Resolving Disputes in Condo and HOA Settings Dealing With the Difficult

Community living comes with its own dynamics. Close quarters and shared spaces can—and often does—lead to conflict: conflict between neighbors, the association board of directors, and members; and also between the board or members and management.  In any event, conflict can become a distraction, and it is often the intervention of management, legal representatives, and the Nevada Real Estate Department (NRED) who restore and maintain the peace and tranquility of communities.

The Source(s) of Conflicts

“Most conflict is neighbor-to-neighbor,” says Jeanne Tarantino, a senior vice president with Associa Sierra North, a management company with offices in Reno, Incline Village, and Sparks as well as South Lake Tahoe, California. “The most common problems have to do with pets or with parking.  In terms of parking, there are never enough spaces.  People often tend to fill their garages with stuff, and then park on the street.  Many associations don’t permit that.  It also negatively impacts guest parking, with residents parking in the guest spots.  In some cases, residents may leave a car ‘stored’ outside, and it becomes an eyesore.”

Tarantino observes that “Pets can be a problem as well, because there’s always a dog that barks more than what the neighbor feels is appropriate, and often members will let their dogs out without supervising them, resulting in the animal leaving a mess on someone else’s lawn.”  Though that’s contrary to the rules in most communities, it’s clearly hard to enforce.

Sheila D. Van Duyne, an attorney and owner of the Van Duyne Law Group in Reno, represents numerous community associations and has been active in the Nevada legal community since 2005. She explains that conflict is not uncommon in association boards.  “In Reno, we have a lot of smaller associations – more so than in southern Nevada.  Because of that, boards often have to fight for volunteers to serve.  They get overwhelmed.  If one board member does most of the work, there may be conflict.”  Van Duyne also says that often there will be one board member who is very negative, but not particularly helpful, which can also cause intra-board dysfunction.

In Nevada, all board meetings are open to the entire association membership.  Unhappy members may show up to vent, and conflict may result—in this case between board members and association residents.  Eva Segerblom, an attorney and partner at Reno-based Maddox, Segerblom and Canepa, LLP, says, “Owners who think they are being treated differently than other owners,” are likely to create disputes.  “Mostly, it’s in regard to enforcement of the governing documents.  It can be something very small, but if someone thinks they are being treated differently than other owners, that can quickly become a big source of conflict.  

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