Ten things to know about resident associations


By Marianne Delorey

Resident associations, or tenant councils, often plan activities and represent the group to housing managers. Here is what I have learned about these tenant groups:

1. They should be democratic. If they claim to represent the interests of the larger group, they should operate democratically. Very often, people won’t agree with the group or will try to push their personal issues forward. The best response to these people is to encourage them to attend meetings, learn about the issues and vote.

M.Delorey_headshot2. Purpose should be discussed. When forming (and occasionally thereafter), the group should make sure to affirm their mission. Is the primary purpose of the group to talk to management? Coordinate activities? Provide support to each other? Being clear on this point will make serving as a councilor much more enjoyable.

3. Politics are challenging. Nobody likes to risk losing a neighborly relationship or feel uncomfortable in his or her home. Having one friend who stays out of politics could be a refuge for you. Leadership can be isolating.

4. Management should listen. If you are trying to bring concerns to management and they do not listen, remind them that you represent their customers. If they doubt that you are speaking for the group, try bringing them a petition asking for a meeting to voice your concerns.

5. HUD imposes penalties. At least for those residents in HUD subsidized housing, there are penalties to landlords/owners who infringe upon the rights of resident groups to gather and discuss their housing.

6. Management can disagree. Sometimes, despite a well thought out request from residents, management doesn’t give them what they ask for. Each landlord/owner gets to decide (within the confines of the law) how they will conduct business. If you don’t like the policies of one facility, consider going somewhere more suited to your needs.

7. Formality is not necessary. Often, there is a bully in the resident group who complains about how business in the association is conducted. They often refer to Robert’s Rules of Order, bylaws and quorums to make other people shrink away from their opposition. If your group has rules, follow them, but don’t assume you have to follow rules that you have not adopted.

8. Pat yourself on the back. Representing others is thankless. Don’t forget to publicly call attention to the good things you did. Don’t assume that others will do that for you.

9. Enlist help. There is no reason for one person to saddle all the responsibility. If someone asks for Bingo on Tuesday nights, ask if that person will call every other week, then ask for a volunteer to call the opposite week. If there are no volunteers and your time is maxed out, don’t offer to take on more work.

10. It doesn’t always work out. Groups form and they dissolve. There is no shame in letting a dysfunctional group fall apart. When they are ready for an association again, a new group will form in its place. Sometimes, there is a mismatch between the group and the leaders. Nothing is more awkward than trying to lead and realizing that nobody is following. This situation may not necessarily reflect the skills of the leaders; sometimes it is simply a mismatch. Just because you aren’t the right person for this group doesn’t mean you aren’t a strong leader under different circumstances.

Resident associations can add value to a community. They can also be filled with personality conflicts. In order for a group to succeed, all that is required is a little patience, good listening skills and an interest in making their homes better.

Marianne Delorey, Ph.D., is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or mdelorey@colonyretirement.com and www.colonyretirementhomes.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.