HOA Disputes Mediation
Living closely with other people has a lot of benefits. It makes us feel more secure and less isolated. In urban areas, a good neighbor can make a difference between life and death in dangerous situations.
But, as the saying goes, good fences make good neighbors.
There are challenges living in a densely-populated neighborhood, whether in a condominium, townhouse or single family home. No matter how good our fences are, we may still smell unpleasant odors, hear excessive noise coming from unruly behavior, witness illegal activities, or experience property maintenance issues.
If neighbors talk informally and try to resolve similar issues, but cannot agree, then the homeowner association (HOA) dispute arises.
Apart from relationships between neighbors, there is a homeowner association relationship too. The purpose of establishing community associations is to protect the property value of homes in a neighborhood and maintain the common areas. Homeowners living in the community pay maintenance fees, and the Board of Directors, elected from within the community, manage the association.
The Board members must safeguard the association’s documents and act in the association’s best interest. That often involves disputes that arise between the Board and homeowners. Failing to get approval for a construction project can cause the HOA Board to stop improper construction and remove unapproved modifications at the homeowner’s cost. The Board’s responsibility is to uphold and enforce the CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions). It has the authority to take all necessary legal actions against homeowners if they fail to fulfill their duties, such as paying their maintenance fees on time.
Among other responsibilities, the HOA Board may act as a deciding body when a dispute arises between neighbors.
In disputes between the Board and a homeowner that cannot be informally resolved, either party may file a lawsuit as an option. Another option, is calling a neutral third party to help mediate the dispute. However, before taking things to court, both the Board and homeowner should know that litigation brings a years-long exhaustive process and a stack of bills for attorney fees, court filing fees, and other expenses. Besides, it is often ineffective in resolving the dispute and acknowledging its root causes.
Mediating HOA disputes has all the benefits that traditional litigation lacks.
The goal of Mediation is to reconcile the parties and bring a mutually beneficial settlement. The effects of mediating the HOA dispute are not only resolving the current conflict but treating its causes so that future disputes are less likely. That is the opposite of litigation, which is an adversarial process that often further deepens the differences that caused the conflict in the first place.
A mediator is often a retired judge or an attorney with experience dealing with HOA disputes. A neutral person voluntarily chosen by the parties, the mediator facilitates the negotiations between homeowners and the HOA Board, but without the authority to resolve a dispute by issuing a binding decision. The Mediation aims at finding the point where the opposing interests converge. The mediator then leads the negotiations from that point to settlement.
If the parties decide to pursue their claims in court, nothing revealed during the Mediation process cannot be used in litigation or in the public domain. The confidentiality of Mediation is one of its most valuable features.
The Mediation process typically consists of a Mediator’s introduction, attorneys’ opening statements in a joint session, and attorneys and parties in separate, private sessions with the Mediator. After a brief introduction, the mediator presents his or her qualifications and explains the procedure to the parties. In private sessions, parties talk with the mediator in separate rooms. The mediator goes back and forth between the private rooms, assisting parties to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their case; discussing their settlement options; and aiding in resolution of the controversy. During Mediation, the Mediator may meet separately with attorneys to help fashion a settlement. The mediator facilitates the negotiations between the parties with the goal of settling the dispute and avoiding additional litigation.
The simplicity and flexibility of the Mediation process lead to lower costs and a shorter time to resolve HOA disputes.
Finally, after the parties settle, they sign a binding agreement ending their dispute enforceable in court.
As a retired Chief Judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit, a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator and designated Legal Luminary Best Mediator, Joe. Farina offers a distinctive approach to mediating your HOA dispute, bringing years of precious judicial and mediating experience.
Contact us today to mediate your HOA dispute by a top-notch professional.