As most community managers know from experience, it’s not unusual for a homeowner or resident to lie about the actions of the board of directors or manager. People lie for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes they’re trying to save face, stir up trouble, or maybe they actually believe their own lies. When a homeowner tells a whopper, it’s usually after they have been cited for a violation or “forgotten” to pay their assessment for 6 months in a row. A little lie to make themselves look like an innocent victim is really the only logical solution…right?
How to React
It’s hard not to take it personally when a homeowner tells a lie that directly attacks your good name. After all, lies like this can affect your reputation and even your livelihood. In these cases, your reaction to the lie can often have a more profound effect on your reputation than the initial lie. I admit I’ve been tempted to call out lying homeowners on social media or post their picture in the office with a huge LIAR stamp across the front. But while retribution might feel good at the moment, it almost always makes the situation worse — and may even validate the lies.
Unfortunately, there may not be much you can do to stop a homeowner from lying, but there are a few things you can do to combat the lies, or perhaps resolve a situation before a resident finds it necessary to lie.
- Be Professional: Even when talking with those who share your view of the situation, it’s important to stick to the facts and be respectful. It’s never appropriate to share personal details of a homeowner interaction, even if it is to save your good name.
- Be helpful: Remember that as a community manager you serve all of the owners, not just the board. If the owners see you as a helpful manager — rather than a cold enforcer just waiting for them to step out of line — they’re less likely to make up tall tales about your “short temper.” An enforcer is easy to make into a villain, and it’s easier to lie about a villain than an ally. Focus on being a helpful manager, and you’re likely to face fewer lies.
- Communicate Well: Often homeowners will say, “I never got a notice” or, “they didn’t even give me a warning.” In reality, they probably just ignored the notices. For your part, remember that building and maintaining a reputation for good communication will make those kinds of lies difficult for other homeowners to believe. If homeowners know your track record of great communication, the lies will be taken with a grain of salt.
- Keep Good Records: Recently at an annual meeting, an owner accused the manager and board of discriminating against him. He claimed he had been singled out for a particular violation while others had not. Combating his claim was made simple by running a report showing that many homeowners had been cited for the same violation. The habit of keeping good records will help negate those pesky, “your word against mine” scenarios.
- Be a problem solver: In some cases, the homeowners don’t realize they are spreading false information. For example, the homeowner may claim that they were sent to collections without any notices. If they have failed to update their email or mailing address, they may think this accusation is true. After all, to be fair, they really didn’t get the notices. Perhaps in this situation, a simple phone call could have resolved the issue and made life easier for both of you. Sure, we can only do so much. But if one phone call can mean the difference between keeping the peace and dealing with a disgruntled, angry homeowner spewing lies all over the community…a phone call seems a lot less painful.
Unfortunately, upset homeowners and false claims are just part of the job. But remember you have a good reputation, and that reputation is best maintained by treating people with respect, honesty, fairness, and professionalism. Do this, and most people will judge you by your track record and their own interaction with you — rather than the word of someone whose lies just don’t seem to add up.
- Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! Handling Misinformation in Your HOA - March 13, 2019
- Setting the Ground Rules for Neighbor Disputes - June 27, 2018
- HOA Board Responsibilities – It’s Not as Difficult as You’re Making It. - April 23, 2018
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