We live in an age where the lack of civility has become a common occurrence in daily life, whether it be on the internet, on the highway, or even in line at the grocery store. While the causes of the decline in civility can be debated, the consequences are more apparent, even at the community level. As incidents of harassment and intimidation and those evidencing pervasive intolerance and general rudeness become commonplace, people become afraid to interact and have meaningful conversations, to volunteer for board and committee positions, and to simply get involved in their community. An association experiencing rampant incivility among its members, and even among its board members, however, may feel powerless to do anything about it.
In January, CAI (Community Associations Institute) introduced a new “Civility Pledge” for homeowners and condominium associations. The purpose of the Civility Pledge is “for association boards [to] commit to embracing principles that establish a framework for effective community conversations and in so doing, allow boards to gather input and make decisions which represent the best interests of their entire community.
The actual Civility Pledge is comprised of six commitments which include such items as expecting every individual in the community, whether residents, guests, board and committee members, the association manager, contractors, etc., “to be accountable for his or her own actions and words.” In another commitment, the board vows to “respect all points of view and [to] strive to provide a reasonable opportunity for all to express their view openly – without attacks and antagonization.” Each commitment is aimed at fostering a spirit of open and civil communication, and in turn, creating a flourishing community. The Pledge itself is clear, however, that the commitments are “guiding principles” only, that they are not legally enforceable, and that failure to abide by any of the commitments cannot be penalized.
While pledges of this type may for many serve as an adequate reminder that manners do matter, some associations may wish to go a step further and adopt enforceable rules or policies governing the conduct of board and committee members and/or the conduct of members at open board and committee meetings as well as members’ meetings. If your association is experiencing increasing instances of incivility, consider speaking with your association’s attorney to discuss the best way for your community to address these issues.