Aside from complying with the documents, each owner within associations should always strive to be a good neighbor. The “good old times” of borrowing sugar from your next door neighbor need not cease merely because you live in an association.
If you already live within an association there is no doubt that you have had some type of experience with your association. You may pay your assessments on time, go to every meeting and volunteer your time to assist the board. Alternatively, you may “fly under the radar” and merely allow the board to perform their job without your assistance. The beauty of living within an association is that the options are there if you choose to seek them out.
Perhaps the largest misconception of association living is that the association serves to enforce an owner’s desires. Many homeowners believe that they no longer have to speak to their neighbors but should instead complain about their neighbors and expect the association to take action. It is unfortunate that some owners use the association and its regulations to harass their neighbors. This shouldn’t be done!
Many huge disputes within associations begin over small annoyances with neighbors. Perhaps your neighbor leaves his or her trash cans out or parks in front of your residence. You may be initially annoyed but as time goes on each time you see the trash cans or parked car will raise your ire to no end.
Rather than speaking with your neighbor about the issues, you instead turn to the regulations and find that the rules require owners to bring in trash cans by 6 p.m. on trash day and that owners may not store their vehicles on the association’s roads. Armed with this information, you submit a demand to the association to take enforcement action against your neighbor.
If the association takes any action, this trivial issue may escalate to expensive, time consuming and destructive litigation. There is nothing in any association’s governing documents which prohibits you from speaking with your neighbor personally about issues which concern you!
This issue is so important that it bears repeating – there is nothing in any association governing document that prohibits you from speaking with your neighbors!
Rather than complaining about them, get to know your neighbors. If you get to know your neighbors early on, any potential annoyances you have will be easy to discuss and resolve. While easy to say, this is not always easy to accomplish. Some owners are merely hermits. They go to work, come home and rarely spend time outside their home in the community. Developing a relationship with this type of neighbor will be difficult.
You must also understand that you are a neighbor as well. There may be things that you do that annoy your neighbors. While you do not have to live like an angel, you should strive to act like a good neighbor.
Start by giving your neighbor the benefit of the doubt. This is what you would expect your neighbor to do for you, right? Perhaps your neighbor is parking in the street because their parent just passed and their garage is filled with heirlooms that the neighbor finds too difficult emotionally to review right now? There may be a good reason and the reason may be temporary. Without asking, however, you’ll never know.
Within an association, being a good neighbor often begins by complying with the association’s governing documents. Homeowners who see other owners violating the documents are often upset that they are complying while the other owner is not. This creates tension in the community and can result in increased annoyances and possibly even litigation.
The best way to combat this type of dissension is to get to know your neighbors and to act like a good neighbor yourself. It really isn’t that hard. Give it a try today – honk and wave hello to your neighbors on your way home!