Liz Borger
Q.MED, MBA

Resolving Condo Conflicts: The Benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution

Sometimes conflicts escalate and people get hurt – emotionally, financially, and even physically.

Think back to a time you were in a conflict with a co-worker in the workplace. How did you feel? Were you uncomfortable? Did you ignore the person? Did you try to sit down with the person and sort out the problem? Now imagine taking that problem home and it lives next door to you. What do you do?

Generally, when conflict arises our natural instinct is fight, flight, or freeze. Many individuals don’t have the skills to attack the problem.

Generally, when conflict arises our natural instinct is fight, flight, or freeze. Many individuals don’t have the skills to attack the problem.

Perhaps this person will understand your perspective. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. Egos tend to get in the way of constructive conflict resolution.

Mediation is looked at as one of the best forms of dispute resolution in condominiums because common interests can be uncovered, and relationships preserved. Given the close proximity of the parties to one another, preserving relationships is of paramount importance.

Mediation has several benefits as a dispute resolution process, including:

  1. Confidentiality: Mediation is confidential and private. Anything discussed in the mediation session remains within the confines of the mediation room, and the parties agree not to share the information with anyone outside the process.
  2. Cost-effective: Mediation is typically less expensive than traditional litigation because it does not involve costly court proceedings, discovery, and other legal expenses.
  3. Control over the outcome: In mediation, the parties have control over the outcome of the dispute. They are free to come up with creative solutions that are mutually beneficial, rather than relying on a judge or arbitrator to make a decision.
  4. Flexibility: Mediation is a flexible process that can be customized to the parties’ needs. The mediator can adapt the process to fit the unique circumstances of the dispute, and the parties can schedule the mediation sessions at a time that works for them.
  5. Faster resolution: Mediation can often resolve disputes more quickly than traditional litigation. It typically takes less time to schedule and conduct mediation sessions than to go through the court system.
  6. Preservation of relationships: Mediation is a collaborative process that emphasizes communication and understanding. It can help preserve relationships between the parties, which can be especially important in family or business disputes.
  7. Less formal: Mediation is typically less formal than traditional litigation. The parties can speak in a more relaxed and informal manner, which can make it easier to reach a resolution.
  8. Non-adversarial: Mediation is a non-adversarial process. Unlike traditional litigation, the parties work together to reach a resolution that is acceptable to everyone involved.
  9. Higher satisfaction rates: Parties who participate in mediation often report higher levels of satisfaction with the outcome than those who go through traditional litigation.

Overall, mediation offers a wide range of benefits that can make it an effective way to resolve disputes in a variety of settings.

Condominium disputes are more complicated than they appear to be on the surface. Often individuals assume that condo disputes only involve two parties. One needs to consider that the board of directors might have certain rights and obligations if concerns are expressed to them. There may be laws that apply to the situation or specific restrictions/regulations within the community. From there it can get much more complicated than that.

In some cases, what appears to be the cause of the problem may not be the crux of the conflict. It takes a skilled mediator to help uncover the underlying conflict. For example, I mediated a conflict between two condo owners. One condo owner was complaining that the other condo owner was too noisy in their day-to-day activities, a common complaint. We went through all their daily activities and came up with some remedies but the one condo owner was still unhappy. I decided to take a different line of questioning. I asked, “How did you feel about the condo when you first moved in?” She described her fond memories. Then her mother nudged her and said, “Tell them about the $20,000”. I asked about the $20,000 cash call. It was to update their balconies and exterior of the complex. The condo complex had been completely covered in tarps for 1.5 years. No daylight had entered her condo for 1.5 years. We came to the determination, along with the condo owner, that she was becoming increasingly sensitive to small noises due to the lack of daylight.

What appears to be the cause of the problem may not be the crux of the conflict. It takes a skilled mediator to help uncover the underlying conflict.

Sometimes the source of conflict differs from what we perceive it to be.

Mediation, conducted by a skilled mediator, can be an effective tool in disputes that would otherwise fester and grow. The benefits of skilled mediation are not restricted to differences in perception, different personalities, and how we’re relating to others and to our environments but extend to disputes between owners and boards, boards and developers, and just about any combination of conflicted parties. Mediation helps resolve condo disputes that might otherwise become prolonged, bitter and expensive and accomplishes this by way of unbiased, compassionate intervention.

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