By Adriana Bosco and Matthew O’Malley
Community associations operate through Boards of Directors (the “Board”). Such Boards are tasked with certain duties and responsibilities that they must perform to ensure the success of the community. When dealing with bullies, carrying out these responsibilities and achieving their goals becomes exceptionally difficult. According to the American Psychological Association, bullies act in manners that include “aggressive behavior” and “intentionally and repeatedly caus[ing] another person injury or discomfort.” Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or subtle aggressions. Bullying, American Psychological Association, (March 2, 2023, 2:43 PM) www.apa.org/topics/bullying. In order to not let this behavior derail the productivity of the Board, the Board of Directors need to be aware of how best to deal with bullies.
Bullies can appear anywhere within an association. Oftentimes, bullies manifest because some owners believe that they should be able to do what they want with no regard for the rules that are in place. They may try to push the Board around in order to further advance individual interests. Bullies tend to be unreasonably critical and look for mistakes of the community association Board or other owners and complain about them. Bullies can also include individuals that are a part of the Board or community association leadership. Regardless of their position in the association, bullies pose a great risk to the productivity of an HOA board or community association. It is important that associations know that there are options available to handle these situations. The following tips may be helpful in addressing resident or board bullies:
First, you can try engaging in a face-to-face conversation with the bully. Although this may seem like it would be difficult to do, it is often the best option and can be a quick fix to the issues the bully is causing. Communicate with this individual about their behavior and how it adversely affects the Board and the membership. It is important to keep personal opinions aside when confronting a bully and to focus on the facts. Remind this individual that the community association Board or an association at large is working towards a common goal and how their behavior affects the common goal. Set the boundary that bullying behavior is unacceptable within your community and bring in legal counsel as needed to serve as an advocate and liaison.
Second, review the association’s governing documents and the applicable laws. These documents will outline the remedy available if the bully is a board member. If the association’s declaration or bylaws do not state the proper process, Illinois law provides that a board member may be removed for any reason. A special owners’ meeting called for the purpose of removing a board member is required. A certain percentage of the owners must vote for the removal of the board member. The percentage required is typically outlined in an association’s declarations and bylaws. However, if it is not in the declaration or bylaws, under Illinois law two-thirds of those owners voting at a meeting called for such purpose may remove the board member. If the governing documents or applicable laws allow it, remove the bully from their position.
If your association is having trouble with a resident or Board bullies, there are options available to properly and efficiently deal with the issue. We are here to help and can assist you in determining the best option for you. For more information about this article, contact Tressler LLP attorney Matthew O’Malley at email@example.com.
About the Authors
Adriana Bosco is the main author of this article and serves as a law clerk at Tressler LLP. She is a third-year law student at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law where she is a member of UIC Law Review and serves as a staff editor. In addition, she is an Associate Justice on the Moot Court Honors Council Executive Board. She looks forward to continuing her legal career at Tressler LLP, which includes working closely with the HOA department attorneys.
Matthew O’Malley edited this article and is an attorney in Tressler’s HOA Practice Group and a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee. He has nearly a decade of experience and serves as general counsel to various HOA/condo associations, and advises his Boards and property managers on risk assessment, daily issues, and litigation strategies. Matt has a track record of success in both bench and jury trials. He focuses on the client’s resolution goals, whether that is achieved through trial, settlement conference, mediation or arbitration. Matt serves his clients in a variety of complex litigated and non-litigated matters, including actions for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, indemnity and contribution, professional malpractice, community association law, personal injury, general corporate, employment discrimination and civil rights violations.