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Posted by Stephen McDonough | May 25, 2014 | 0 Comments

Boston back bay units
Disputes between condo owners can get ugly, but mediation can help resolve things and restore peace to the neighborhood.

Are you involved in a “condo war” with other residents?  Resolving real estate legal issues with mediation is a smart choice on many levels.

Condominiums, especially those with fewer than ten units, can become nests of difficult, stressful conflict. As unit owners come and go, it is difficult to ensure that everyone lives within the rules and respect each other's property rights.

When a condominium unit is purchased, the buyer has the right to the exclusive use and to modify the unit itself (within some limits).  In addition, and depending upon the specific condominium rules or by-laws, owners have rights to use the common areas like hallways, yards, garages, and/or basements.

Usually, permission is needed from other unit owners to make any significant change which impacts common areas. Most often, conflicts arise in relation to the use (or misuse) of common areas. From arguments about what items do or do not belong on a porch to whether or not to fix the condominium's roof, condo owners may have widely varying interpretations and approaches to these things, which can lead to disputes between residents and sometimes the condo association.

When condominium disputes occur, they can, like all neighbor disputes, get nasty and destructive. Often, disputes devolve into yelling matches, or worse, and make being at home unpleasant and stressful. In rare instances, condominium conflicts can become so entrenched that unit owners end up involving the police or engage in vandalism or property destruction. More often, these conflicts end up in the hands of attorneys or before judges, which is expensive and does not always lead to satisfactory, final outcomes.

Why Mediation?

Mediation is a good alternative when it come to resolving condominium disputes and helping unit owners get past conflicts and create solutions to disputes that arise inside (or outside) condominiums. In a condominium, the unit owners share several common, fundamental interests:

  • living in a quiet, enjoyable environment;
  • having a reliable process to ensure the condominium is well maintained; and
  • preserving the highest market value of each unit.

When there are overlapping, basic interests shared by the parties to a dispute, mediation is a good choice to resolve conflict.

Mediation is one form of alternative dispute resolution which seeks to build solutions to conflicts based upon the satisfaction of mutual interests, mediation is particularly effective in the condominium setting.

Moreover, bringing in a neutral third-party (the mediator) to mediate conflict between neighbors provides a buffer that can keep the dispute from getting too contentious and provides a good chance to maintain a tolerant, respectful relationship. When faced with a condominium conflict, consider mediation as a way of creating a solution which might restore some sanity and provide a reasonable solution before things get out of hand.

About the Author

Stephen McDonough

Stephen works closely with clients facing divorce or other family conflict. He is a certified mediator through the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation, a designation that only about 11% of mediators have obtained. In addition to providing mediation services, Stephen regularly appears in...

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