The Neighborhood Bully Is Quiet, For Ten Months Anyway

In 2014, I agreed to join our HOA.  I took on the role of Secretary and agreed to do so for a two-year term.  This brought me front and center to dealing firsthand with a long standing member that I’ll call Howard.  He was one of the first owners in the neighborhood when it was built in the mid-1990s and has been on and off the Board for most of that time.  I’d dealt with him before when I made some inquiries to the Board.  I knew that he had an aggressive personality, but it was only when I joined the Board that I saw him for what he is.  A bully.


Our Board is made up of five positions, but it was very clear from the first time we got together that he felt he ruled the show.  He probably felt even more comfortable trying to take charge since three of the other four of us were brand new to the board at the time.

When One Board Member Has An Agenda

Howard immediately set out trying to get his personal agenda fulfilled, which was tied to a personal vendetta that he had with a neighbor a few doors down from him (and it’s worth noting that he has or has had at least half a dozen vendettas with other neighbors).  What did this neighbor do?  Well, they built a house that Howard didn’t like.  The house was built way after any other home in the neighborhood (a fire destroyed the previous home on the lot, and the owners did not rebuild) and Howard did not like that.

I’ll admit, the property that Howard had a problem was an issue with many neighbors.  It was right at the entrance to the neighborhood so everybody saw it.  The house took about two years to complete, and over a year to landscape.  So many neighbors did have an issue.  However, by the time I joined the Board, things had been complete, but Howard still did not like it.

He didn’t like the number of bushes and plantings they put around the perimeter of the house.  He didn’t like that they didn’t regularly edge the grass around the sidewalk.  There were a few other things that he didn’t like and he wanted the Board to address them.

When Issues May Not Be Actual Issues

The only problem?  Most everything that Howard wanted the Board to send letters and issue fines about were not actual violations.  Like many neighborhoods, we have bylaws that cover things like fences, swimming pools, sheds, and other things that are commonly addressed for suburban neighborhoods.  But, none of the things that Howard wanted us to go after these neighbors about was tied to an actual bylaw, nor was it tied to a city ordinance.

Would it have been nice to see a bit more landscaping?  Sure.  Would it be nice to have a clean cut sidewalk?  Yeah.  But the problem is that the Board has no right to address these types of things with neighbors when they aren’t actual rules.

When the rest of us took it upon ourselves to look at the rules and realize that they weren’t actually being violated, we sat down at a meeting and discussed it with Howard, who already had a letter crafted and was ready to go.

He didn’t care.

He wanted to send out the letter anyway.

The rest of us, wisely, voted No.

He sent e-mails about how horrible it was to work with the rest of us.  None of us responded.  He tried again.  We still said no.  Another e-mail about how awful we were.

This continued until his term expired.  His position only had a one year term so he decided to ‘retire’.

Uh-huh.  Sure.

From Retirement To A Bully Wannabe

Well, a year passed, he was quiet, but then elections were up for most of the positions.

I decided not to run again as did two other people, leaving three of spots open. Sensing blood, Howard jumped at the chance to join.  Two brand new residents filled the other spots.

I exchanged some e-mails with the person that took my position and he asked for any advice and I gave him a few tips about the position but also gave him a simple tip “Don’t get pushed around.” I didn’t name any names or give any detail, but just left it at that.

Well, even though I left the Board, I was asked and agreed to make updates to the subdivision website and to monitor the general e-mail box.  There was a few questions that had come up via the general e-mail that I sent to the individual members.  Everyone responded, and one of them told me that “Howard is no longer on the board.”

This was less than two months after the elections, so I knew something was up.

Standing Strong

I got to be pretty close to one of the other members, and so I sent him a note and asked what had happened. mb-201403mower Apparently, Howard wanted to send a letter to all residents about the conditions of yards and lawns and such.   He had drafted a letter and basically sent it out saying that he was going to send it out.  From the sounds of things, it was pretty strongly worded and would certainly have ruffled a lot of feathers.

Again, he probably hoped that the two members wouldn’t know any better and would agree, giving him the majority.  Fortunately it didn’t work out and they told him that the Board needed to meet to discuss.

First of all, the wording was very strong.  Too strong.  Second, the same thing as last year was in play, that the items were not violations.  Third, it’s just a bad time.  We’ve had virtually no rainfall since June, probably one quarter of what we normally get.  So, the fact of the matter is that most people have lawns that simply don’t look that great this year, including mine.  It would take probably $300-400 per month in water bills to keep the grass green.  Howard retired as a VP for a well established company, and it sounds like he had a good career, so this is not a problem, but for many others in the neighborhood, myself included, that extra expense just isn’t going to happen.

Still, he didn’t care, and when the rest of the Board voted him down, this time he didn’t wait until his term ended, he quit.

And I know all of others feel it’s good riddance.

Future Bully?  We’ll See

So, we’ll see what happens next spring when two of the positions open up again.  Maybe he’ll try again though it seems like, after so many years of offending neighbors, he might have run out of potential allies.

Ah, the joys of suburbia.

Readers, what is your version of the neighborhood bully and have you been able to effectively neutralize him/her?

