Living in a community comes with many benefits, but often the Homeowners Association (HOA) or Condominium Owners Association (COA) causes more problems than they help solve.
At its best, a COA will ensure the building stays in good condition and everyone in the building has access to a high quality of life while living there, but at their worst, they’re manipulative and controlling.
While a little conflict from time to time is inevitable, what can you do when you feel like you’re under personal attack? Your home should be the place you can go to get away from life’s stressors, and not feel tense knowing the people next door are watching your every move. So, how do you resolve problems peacefully?
If things are getting heated, your first step should be to move away from the problem and look at it from all angles. When you understand the perspectives of all involved (including your own), you may be able to see a new way the problem can be resolved.
Go for a walk or head to the store and consider why your COA is acting the way they are. If you feel personally attacked, tell someone you can trust to be honest with you about the conflict and ask them what they think – they may be able to give you a new perspective or assure you that you’re right for being so upset.
If you find talking one-on-one (or one-to-many) with your COA stressful, and you feel like you don’t say what you need to, write all your feelings and thoughts down on paper first.
Write down what your motivations are (such as protecting the value of your property, feeling like your freedom is being compromised, or being treated unfairly), and if you can, offer some solutions. This will help you articulate your thoughts and desires as you move forward trying to solve the problem(s).
You’d be surprised how much things can change when you know your rights – often, your COA either won’t know them or will hope you don’t. Ask them for a copy of their bylaws if you don’t know where to find them – they are legally obligated to give them to you.
If you find that their behavior is in conflict with COA bylaws or state laws, you can use that to your advantage. It’s even possible to take the matter to court if they are violating a law, should you choose to. (Though the association’s fees will be covered by everyone who lives in the building (including you) so it’s a double-edged sword.) These laws are in place to stop tyrannical COAs, so spend some time doing a little reading. (Here’s a great resource on what you should know, and here’s a link to the Massachusetts Government recommended resources.)
You can appeal most decisions made by your Condo Association, so use the facts and perspectives you gained in the first 3 steps to make a rational and well-thought-out appeal. Make sure you do things by the book and get an attorney involved if you feel it necessary and can afford to do so.
Make sure you don’t withhold any fees in the process, as doing so can give them the legal ammunition to place a lien on your home which can go as far as foreclosure, in extreme circumstances. If you don’t agree with a charge, pay it if you can and negotiate to pay less for now if you can’t. We know it can be embarrassing to let your COA know you’re experiencing financial hardship, especially if you’re in conflict with them for other reasons, but most people are reasonable and will do what they can to help.
Ask for a face-to-face meeting, as you’ll find that most people are more reasonable and willing to listen to your thoughts. Again, take your notes with you (and a calm friend) and use them to guide the meeting.
If you accidentally violated a law, it can be frustrating if the first you find out about it is a letter through your door with a fine attached. You may wonder why someone couldn’t have just come to talk to you about it. Try to admit that you were in the wrong, but explain that you didn’t violate it knowingly and would have happily corrected things if someone spoke to you first. In some cases, they may drop the fine or provide a compromise.
Hopefully, after all this work and stress, you find that a resolution was easier to reach than you thought it would be, and you can move on with your life and know how to work with your COA in the future.
Sometimes, people just aren’t willing to reason with you, or things have gone too far. If you can’t reach a resolution or if your COA made a decision you just can’t live with, the best thing to do is move. While it can seem like a drastic decision, it’s just not healthy living in such close quarters with people who think so differently from you – and are likely to continue picking at the way you live your life.
Unresolved (or wrongly resolved) issues with your COA can make you feel under constant pressure or threat when you’re at home, which can be harmful to your mental and physical health. If you feel like you don’t want to be at home or have to sneak in and out of your condo, it’s time to sell up and move on.
The fastest way to sell your Massachusetts condo is to sell to a cash-buying company like us. With just a few details about your condo, we’ll give you our best cash offer. You’re under no obligation to accept our offer, but if you do, we’ll move as fast as possible and we can complete the sale in just a few weeks. With your condo sold, you can move on with your life and relax.