Avoiding Community Conflict: Best HOA Practices for Dispute Resolution
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Whether part of a Phoenix HOA board or a Scottsdale community association, everyone wants a harmonious, conflict-free community. But the truth is, disputes are almost inevitable. And when conflicts come up, board members should be equipped with the knowledge to handle them in the most productive and professional way possible.
While not always the case, you may be able to avoid some conflicts by simply utilizing best practices in your association. By knowing how to avoid certain blunders and pitfalls, you may be able to prevent some conflicts before they start.
Another way to resolve conflict is by simply coming to an understanding after discussing the problem. It’s important to evaluate all options before taking more serious steps, since no party wants to be subject to costly and often time-consuming litigation. What are the next steps if a basic discussion is out of question? That’s when you need to consider mediation and arbitration.
For any kind of dispute, it’s important to work with your HOA community management company. The best Arizona HOA management companies will be able to provide you with much-needed guidance and resources that can help. And of course, if formal legal action is on the horizon, always consult your association attorney. Now before things get that far, consider these methods of dispute resolution.
Many parties choose to go with mediation because it’s cost-efficient and non-adversarial. It can be either voluntary or mandatory. So how does mediation work? First, a mediator is present and acts as a neutral third-party. The mediator works with both sides of the dispute in order to sort through the issue so that both parties can arrive at a resolution. Since the mediator is not a judge, they do not choose sides; they help both parties reach an agreement that everyone deems is fair. Neither party is obligated to accept a mediation decision, and either one can leave the mediation. If both parties agree to a mediated solution, they will then sign an agreement at the end of the process.
Additionally, the Arizona chapter of the Community Association Institute (CAI) offers a program called Solve-It, which provides mediation services to Arizona residents for a moderate fee. The process is voluntary and confidential, and it utilizes skilled and impartial mediators to help parties come to a full resolution quickly. Some of the areas that are covered by the mediation service include internal board relations, property and contract concerns and neighbor harassment. To learn more about this service, click here.
Arbitration is an adversarial method of dispute resolution, as opposed to mediation. It is more along the lines of a trial in court. During arbitration, one or more arbitrators works as a private judge to facilitate the process. Similar to a trial, both sides have attorney representation, and the arbitrator must review evidence, receive testimony from witnesses and evaluate documentation related to the dispute. When it comes to arbitrations, decisions may be binding or non-binding, depending on the type of arbitration previously agreed upon. If the arbitration is non-binding, the decision is essentially a professional opinion of what the potential outcome in a trial would be. On the other hand, a binding decision can’t be petitioned. Both parties must comply with the decision, which is similar to a final verdict in a trial.
If the dispute in question can’t be resolved through one of these processes, a courtroom trial would be the next step. This process takes up time and requires fees, as it involves judges, juries and attorneys. Because a trial in court can become complicated and time-consuming, you should first review next steps with your association’s attorney. They will have the knowledge and experience needed to help you determine the best course of action. Before you get to that point, remember that avoiding conflict often begins with a dedication to best practices. This may help you avoid conflict before it starts. The best HOA management companies will provide best practices and training that are geared to your board and your unique community.
What If Mediation and Arbitration Don’t Work?
Complete the form on this page to download our Best Practices for Association Board Email and see more best practices in our article, How to Prevent HOA Board Blunders. To learn more best practices for community management, contact FirstService Residential.