Disputes, as much as they are uncomfortable and inconvenient, are inevitable among homeowners. It is, therefore, important for associations to create a dispute resolution plan that they can refer to and enforce in a consistent manner when a dispute arises.
This article will explore how to develop an effective framework for dispute resolution in HOA communities.
Begin with Internal Dispute Resolution
Internal dispute resolution refers to the common “meet and talk” process. It involves one party making a request to meet with the other party in writing.
In conflict resolution, it is important for one of the involved parties to initiate the resolution process.
Both sides can agree to meet and discuss the issues causing the conflict, with the board being represented by a neutral party. This process is a simple and affordable first step toward conflict resolution.
Set up an Agreement in Writing
After the conflicting sides have met and agreed to certain conditions in order to resolve the dispute, the agreement should be put in writing and signed by each of the parties.
It can be helpful to establish a timeline. It's easy to remember something when it was recent, but you may need to recall details months down the road that each party may remember differently.
In the event that the conflicting parties cannot agree to a resolution, an independent third party can be brought in to mediate the issues surrounding the conflict.
A mediation process can help both parties to arrive at a decision that they both deem fair.
The disputing sides are, however, not obligated to accept a mediation decision. If an agreement is reached through this process, it should be written and signed.
If none of the previous methods have worked, you can set up an arbitration process in an attempt to resolve the conflict.
Arbitration is a less formal version of a court trial, where both sides can be represented by legal counsel, and an arbitrator (a kind of private judge) facilitates the process.
Both sides get an opportunity to present their case, along with evidence, which the arbitrator will use to arrive at a decision. The parties also agree in advance as to whether the decision is binding or non-binding.
Consider the Laws of your State
State laws can influence how the board can develop a conflict resolution plan. As you iron out the details of the process, seek the advice of your association's attorney and association management company.
In conclusion, developing an HOA conflict resolution plan is important because it helps to address the needs and concerns of the members in a consistent manner, which is a crucial role for any association.