Sometimes in the heat of the moment, when disagreements are at their worst, the possibility of solving a problem without going to court seems remote at best. Arguments may have been brewing for days or weeks with each side becoming more and more entrenched in their own rationale and reasoning. Lines may have been drawn in the sand and threats of litigation hurled with reckless abandon.
Even when tensions are high and feelings have been hurt, however, there is a solution: alternative dispute resolution, which most frequently encompasses either arbitration or mediation. The difference between the two, says Jill S. Tanz, JD, of Chicago Mediation LLC, is that “arbitration is normally a binding process where both parties expect a decision. Mediation is non-binding and voluntary.”
Charles Castagna of the Clearwater, Florida-based firm Charles N. Castagna Mediation, Inc., adds, “Arbitration is more of an adversarial process. The arbitrator makes a decision while the mediator does not. With mediation, the parties have an option to disagree and say no, I don’t think I want to do that.”
Arbitration can almost be thought of as a mini trial, and most of the time, Castagna says, those sides “are able to come to an agreement.”
How Did We Get Here?
Just about anything can lead to the need for arbitration or mediation. The most common reasons are breaking the rules and/or violating a covenant of the association. Next, you find disputes over public records, access to association files and financial records, and lastly, the bylaws.