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How should you handle complaints and concerns from residents?

Conflict is not easy. It is something most people want to avoid at all costs. Of course, as a homeowner/condominium association board member or property manager, you know that isn't realistic.

Conflict is unavoidable. You will get complaints about everything ranging from the neighbor who is too loud after dark to the leaky roof. How you deal with the problem can make a world of difference - and help eliminate the frustration of confrontation.

Here are 5 tips to deal with complaints, disputes or difficult residents:

  1. Get it in writing: There are many benefits to requiring your residents to submit complaints and concerns in writing. One of the big ones is that you will have a formal record on which you can rely should the situation escalate or require legal action. If the homeowner has related documents, like a quote for repair, get copies. Take the viewpoint that the problem could be larger than you think - many major problems, like construction defects, start as single complaints.
  2. Give hesitant residents an alternative: Florida is a state that makes most records public. If you have a resident who is tentative about filing a complaint with their name on it. You can do the initial intake over the phone or in person to help accommodate their privacy concerns. Of course, should the matter require further action, they may not be able to retain that privacy. But it can help with minor situations.
  3. Funnel complaints through property management: The property management office, when one is available, is usually the best place to have residents send complaints. It can save the board's time by allowing the management company to filter complaints, identify repeat complaints and even verify the concerns.
  4. Ask questions: Do not take a concern as is. Make sure you follow up with questions of your own. You need to get as much information as possible and it can help diffuse tough situations because you can make sure you understand the complaint, the request for relief and help the resident feel that you've heard and taken the time to understand their concerns.
  5. Be direct and honest about the situation: Reality is that not all complaints are valid or "major." When dealing with residents, chances are that you will get a few complaints that are based on personal opinion, personal dissatisfaction or ones that are exaggerated. Sometimes, people need to know that this is something you can't change or can't handle for them.

These are only a few of the many helpful tips to a successful relationship with residents. What are some of things your association has done to help deal with tough situations?

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