It’s no secret that lawsuits are expensive, acrimonious undertakings that can severely erode both the finances and morale of building communities. When a disagreement between a resident and the board escalates into a serious dispute and the threat of litigation is brought into the mix, it can make a bad situation worse.
There are other alternatives from informal sit-downs between arguing parties to the more formal processes of arbitration and mediation. All are effective methods of resolving conflict without resorting to the courts—the key is figuring out which approach is most appropriate for your particular situation.
What’s The Problem?
Life would be so much simpler if there were no problems between residents and the board or among neighbors. It’s idealistic, but about as far away from reality as you can get.
“There are a number of typical disputes that arise between boards and residents,” says Michael P. Kozek Esq., of the New York City-based real estate law firm Ween & Kozek LLP. “There are disputes over payment of maintenance fees, common charges, assessments, disputes over payment of maintenance for the common areas of the building and disputes about subletting. Then you have disputes regarding sales. If an owner wants to sell their unit and the board may be acting as an obstacle in some way. For example, let’s say the proposed price of the unit is not adequate for the board because they want the value of the unit to be higher. The obstacle can take form by refusing to turn over financial documents to the purchaser or being slow with conducting an interview or reviewing a package that was given to the board that’s necessary for the closing to take place.”
“A lot of the conflict that I’m going to run into is internally with the board or between the board and management,” says Martin F. Scheinman, Esq., and an arbitrator and mediator based in Sands Point. “But in terms of boards and residents there’s always issues that come up about the use of property, complaints to one resident about another, complaints about assessments, maintenance charges or a perception that certain people are getting privileges by members of the board that others are not, whether it’s construction or access to a certain bank of elevators. Those are the things that have come to my attention and over the years I’ve been asked to intercede and try to help.”