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How To Work With Your Board

Recently came upon a great article in the Chicago Tribune by Pamela Dittmer McKuen on how to work with your association board. All credit goes to the author. Link is below.

If you want your community association to resolve your complaint, there are good ways and awful ways to go about it.

“I have seen repeated situations in which owners voice their concerns about an association by sending the board late night emails comprised mostly of all caps, charging unannounced into a manager’s office or taking to social media,” said association attorney Benjamin Rooney at Keay and Costello in Wheaton.

Even if an owner’s concerns are legitimate, such behaviors are usually counterproductive, he added.

Tempers are flaring everywhere these days, and community associations haven’t escaped the wrath. Advocating for greater civility is leadership expert, educator and author George Goens of Litchfield, Conn.

In his new book, “Civility Lost: The Media, Politics and Education” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), he explores how America has become disunited and how differences can be approached civilly to reach solutions.

“Civility does not restrain the expression of ideas: It simply has to do with the manner in which ideas are expressed,” said Goens, also a native Chicagoan and former school superintendent in Oconomowoc and Wauwatosa, Wis.

Goens and several Chicago-area association pros offered tips on how to complain effectively:

Recall the lifestyle. When you buy a condo or town home, you’re also buying into communal living, said association attorney David Hartwell at Keough & Moody in Chicago and Naperville.

“That means for all the benefits they get from living in an association, from time to time they are going to need to follow a set of prescribed rules,” he said. “And because they are living in close proximity to so many people, there has to be some compromise.”

Educate yourself. Your association’s governing documents list the board’s responsibilities and may address many of your questions and concerns. It’s even possible to find support for your argument and can direct the board to that provision.

“By referring to the governing documents, both sides can provide a framework for any discussion,” said association attorney William Chatt at Cervantes Chatt & Prince in Burr Ridge and Chicago.

Logic and reasoning are more powerful in framing positions than emotion and explosive language, Goens said.

Add honey, not vinegar. This age-old advice about how to catch flies applies to conflict resolution as well.

“Approach the board or management in an understanding and friendly tone and ultimately treat them the way you want to be treated,” said Keith Hales, president at Hales Property Management in Chicago.

If you’re feeling especially emotional, have someone else such as a spouse or designated proxy speak on your behalf to help keep the mood professional, he added.

“Part of making your case is respecting the person you might disagree with,” Goens said. “You don’t have to roll them over with an 18-wheeler.”

Choose the appropriate setting. If the matter applies only to you, such as a fine or demand letter, take it up with the board in private.

“Issues that involve all or substantially all unit owners are more acceptable in general session with all unit owners present,” Chatt said.

You also can submit a written complaint to the board. As of Jan. 1, all Illinois condominium and common interest communities must have a dispute resolution policy, Rooney said.

“While an owner may not receive the result they are looking for, submitting a complaint pursuant to the association’s internal dispute policy should ensure that they at least receive a response,” Rooney said.

Propose a solution. Be constructive; don’t just vent.

“If there is some due diligence to be done, volunteer to do the legwork or come armed with the information so the board has all the facts to make an educated decision,” Hales said.

The best solutions will positively impact the entire community, he added.

Volunteer. Your association needs you and your energy. “The best way to address disagreement with a board is to become a board member,” Chatt said.

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