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Coping with conflict

Conflict in a tenants organization may be creative or's some ideas on how to cope

Creative conflict
Groups are stronger when differences are debated and decided by consensus.

Chaotic conflict
You may know the problem Meetings are disrupted by loud and pointless arguments. Maybe the cops are called. Flyers attacking tenant leaders are posted in the building. There are threats or actual physical violence. Social agencies and HUD get calls from management, service coordinators and others about "tenant organization" problems. Rank and file tenants retreat from the conflict and confine themselves to their apartments-avoiding the community room and lobby.

Here's the question: Are these symptoms a result of competition among leaders (maybe fighting over who controls the treasury or who is "pro management")...or the result of a few unhappy people? If there is a group of tenants who are committed to working in a democratic and inclusive manner? IF YES, then maybe the problem is a small core of disgruntled tenants who unwilling to "play by the rules." Keep in mind that a tenants organization is a VOLUNTARY organization which establishes its own rules and procedures. Being a part of the organization means accepting the rules and respecting the procedures. Tenants who are unhappy with the rules and procedures may either decline to participate or use the rules and procedures to get some changes. If unhappy tenants are just disruptive, then there may be a violation of the tenants duty to respect the "peaceful enjoyment of the premises" Under the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law, a tenant has a duty to: (8) Conduct himself and require other persons on the emises with his consent to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb his neighbors' peaceful enjoyment of the premises; ORC 5321.05 (A) (8) If there is a breach of peaceful enjoyment, management may warn the misbehaving tenant of a potential breach of the duty of peaceful enjoyment offer to meet with the misbehaving tenants to establish clear guidelines for acceptable behavior offer to provide independent 3rd party mediation to the misbehaving tenants, or enforce that duty by terminating the rental agreement of a tenant who's behavior is disrupting the peaceful enjoyment. Note that if the misbehavior is related to a disability then the tenant may ask for a reasonable accommodation. Contrary to what some think-a reasonable accommodation DOES NOT MEAN that folks just have to accept bad behavior-it means that the person with the disability wlll take steps to prevent the bad behavior in the future in exchange for an opportunity to avoid termination. IF NO, there is no consensus among tenants to work democratically and inclusively, then tenants need to: Rebuild consensus (Reorganize) to address feelings of exclusion that are prompting tenants to "act out". Some steps here could include: revising the by laws to improve the democratic process or guarantee inclusion of all tenants in the process. Create a code of conduct for common areas (including meetings). Any of these efforts should be done slowly and by consensus-just having a handfull of people creating "new rules" will only make the situation worse. Very often finding a 3rd party professional (an "organizer) to manage the consensus building process can be helpful. Operate separate organization. There can be social space at the property for two groups with different leadership and different goals and activities. Neither group could lay claim to being "bona fide" but that might not reduce their effectiveness. See alternatives to organizing. Reform the treasury: if money seems to be at the root of the dispute, then maybe abolishing the "treasury" and operate on a "pay as you go" system. Another alternative is to increase transparency about who controls the money (monthly finance reports) and vote on every expenditure in an open meeting. Eliminate "the boss": if the problem is a fear of a "tenant boss" then maybe do away with elected officers and appoint a "convenor" or "moderator" whose job is to conduct the meetings. This position could rotate from month to month. Fight management interference: if the problem is management interference (promoting one faction over another), file a complaint with HUD, USDA, or OHFA.

 Coping with conflict
1.  Get agreement on the basic rules
rules of order

2.  Practice consensus building as a decision making technique

3.  Use neutral third parties when disputes need mediation.


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