When dozens and sometimes hundreds of personalities live together in one space, conflict inevitably will ensue. When passionate individuals serve on boards and are responsible for the overall well-being of the co-op or condo which they serve and the people whom they represent, again disagreements and arguments can arise. And finally, when management works with vendors and contractors and where significant responsibilities and large sums of money often change hands, problems are an everyday part of life.
The trick to surviving all these potential conflicts is to know how to handle them and perhaps most importantly, know how to resolve them before they reach litigation. In the movies, these types of arguments always end with someone shaking their fist and yelling, "I'll see you in court!" That kind of problem solving leads to potential misery for all involved: costly court fees, unsatisfactory judgments and solutions that fail to solve the issues at hand.
Thankfully, there is alternative dispute resolution (ADR), a system that encompasses mediation and arbitration. These two means of negotiation are being used throughout the co-op and condo industry as well as other industries to reach agreement and solve conflicts before they reach the courtroom. They can be an effective means of finding solutions that fit the problem rather than getting judgments that inevitably are defined by the law and not always by the needs of the parties involved.
"There are many, many things that can be resolved with intelligent people talking, as long as they want to work things out," says Mona Shyman, a consultant and vice president of the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives and Condominiums (FNYHC).
Why Do I Need It and What is It?
Alternative dispute resolution has become an invaluable tool in settling the problems that arise for co-op and condo owners, shareholders, board members, managers and others involved in the business. "Noise issues can be a problem," says Simeon Baum, president of Resolve Mediation Services, Inc. in New York City. "These are neighbor versus neighbor issues that can become very awkward. [Things like mediation] can help keep it in a neighborly mode."