Set Zero Tolerance Policy for Member Harassment
The past year has created divisiveness in political conversations and discussions about recent exposes regarding sexual harassment. Living in close proximity in a condo building or sharing amenities year after year in more spread out planned communities can throw together members with different points of view about various topics—some of them controversial like those. But some states had reported a rise in hostility and aggressive behavior among community association members even before national events brought up these issues to argue over.
Part of your job is to make sure that the community is safe and that all members can live there and enjoy their units or homes peacefully. But when members don’t get along, sooner or later, at least one member is going to expect you to get involved. To keep disputes between members from escalating into costly lawsuits or bad publicity, community association managers should know how to handle heated arguments between neighbors, or worse, an ongoing battle that involves harassing behavior, intimidation, or, in the worst case, violence—which has, sadly, not been uncommon.
The best way to prevent reports of or complaints about harassment or intimidation is to ban this behavior in your governing documents. This should include “abusive, harassing, and threatening behavior.” Most likely, your declaration gives each community member the right to “quiet enjoyment” of her unit—that is, the right to live in and enjoy her unit without being disturbed, harassed, or threatened by the manager, an employee, or other members or residents.
Most declarations ban members and other residents from making excessive noise or engaging in any other behavior that disrupts the quiet enjoyment of others. But it helps to have a “zero tolerance” clause that specifically deals with abusive behavior to fall back on. Your clause should make it clear that no one may engage in any harassing or abusive behavior or any intimidation or aggression—either verbal or physical—directed at any member or other resident.
This Model Clause sets out such a policy. Work with your attorney to tailor it for your particular community’s declaration and/or association bylaws.
Members and other Residents shall not engage in any abusive or harassing behavior, either verbal or physical, or any form of intimidation or aggression directed at other members, residents, guests, occupants, invitees, or directed at management, its agents, its employees, or vendors.
For more tips on how you can handle an abuse complaint, see “Take Four Steps to Put End to Member-on-Member Harassment,” available to subscribers here.