Litigation, while certainly a needed bow in the quiver, is not always a good first line of defense. Litigation can be costly, and if your building has a history of litigation, property values can be affected. Additionally, if your building is in the middle of a litigation, many lenders will shy away from making loans in connection with a unit in the building. Mediation is far less expensive than litigation and can be a positive and effective way to resolve condo and co-op disputes.
Typically in mediation, a mediator is jointly selected by the parties. In a city like New York, there is a long list of mediators with substantial experience in handling condo and co-op matters. Once the initial conflict checks are completed, and oaths made, the mediator reviews documents submitted by each party. A mediator will meet with all parties to discuss the matter and then meet with each party separately to hear confidential information and discuss possible settlement. After meeting with each party separately, and typically more than once, a mediator will recommend a particular avenue for settlement. If everyone agrees to the basic terms, an agreement can be drafted and the matter settled.
If the parties cannot resolve their dispute and litigation is commenced, there may still be an opportunity for the parties to be heard by a mediator. Depending on the nature of the litigation or the stage of the litigation, the parties may be ordered to mandatory mediation. Alternatively, if the issue involves a contract that included an agreement to arbitrate disputes rather than traditional litigation, the parties will be faced with arbitration.
Regardless of the nature of the dispute, the aim of your building’s board of directors and your building’s counsel should be to try to resolve the matter in the first instance. Litigation should not be a reactionary tool. When tempers flare, having cooler heads come to the table may save you a lengthy, costly court battle. Whether the parties try to mediate their dispute through their attorneys, or agree to mediation, often, third parties such as attorneys and mediators can resolve conflicts without the need for court intervention.