Though the benefits of condominium and cooperative living are numerous, it’s human nature that where there are people, there will be conflict. Running to a lawyer every time a problem arises is hardly sensible. The legal process is slow, costly, and rarely brings a peaceable resolution between two parties. This is where alternative dispute resolution, or ADR comes in.
A broad term, ADR refers to various methods of attempting to achieve agreement including mediation, arbitration, negotiation, and hybrids of all of the above. It's essentially any kind of organized summit outside the formal court system that seeks to resolve a conflict, and there are different ways to execute the resolution process within each of these models.
Conflict resolution outside of the court system has existed for thousands of years, but the more formal ADR methods we recognize today have gained in popularity over the past 30 years and have been shown to be highly effective in settling all manner of business and personal conflicts. For residents, board members and managers of condo buildings and HOAs, the process can be particularly effective, since creative solutions can be reached quickly and relationships kept intact—something that is important for people living under one big roof.
Mediation vs. Arbitration:
What’s the Difference?
Though they all have the same goals, the modes of ADR vary.
“Mediation is a confidential, consensual process where the parties can agree at any time to mediate their dispute. It is non-binding in that the mediator tries to resolve the dispute by focusing on the issues and trying to find grounds where the parties can agree and eventually resolve their dispute,” says Stanley Sklar, executive director of Arbitration Studies at the DePaul University College of Law’s Center for Dispute Resolution. Sklar adds that while the written settlement that arises from a mediation session isn’t legally binding, it may be enforceable in court. “Mediation can be part of a contract,” he says, “in construction contracts, for example, in which the parties agree to mediate their dispute before taking it to the next level.” The next level could be arbitration, or litigation.