HELP – MY HOME IS A WAR ZONE
MEDIATION AS PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE FOR HOME OWNER DISPUTES
By Rosemary Macero
Living in a community or a condominium complex has many advantages which is why they are so popular. We all want to retreat to our home and escape the stresses of our day to day work life. When there is conflict in our community or with a neighbor, our home is no longer our retreat, we want to escape. While the majority of our time is spent in peaceful co-existence with our community and neighbors, there is the possibility that disagreement can occur at any moment. These unexpected moments will often quickly go away without any lingering issues. However, there are those times when it appears that no end is in sight to the disagreement and direct communication has been exhausted. Mediation is a positive process to communicate grievances in order to restore peace and harmony.
No matter how large or small a community is, when there is disagreement, the issue is ever present and can overtake us the moment we arrive at our home. We feel compelled to have to cross to the other side of the courtyard, or peek into the corridor to make sure the coast is clear before entering or leaving our unit (or looked out the window to make sure the coast is clear to get to our car in the parking lot). The Board members and property managers are all too often caught in the middle of these disputes. They are pestered to take action. They are criticized if action is not taken or if action is taken on behalf of one side or the other. These disputes cause unnecessary stress for the parties and our community.
The good news is that it does not have to be this way. There are options to positively resolve disputes in the community and between neighbors. One of the best ways is to try Mediation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a constructive and non-confrontational process to reach a solution to problems and resolve disputes. Mediation is voluntary (no one can be forced into a solution). Mediation is flexible (the mediation can be done nights, weekends or at the convenience of the parties and the Mediator). Mediation is confidential (no one needs to know- the mediator is legally obligated to keep the mediation confidential). Mediation can be a DIY process (Do it yourself – no lawyer needed). Mediation is neutral (it is an even playing field –no one has an advantage). When we mediate we meet to let the parties air their issues and reach a solution.
How does it work?
In a Mediation, the Mediator (a Neutral Third Party) meets with the parties to work with them in a mutually respectful and cooperative setting. Sitting at a table with the Mediator, all parties are permitted to present their position and air the grievances. It is a flexible but structured environment to create the even playing field and an atmosphere of mutual respect. The Mediator is present to make sure that all parties have an opportunity to be heard and facilities a discussion between the parties.
Mediation is a party driven process but no training of the parties is needed. The Mediator will explain and administer the process. The Mediator will help to create a flexible structure and explain the Mediation process step by step so everyone understands what will occur. The Mediator does not take sides. The Mediator, as a neutral, is there to insure that each party has an opportunity to share their viewpoint on each issue.
What happens at the Mediation?
At the beginning, after the Mediator sets the ground rules, the Mediator will permit each party to explain or state its position. Then the Mediator tries to see if there is any common ground that the parties can agree on. The Mediator meets separately with each party to discuss in more detail any additional concerns each party may have. These separate meetings are completely confidential. The Mediator will only share information from the confidential meeting, if the party permits the information to be shared with the other party. In these separate sessions with the Mediator, the Mediator tries to help each party recognize areas of common ground or agreement between the parties or helps the party to explore its ideas on possible solutions.
What are the benefits?
The Mediation process is confidential and therefore all parties and the Mediator cannot use any of the content of the Mediation even if the matter heads into court. A Mediator essentially listens, clarifies and coaches parties to help the parties develop their own solutions to resolve the disagreement and then helps the parties come together to a mutually agreeable outcome. The Mediator does not impose any decision or solution on the parties. Once the parties reach an understanding, the Mediator will assist the parties in writing out the terms of the solution.
The Mediation process is not binding unless the parties reach a solution which both parties agree to. The agreement becomes a contract between the parties on the issues resolved. Both parties win. The Mediator also cannot force a solution or outcome. The willingness and the ability to solve the problem is completely in the control of the party’s desire to reach a peaceful accord.
Mediation allows for creative solutions to really address the individual parties’ needs and concerns to restore peace and harmony to one’s own home.
Who is the Mediator?
The Mediator is a neutral party, trained as a mediator and who may or may not have a legal background. The Mediator also discloses if the Mediator has any prior knowledge or affiliation with either party.
What are the benefits?
If no mutually agreeable solution or settlement is agreed upon by the parties, all the other options are still available including further Mediation session or proceeding with Arbitration or Litigation. Mediation is confidential and so neither party can use information obtained from the process in any potential legal action. Mediation is a win-win process to bring peace to back to our home.
Author: Rosemary Macero is a trained Mediator and Arbitrator. She has been a civil trial attorney for over 34 years and has handled Condominium Cases.
Benefits – Mediation is confidential, much less expensive, and a win-win process that can design a creative solution to suit the parties. It is a win-win proposition because if the dispute is resolved it is over and if the dispute cannot be resolved there are the other options of Arbitration or Litigation, which are always available.
Statistically, mediations are successful 80% of the time. When the parties are motivated the percentage is higher.
Buying a home is one of the single largest purchases most people ever make.
While a home is not necessarily an ‘investment’ in the classic sense of the word, it does provide shelter and the security of having a comfortable place to live.
Discord at home can give the urge to escape or “dump and run”. Selling the home and finding another home is a complicated and time consuming process. We may or may not be able to afford to sell and find another home to buy.
No one wants to let controversy make home life so unbearable that “dump and run” is the only solution.
Mediation is the answer. Put a Spotlight on Solutions.