Bad neighbors are something that everyone living with shared walls fears—and not without cause; co-op or condo, small or large, chances are there's at least one chronically objectionable person who seems to do his or her level best to annoy, thwart, and agitate his or her neighbors, and otherwise disrupt the peaceful functioning of the community.
Thing is, the term 'objectionable' is a subjective one. In the context of a multifamily condo building or homeowners association, the behavior that can fall under that label ranges from constant noise and cooking smells to full-on hoarding, or even assaulting neighbors or board members in the lobby.
Obviously, punching or threatening someone is an actionable offense—as is drug dealing, or running an unlicensed business out of one’s home. Residents who are a perpetual pain-in-the-neck, who constantly bicker with their neighbors over every little thing, or whose behavior stems from unaddressed mental illness or other situations may not be illegal, but their behavior still negatively impacts the quality of life in their building.
However, there are ways both managers and boards can handle seemingly unmanageable situations in their building or community, helping those in need of help while avoiding exposure to liability themselves.
Enforcing the Rules
One of the most common issues in community associations is rule enforcement—but ironically, industry surveys show that fully 90 percent of residents in community associations recognize that such rules protect the value of their unit and provide for the quiet enjoyment of their property, says Andrew Fortin, senior vice president of communications at Associa, a nationwide association management company with two New York offices.