Have your association’s contractors ever complained to the board about residents interfering with their ability to perform their work? Have you heard stories of residents scolding your snow removal provider for not doing their job properly this last winter? With spring clean-up season right around the corner and large landscaping projects, as well as routine lawn mowing, soon taking place across the region, now is the time to develop strategies to protect your contractors.
When residents harass, interfere with, or attempt to direct the association’s contractors how to perform, the association is harmed in multiple ways. First, residents requesting work that is not part of the contract could result in contractors asking for the association to pay extra on their invoice for the work that was not part of the contract. Second, the contractor may take the resident’s instruction and not perform services that the association has already paid for as part of the contract. Third, a contractor who feels harassed may walk-off the job site, requiring the association to hire another, possibly more expensive contractor. Finally, contractors are likely to tell other contractors about their experience at the association, resulting in a poor reputation with the trades. When the association develops a poor reputation, the association will struggle to find contractors willing to bid on projects, meaning those who do submit bids, may increase their bid price knowing that no competition exists.
One way to help mitigate these risks is to include an “association representative” in each contract, identifying the individual board member, or manager who is responsible for communicating with the contractor and capable of providing approval for additional work. The contract should require that the contractor immediately inform the association’s representative of any interference it encounters. In addition, the association should adopt a rule that prohibits residents who are not on the board from harassing, distracting, directing, or interfering with the association’s contractors. The rule can explain that all concerns about contractor performance must be presented to the board so the board can follow-up to ensure the contract specifications are met. After the board adopts this rule and provides owners notice of the new rule, the board will be able to take enforcement action against owners in violation.
In summary, having specific language in your contract with your service providers along with rules prohibiting contractor interference can help boards protect their association’s pocketbook and reputation with the trades.