Dear Board members,
Recently I received a notice that my trash cans were not put away in a timely fashion. It is a legitimate complaint, but I would like to take issue with how this complaint was handled. The warning letter that reached me was clear, well-written and professional, but it was also an indication that the policy and procedures are cold, impersonal, anonymous, the inflexible. I am disappointed, and I would like to challenge the Board to come up with something better, something that truly reflects the qualities of the community in which we all want to live.
This was a first time event. I have lived here for 3 1/2 year and I believe I have been a good neighbor. I am quiet, I take care of my home and I’m familiar and friendly with neighbors on my street. I would like to see a complaint resolution policy that is more tolerant of isolated incidents like this one. Do we really have to warn people, in writing, for every minor infraction, at the first occurence? What if we were to try just filing the incident, in a convenient place where we’ll find it again if the same incident happens again, say, within a year? That way, if it is an isolated incident, that means the problem has resolved itself without the Board or management having to take any action.
The complaint was anonymous. It’s kind of creepy to think that one of my neighbors is watching over my house. I am pretty sure it’s someone I’ve never met, which is even more creepy. Someone in my community would rather take pictures of my trash cans and send it in to the manager, than knock on my door and ask me politely to move them. Someone would rather complain about me behind my back, than tell me what he thinks right to my face. Do we want a policy that caters to anonymous complainers and gives them power? Do we want our complaint process to be used, and possibly abused, by people who want to cause trouble for other people? Instead, we could simply choose to ask the person making the complaint whether they have tried to resolve the issue by talking to the person directly. If they didn’t, we could simply ask them, “why not?” There are situations where an anonymous complaint is appropriate, and maybe it’s a good idea to go ahead and process the complaint anyway if the answer is “no”, but why not ask the question? Why not ask the person filing the complaint why they feel secrecy is important? Simply ask them why they haven’t spoken to their neighbor directly, write down the response, and process the complaint as normal. This would not only set the expectation that we would prefer neighbors to talk it out politely among themselves, but it would also allow the managers and the Board to identify the “chronic complainers” who would otherwise use the Board and management to satisfy their own petty, self-righteous agenda.
The Board may not handle every complaint personally, but the Board is responsible for the policy and for telling the management how to handle it. Does the management company charge us more based on the number of warning letters they have had to type up and sign? How much money would we all save if those complaints could be handled without sending a letter? Maybe if the process can be made more tolerant of isolated incidents, and more resistant to abuse by chronic anonymous complainers, maybe the resulting process would be cheaper to manage as well! But, more important than cost, I’d like the Board to spend a few minutes thinking about the kind of community we want to live in, and the kind of neighbors we want to be, and then make a couple minor changes that will bring us closer to that.
Thanks for your time.
Three cheers for you. I wish I took the time to post more letters like this. I certainly compose enough of them.