Effective communication: 5 simple tips for preventing conflict in your community By Daniel Brannigan

Communication is an integral part of every successful community association’s operations. Effective communication is the cure to so many problems, it should come as no surprise that it’s also often the best way to prevent conflicts, disputes, and misunderstandings.

A comprehensive, proactive communications plan will contribute to productive meetings, satisfied homeowners, balanced budgets, informed consultants, supportive residents, cooperative tenants, eager buyers, low delinquencies—and more.

In addition to an association’s effective communication strategy, communities should be encouraging their residents to connect with one another. Remind residents to adopt these simple tips:

  • Say “hi” in the mailroom or when your neighbor is walking their dog.
  • Let your neighbors know if you’re starting construction work or planning a party.
  • Avoid gossiping.
  • Try to talk directly to your neighbors if there’s a problem.
  • Understand your neighbor’s perspective and be respectful, particularly since differences in age, ethnic background, and longevity in the community can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or problems.

These steps can be especially helpful when addressing nuisances in community associations.

A nuisance is generally defined as conduct that interferes with another owner or resident’s quiet enjoyment of their home or unit. That can include noise, odors, hoarding and other activities that create hazardous conditions, are offensive, or in violation of a law. Nuisances can affect the well-being and safety of homeowners and, in the worst cases, may ultimately diminish the appeal of a community association and affect property values.

Association boards need protocols and specific criteria in their governing documents to define and address neighbor-nuisance activity, according to Donna DiMaggio Berger, a shareholder with Becker in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., executive director of the Community Association Leadership Lobby, and a fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers. They also can impose fines, suspend a violator’s common area use rights, and pursue arbitration, mediation, or litigation, she adds.

However, some nuisance complaints, such as noise, often can be resolved by having neighbors talk out their differences without involving the association.

Steve Cousino, CMCA, AMS, a senior association manager at Caribou Property Management in Middleton, Wisc., says some homeowners are afraid of confrontation, which makes it more likely they will call the association or management instead of their neighbor when a problem pops up.

That’s when reminding homeowners of the communications tips above helps. Encouraging them to have common courtesy, following the rules, and keeping areas that others can see presentable come into play too.

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