Look for a referee to resolve condo tenant disputes

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Why won’t that stupid dog stop barking already?! Seriously, trumpet practice? Right now?

We all have horror stories of life in an apartment and know firsthand the realities of sharing a wall with strangers with their own priorities, wake-up times and concepts of common courtesy.

Apartment landlords experience many of the same frustrations, but they at least retain some sense of control over these annoyances. After all, if a tenant refuses to limit their karaoke parties to normal waking hours, for example, you can always throw them out and find a new renter.

Condo boards don’t have the same options. The disputes between neighbors are always there, of course, but they can leave you feeling like your hands are tied. In the end, you’re often stuck in the middle trying to make peace. Does this comment from Justin Stowe ring true for you?

“Nobody likes living next to people they don’t get along with, but since the tenants generally sell their condo to move away, it’s more of a hassle than moving out of a rented apartment. This extra hassle means people tend to stay longer, so any disagreements not dealt will only cause bigger problems later.”

For a better solution, many condo boards are turning to condo management firms to step into that mediator role for tenant disputes—so the board can get back to other business.

Purpose of a condo management partner

First, what do condo management firms actually do? Why would you need the outside help? A solid firm brings deep strategic, financial and operational expertise to help you as a board mitigate your risk and enhance your ownership value. They do this by helping out in several key areas:

  • They make sure the condo owners are adhering to association rules and regulations.
  • They help you maintain the common areas and handle any maintenance or improvements.
  • They assist owners during move-in and move-out times—and ensure owners stick to the established procedures.
  • They supervise any outside contractors working on-site when repairs or maintenance is needed.
  • They perform regular property inspections to let you know when a potential issue arises.

By taking this interrelated data and distilling it down into actionable decisions for your board, condo management firms balance value preservation with delivering best-in-class amenities and service—basically, helping you maintain (and enhance) the lifestyle of your property.

Reduce your risk in condo quarrels

But back to those tenant disputes. Condo management firms can also help with those. After all, what may start as a simple annoyance or tiff between two condo owners can fester into a big issue over time—which could mean a physical altercation or the board being compelled to obtain a court order that forces the sale of the offending owner’s unit. It’s always best to take care of these issues early if possible.

But there’s risk to the board playing too big of a role in these disputes—even if the condo board is following the established rules to the letter. You may still find yourself embroiled in timely and costly legal action. This is a prime reason to involve an outside management firm, agrees John Kadim, a Massachusetts-based portfolio manager:

“Intervening in resident conflict is absolutely an area wherein a board would take on additional risk just by involving itself … If the issue is over something such as one resident parking too close to another’s space, simply by being the third party to reiterate the rules and regulations … would be safer, as there are no sides being taken. If the residents are looking for action, things become tricky. Even if the association had the ability to reassign one resident to separate the conflicting parties, this could spark a new conflict down the road.”

While it’s important for the board to always stay as unbiased as it can, it’s better still to step out of these kinds of issues. Not only will you reduce your risk, you prevent any of your actions from being misconstrued as taking sides.

Look for a condo management firm that brings an experienced, multi-disciplinary team that represents various management, finance, accounting, operations, sales, legal and strategic functions. Not only will you be able to optimize the ownership value of your property, you’ll be prepared when that yipping dog barks one too many times. (And you know he will.)

Shelli Higerd is the senior property manager at Copaken Brooks, a full-service commercial real estate firm headquartered in Kansas City and serving the Midwest. The company’s full suite of services includes: condo management, property management, construction management, leasing (office, medical, retail and industrial), investment acquisition and sales, tenant representation and HQ relocations, asset management, and development. Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @CopakenBrooks.

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