14 thoughts on “The Neighborhood Bully Is Quiet, For Ten Months Anyway”

  1. Ugh, we definitely had one of those in a larger neighborhood, and like yours, he quits like a tantruming child when he doesn’t get his own way. That’s one small comfort. A friend’s neighborhood bully is stubborn and stays on the board, even if he can’t get his own way, to keep trying to wield his limited power to browbeat everyone in some way. It’s rather exhausting because everyone has to continually keep up a united front against his nonsense at all times.

  2. I’ve had my own struggles with people like this — except in my case, they wanted not only to ruin my reputation, but my career. (I refused to go along with what they wanted.)

    The best response I’ve found is to grit your teeth and respond as politely and professionally as you can, no matter how many insults about your skills and abilities, including what an idiot and/or evil person you are, etc etc. Then after you have done your best to resolve things and it hasn’t worked — send a message that you will no longer be responding to them. Which drives them totally nuts…but you eventually need to do, for your own sanity.

    It took nearly a year to resolve this situation, and I have plenty of scars, financially and emotionally, to show for it. I was lucky in that I had colleagues, friends and family who believed in my innocence — and were willing to speak up on my behalf, even though some of those people were punished for it. I am so grateful for my faith in a just God, who I knew had something for me to learn out of this whole mess, as well.
    Eventually I was vindicated. But to this day, I don’t quiiiiiite trust or rely on the people (colleagues, especially) who were too frightened to say anything…or assumed I’d done something wrong from the getgo.
    Which I hadn’t.

  3. Growing up I never had an HOA so when my fiance and I bought a home that was part of an HOA, we were shocked by the politics and passion that people have about it! We got a letter the first week we moved in when we had a small trailer (the flat type you attach to your car) in our driveway. Welcome to the neighborhood! Sorry you had to deal with the drama!

  4. We had a run in with our HOA shortly after we moved into our home over 14 years ago. We were some of the last people to build in the development (about 20 homes after us in a neighborhood of over 100). We moved in mid-July, a very hot and dry summer. We did not plant grass right away because it was just to dry and hot plus we were waiting for the homes on either side of us to be finished. In less than a month we got a threatening letter telling us we had to plant landscaping or we would be fined hundreds of dollars. We hastily had seed put down and some bushes put in. Three days later we had torrential rain that washed most of the seed away. Currently there is problem going on (not involving us) about people painting their shutters inappropriate colors. Personally I think it is ridiculous but have no intentions of getting involved with the HOA other than to pay my dues on time.

    • That’s unfortunate that it started off with that level of feeling threatened. That’s what the majority of us on the board and what the current board (outside of the person I’m writing about) tries to avoid. We’ve found that we get better response when we approach it tactfully and kindly. So, what your board should have probably done is had someone stop by or send a quick note welcoming you to the neighborhood and noting that “in case you weren’t aware, there’s a requirement to have landscaping down within so many days after moving in.” If you then noted that you definitely had plans to do so but were hoping to wait until after the hot, dry weather abated, we’d have been more than happy to work with you and establish a new date.

      Sounds like you had a few more Howards on your board at the time the letter went out.

  5. Oh man, I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with such a jerk. There really are some crazy people no matter where you live. There’s a crazy woman on my street who is so mean and incredibly spastic. I parked in front of her house once in a legal street parking spot and she came out and yelled at me for parking there. Later I saw her chase some lady down the street. She is a nut case. Some people are so awful.

    • That’s terrible. I will admit, though that street parking can be a sore spot. Our next door neighbor has two recent teenage drivers so they have a lot of cars. For a while they started parking their overflow cars in front of our house while leaving the entire street clear in front of theirs. I got really annoyed with this because I thought they should use the space in front of their house first. I parked my car in front of my house a couple of times, and I think they got the hint, because now they park in front of their own house.

      Still, for an occasional thing, there’s no reason she should have been bothered by it, and to come out and yell is ridiculous. As you can see, I much prefer the passive aggressive approach 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. We have no such bullies in our neighbourhood. Thank goodness! My lawn and lack of landscaping would send Howard into a fit! I’m glad that he has been effectively dealt with so far. I don’t like bullies – of any age.

  7. Howard is planning another wave of attacks. Most neighbourhoods in Barbados don’t have HOAs or any regulatory bodies who enforce property maintenance. But I had someone in my neighbourhood who wanted to be a bully. Mary (not real name) lives in the USA but has a home in Barbados. My neighbours get together from time to time to hang out, plan events etc. and Mary wanted to use us to get at Joyce (the lady who lives next door to her). Mary and Joyce had a falling out and then Mary tried to get us to intervene. We ignored her complaint and now whenever she comes home she harasses Joyce. So we just ignore her completely because she is a messy trouble maker.

    • Yeah, he very well could be planning something, though the problem is that since he’s lived here for 20 years or so, he’s now managed to anger a lot of people in the neighborhood as well as in other areas (e.g. city hall) so much that I don’t think that he has a lot of leverage.

  8. There’s probably a bully in every neighborhood. There are many ways to deal with them, but the best, I think, is to contact them directly and try to figure out a reasonable solution that will benefit everyone.

    If that doesn’t work — which it often may not with a bully — then ask police or others in authority to deal with any violations they’ve caused. Otherwise, they won’t get the message and will continue with their methods as a bully.

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