Q&A: Right to Anonymity

Q When a management agent of a condominium in New York City receives a complaint from a unit owner about another unit owner, is he or she allowed to tell the other party the name of the complainant. Is this ethical and is there a real estate rule about how managing agents are suppose to respond that is standard procedure?

—Ethical Management

A “There are no legal or ethical guidelines governing a property manager’s handling of a complaint by one building resident against another building resident,” says attorney Bruce A. Cholst, a partner of the Manhattan-based law firm of RosenLivingston & Cholst, LLP. “Revelation or concealment of the complaining party’s identity to the offending party is therefore a matter within the property manager’s discretion.

“Since each dispute between neighbors carries its own unique set of circumstances, issues and personalities, each requires its own particular strategy for resolution. As such, there is no standard operating procedure or ‘rule of thumb’ for determining whether the identity of a complaining party should be disclosed to the offending neighbor. There are, however, a few general guidelines which might shed some light on this issue.

“To the extent that the offending neighbor is perceived to be a reasonable person and the prospect of an amicable resolution of the dispute otherwise appears plausible, an attempt at mediation should be made. Obviously, such an effort would require revelation of the complaining party’s identity.

“On the other hand, if the offending neighbor is perceived to be a vindictive person who would be likely to take reprisals against the complaining party, or the circumstances of the dispute otherwise suggest that the prospect for amicable resolution is remote, revelation of the complaining party’s identity might be counter-productive.

“Finally, while there is no legal or ethical prohibition against revealing the complaining party’s identity, it seems to me that doing so without his or her prior consent would be impolitic. However, in discussing this issue with the complainant, the property manager should make sure that he or she realizes that without his/her cooperation (i.e. testimony),which would ultimately entail revelation of his/her identity, the association will not be able to pursue the matter in court in the event the matter cannot be amicably resolved.”

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