions.”

Residents that are truly disruptive may be intentionally creating problems or provoking other residents or board members. “A difficult owner or shareholder is someone, who is unaware they are creating a disturbance and quickly resolves the issue upon being notified of its existence. A shareholder who is out of control, though, refuses to ameliorate his or her behavior despite the disturbances,” explains Ken Nilson, director of operations at Argo Real Estate in Manhattan.

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