Associations can often tell when a dispute with an owner has escalated to a point where a resolution may be difficult to achieve without outside assistance. This can often involve a scenario where emotions are running high and it can be challenging for the parties involved in the dispute to view the issues through an objective lens. When a dispute gets to that point, the following are some options that associations consider:
(1) If an association’s community manager is not yet involved, the Board of Directors may reach out to the association’s community manager for assistance with the dispute;
(2) If an association has general counsel, the Board of Directors may reach out to their general counsel to discuss potential options for resolving the dispute; and/or
(3) The Board of Directors may consider mediation with the owner.
It is often the case that associations utilize one or more of the options above to attempt to resolve disputes with owners short of litigation. As noted in our prior posts, litigation should often be a last resort (some circumstances could change that, but it is a helpful general guideline to keep in mind). If your community association has a community manager, it is often best to involve your community manager as a first step because he/she may have encountered similar disputes and can offer helpful tips on next steps and an association’s options. That first step may be all that is needed to resolve the dispute.
If not, associations often consider the second and/or third options noted above. Sometimes associations and/or owners have an aversion to the mediation option because they believe, for example, that there is not any common ground between the parties. An illustration of this point would be a circumstance where an owner has requested to build a fence between the owner’s home and his neighbor’s home and the association has denied the request. Neither side will budge. Mediation in this circumstance can still be helpful for two reasons: First, a mediator can review the association’s governing documents and help each side understand the strengths and weaknesses of their positions, and second, a creative mediator can sometimes find common ground even when neither side thought that was a possibility.
In any event, when a dispute has escalated, associations should consider the three options noted above together with other options that are resolution-oriented if at all possible in the circumstance.