What Kinds Of Alternative Resolution Methods Are There For Community Association Disputes?
Probably the most important alternative dispute resolution method that is available is the least talked about and that is negotiations. So when a problem pops up and the owner and the association cannot agree on a resolution, then the job of the counsel for both the association and for the owner is to try and resolve that before it goes any further. So an alternative dispute resolution that is always available is to negotiate a settlement with the other side. Having said that, there are some statutory requirements and associations for alternative dispute resolutions, in fact, there is a section in one of the statutes that just covers alternative dispute resolution for community associations and those include mediation. For homeowners association there are certain disputes that must be mediated so it’s mandatory before one side or the other can file suit but there is also voluntary mediation.
At any point, both parties can agree to mediate the matter. In mediation for those that don’t know, you have a third party, a disinterested party that is trained to try and bring parties together to a resolution. They try and work out a settlement where the parties can’t do so just between themselves. It’s not binding, the mediator doesn’t have the authority to make a settlement and tries to bring the parties together. Also too, even if you have a situation where there is not voluntary mediation and the parties still agree to a mediation, a judge once the matter is filed in court and the lawsuit is filed, a judge certainly has the authority to say, you know what, you guys need to mediate this before this case goes any further and see if you can work it out.
The other alternative dispute resolution method that is out there is arbitration and specifically for condominiums there are certain matters that must be sent up to the state of Florida and there are arbitrators that are assigned and arbitrators make a decision after hearing from both the owner and the association. Typically the decision of the arbitrator, which is a person that does have the authority to actually make a decision. The decision usually is non-binding. However, after a period of time elapses, if the losing party in the arbitration does not file suit then that arbitration decision becomes binding. We talked about voluntary participation in mediation, most people do not voluntarily participate in an arbitration. That usually has to be done by statute.
The reason is that it is really close to litigation and it is much more formal than mediation and you have somebody with the actual power to make a decision and to also cost more money than typically mediation does. So arbitration is usually done because the statute requires it and usually that applies to condominium associations.
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