Maximizing Mediation A Community Manager’s Guide to Saving Association Legal Fees

Community managers wear many hats in their business relationship with the associations they manage. They act as a liaison, a resource, and a consultant to help the association boards they serve to make decisions. Community managers have the tough job of being personality neutral when disgruntled unit owners call them complaining about some problem they have with another unit owner or the board. They must be diplomatic as they deal with warring factions that break out among trustees or board members. Managers are on the front lines and can see when a dispute has the potential to turn into legal action. 

A Problem Solver

Many community managers inquire about a better way to resolve disputes in community association living than always launching litigation. After all, no one wants on-going conflict where they live.  Managers share with me the frustration of associations they manage with regard to the amount of money, time, and aggravation spent in the court system.  I ask them if the boards of the associations they manage: "Want to resolve a condominium dispute without taking months or years and costing tens of thousands of dollars?”  “Do you want to determine the solution to your own disagreement?" or "Do you want to find a way to resolve disputes so that you have less strife in your life?" Then look no further. You must maximize your mediation.  

What is Mediation?

 What exactly is mediation, you may ask?  Mediation is an informal, confidential process whereby a neutral third party attempts to facilitate and negotiate a resolution to a dispute that is acceptable to all parties involved in the dispute.  Mediation is conducted by a trained mediator who acts as a guide or negotiator.  The mediator helps the parties find common ground and creative solutions to facilitate a resolution that addresses the concerns, needs and interests of both parties—with the goal of a settlement that both parties can live with. 

The parties themselves have a say in the outcome of their dispute. They decide what they will agree to and what they will not.  They avoid the risk of losing and a judge determining the resolution. No binding result occurs unless and until an agreement is achieved and signed. The resolution is typically memorialized in a written settlement agreement which is an enforceable contract and performance can be compelled by later court action if one party does not hold up its end of the bargain.

Mediation is an art, not a science.  Creative solutions can often be found. Tensions are tamed. Relationships are preserved, which is paramount when you must live together in the same community and maintain on-going relationships.  A skilled mediator experienced in community association law can be critical to the success of the process.  

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