Co-op & Condo Mediation is a Smart, Speedy, and Cost-Effective Way to Resolve Disputes

{4:30 minutes to read} For those living vertically in the city, there are many benefits – Co-op & Condo Mediation is a Smart, Speedy, and Cost-Effective Way to Resolve Disputes by Bart Eaglesnow removal, maintenance, having someone to accept packages, and the proximity to great restaurants, theater, museums and music.

There can also be many little annoyances, such as:

-A neighbor playing music too loud;

-Kids running around in the apartment above;

-Cigarette or cigar smoke that sifts into one’s apartment;

-Neighbors practicing the piano until all hours of the night; or

-Neighbors who leave skateboards and other personal items in common hallways.

These nuisances and quality-of-life complaints – the bane of any board member’s existence – are very real and often wind up before a co-op or condominium board. The problems can go on for some time, and are often very difficult, if not seemingly impossible, to resolve.

These types of disputes – and some between shareholders and co-ops, and owners and condos – are particularly well-suited for mediation. Not by a board member or managing agent, but by mediation, by a neutral third party.

Some mediation options are:

-A trained mediator that the parties know or have been introduced to;

-A community mediation provider; or

-The NYC Bar Association Co-op and Condo Mediation Project, a dispute resolution program with reasonable rates, created specifically to assist shareholders, co-ops, owners, and condos resolve disputes. Participants can choose a mediator or have one appointed* for them.

There is a cost, albeit usually moderate, to mediation. The participants could be asked to split the cost of mediation. However, as a speedy resolution will significantly benefit the co-op or condo, as well as the shareholders or owners, the alternative is that the issues may otherwise end up in litigation and be costly and time-consuming – it may be in everyone’s interest for the co-op or condo to foot the bill.

Boards can move disputes to mediation in one of two ways: by including a provision in by-laws, requiring that certain disputes be submitted to mediation; or with the consent of the parties, which the board can, at least, recommend. Some co-ops and condos already have by-law provisions requiring mediation; other co-ops and condos are considering amending their by-laws to include mandatory mediation. Shareholders and owners should inquire of their boards, and boards of their co-op or condo’s attorneys, how to amend their by-laws to accomplish this.

There may be disputes that co-ops and condos do not want to refer to mediation, such as decisions that boards must make concerning the approval of renovations, sublease applications, shareholder/owner financing, or sales, since the boards should make these determinations adhering to their guidelines and practices, treating all such applications – and shareholders and owners – in an even-handed manner. But there are many times when a mediator is needed, or would be helpful, to help parties resolve disputes. My experience on a co-op board and serving as a board president for several years has taught me that issues involving neighbors can be relatively easy to solve with the assistance of a talented mediator.

When was the last time your neighbor got under your skin? How was the issue resolved?

Boards should also consider adding mediation “step” provisions to contracts with third-party vendors, such as companies contracted to install windows, or replace elevators or boilers, or perform Local Law 11 remedial work. Mediation provisions in commercial agreements are discussed in my previous blog article Commercial Division in New York County Supreme Court Launches Mandatory Mediation Pilot Project.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at bje@barteaglelaw.com.

*Full disclosure: I am a member of the panel of mediators, from which a mediator will be appointed.

Bart J. Eagle
Attorney & Mediator
www.barteaglelaw.com
1700 Broadway, 41st Floor
New York, New York 10019
(212) 586-0052

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