It’s no secret that lawsuits are expensive, acrimonious undertakings that can severely erode both the finances and morale of building communities. When a disagreement between a resident and the board escalates into a serious dispute and the threat of litigation is brought into the mix, it can make a bad situation worse.
There are other alternatives, however from informal sit-downs between arguing parties to the more formal processes of arbitration and mediation. All are effective methods of resolving conflict without resorting to the courts—and Florida state law requires that disputing parties make use of them before bringing suit. Florida Statute 720.311 creates a requirement for pre-suit mediation followed by binding or non-binding arbitration under the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes which is overseen by the Department of Business & Professional Regulation.
“Arbitration through the division's Arbitration Program is required for all homeowners' association recall and election disputes, prior to filing a lawsuit,” says Rebecca Storrow, Ph.D, the vice president of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and former director of the AAA Florida Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program. “Pre-suit mediation is provided by private mediators.”
So you have to at least try to work it out before you duke it out before a judge—that's a given. The question is which approach is most appropriate for your particular situation?
What’s The Problem?
Life would be so much simpler if there were no problems between residents and the board or among neighbors. It’s idealistic but about as far from realistic as you can get.