The vast majority of co-op and condo residents are regular folks who wouldn’t dream of disrupting life in their building by being verbally abusive to the neighbors, blowing up board members’ phones and email inboxes with endless complaints and threats, or filing lawsuits at the drop of a hat for every slight, whether real or perceived. Unfortunately, there are some shareholders and owners who seem to thrive on drama and dissent and they can make life miserable for neighbors, board members, and managers alike.
We’ve all had a neighbor we’re not crazy about—or someone in our building or association who has never had a nice word to say about anyone or anything. But are those people truly problematic, or just an annoyance? “Someone becomes a difficult resident when there is a threat to the safety, well-being and health of another resident, or if there is physical damage to the building,” says attorney Steve Troup, a partner with the law firm of Tarter Krinsky & Drogin, which has offices in New York and New Jersey.
For several months, Dan Wollman, chief executive officer of the management firm Gumley Haft in Manhattan, had been dealing with one particular resident who had repeatedly claimed that someone is climbing on her terrace and vandalizing her property. Management took valuable time to check on her claims, but according to Wollman, had not found any proof of her allegations.
“The gate to her terrace is locked, and we have cameras on the fire stairs and on the doors that access the roof, so we would know if anyone got up there,” says Wollman. “Handling a difficult resident is like going to therapy. You have to be understanding and validate their feelings and let them know you are going to try and get to the bottom of it.”
John Van Der Tuin, an attorney with the Manhattan-based law firm of Balber Pickard Maldonado & Van Der Tuin, PC, says that the most common difficult resident issue he hears about is noise—electronics, dogs, playing children, and domestic disputes. “Second is either smoking, or personal insults or verbal abuse of neighbors or building staff,” he says.