HOA Ignores Condo Owner

What can you do when the homeowner association (HOA) ignores mentally unstable and violent owner?

Q: I hear Ilyce on the radio often and figured maybe the guru of all things having to do with money and real estate might help me. I am a condo owner in Illinois and have lived in my place for over 20 years.  I had a chance encounter in my condo building with a mentally unstable owner on several occasions. One time the neighbor hit me on the shoulder and verbally abused me. I reported the incident to our local police department and they spoke to him.

I have pleaded with the board of our homeowners association (HOA) to address this matter as it affects other owners too. The HOA ignores this condo owner. This person is impacting everyone’s peace and joy here. The HOA board is useless and they are not doing their fiduciary duty in enforcing the rules with this person. Aside from moving, what can I do?

HOA Board Member Causing Trouble

A: Thank you for being a loyal listener to Ilyce on the radio. Your letter reminded us of a series of columns we wrote many years ago about rotten neighbors. Sometimes you have rotten neighbors that don’t care how much noise they make. Others couldn’t care less about the impact that smoke has on neighbors in highrise buildings. Still others fuss over landscaping issues, flower beds, dogs, cats, and even kids.

You’re not alone in your frustration. Many owners deal with problem neighbors. And HOAs ignore condo owners who look for help. But dealing with an inconsiderate or thoughtless neighbor is a far cry from one who is mentally unstable or even dangerous. Steering clear of these folks is one option. But it isn’t always easy.

Moving isn’t the answer, unless you’re moving to a single family home with a whole lot of acreage around you. In another condo building, you might get new neighbors who are even worse. Sam received a call recently from a homeowner who is having issues with a verbally abusive neighbor in a single family development.

Common Homeowner Association Problems

So what can you do? Start by steering clear. Next, document whatever happens in the building and continue to report these matters to the HOA. Some HOAs have gone down a path that led to kicking the problematic homeowners out of the building. HOAs have rules and they should be enforcing these rules.

What happens if buildings don’t have rules about owner or occupant violence in place? The HOA board should immediately move to put rules in place. Once the association passes these rules, they should pass an enforcement mechanism to handle issues that come up. This includes building a schedule of fines for any violations of the rules. These fines can start small but quickly become meaningfully expensive for each further violation of the rules.

We wonder why the board isn’t addressing the neighbor causing the problems. Can you meet privately with some members of the board to calmly discuss the issue? You might find out something else is going on behind the scenes.

HOA Rules Contain Alarming Language

It’s possible this person hasn’t broken any of the existing rules. Hitting you clearly crosses the line – unless it was done inadvertently. Although you reported this to the police, they didn’t bring charges. Why? Sometimes people are disagreeable but their behavior doesn’t cross the line into rule-breaking or illegal actions.

If the person causing the problem in your condo is suffering from mental illness, the HOA will want to document whatever rules get broken, such as loitering, causing damage to property, harassing building residents or employees, etc. The HOA could install cameras in certain parts of the common areas for security purposes.

HOA Rules Contain Alarming Language

Your HOA can hire an attorney to help determine what rules to pass and how to enforce those rules. They can also help determine if any other action can or should be taken. You, too, can talk to an attorney. But we suspect most attorneys won’t want to take this on. There’s nothing to sue over and you’d have to pay on an hourly basis to get anything done.

If a resident hits or threatens someone with bodily harm, breaks or damages property, or exhibits behavior that is harmful or threatening to children, you should report that behavior to local law enforcement. Keep in mind that your local police officers don’t need to hear your complaints about what goes on in your building. They aren’t there to enforce building rules. They’re only interested in incidents where a resident has broken a state or local law.

Read more about Homeowner Associations (HOA)


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