Condo living delivers convenience with compromise.
Convenience comes from having others do what must often be handled by the homeowner who does not live in a condo. Compromise comes from having to share walls and space in the building with other residents and respecting a set of rules common to all.
With people living in close proximity, disagreements are bound to arise. One way to solve such disagreements is through the courts. This typically involves condo owners bringing forth claims regarding the actions of other condo owners, board members or condo management.
The act of going to court is adversarial and not designed to facilitate good relations among those who live in a condo community setting. Filing a lawsuit can be difficult and expensive.
Mediation offers a faster, less costly and less confrontational option. It is identified in the Condominium Act which states that any “disagreement” between corporations and unit owners, with respect to the declaration, by-laws, or rules, must be submitted to mediation or arbitration.
Mediation does not seek to make one party the winner and another party the loser. It seeks to obtain a solution that is fair, reasonable and respectful. When effective, it may allow neighbours to continue to interact in a condo building without continued animosity and ongoing conflict.
Mediation is not right for every dispute, and there may be some disputes that require a judge’s decision. But before deciding that there is “nothing to discuss,” consider the following:
You might be surprised by what you learn. When people sit down to talk things through with the help of a neutral third party, new insights are often learned. With deeper understanding comes the possibility of long-lasting solutions to problems.
Even if it does not result in agreement, a discussion can clear the air. People involved in a conflict sometimes have a need to express their point of view. They want the other side to understand their position, even though they realize that it may not result in any concrete change. A frank discussion can help to achieve this goal.
A discussion can be educational. Sometimes conflicts arise because people simply are not aware of the rules or of others’ rights. One party may be unaware of how others feel, or how important others might find something that seems trivial. Mediation can reduce the possibility of future misunderstanding and inadvertent offense.
Even if the rules are clear, the details of compliance might require a discussion. I used to live near a playground where a posted sign proclaimed a single rule: “Respect Everyone.” A lovely sentiment, to be sure, but what does that mean in practice? By their very nature, rules do not contain the details of their application. Two people might have very different ideas about what it means to “respect” others. A discussion of the specific actions that the rules require and forbid can go a long way toward preventing misunderstanding and conflict.
Considering another’s perspective can help clarify your own. Even if you never change your mind about an issue, listening to a different perspective can be useful. It can remind you of the reasons why you hold your own view. It can make your own view clearer to you.
It is important to be heard. Just as it is important to hear another party’s point of view, it is important to have your own position heard. Even if no one changes their mind, it is important to have one’s own view attended to and acknowledged. This is impossible without discussion.
Condominiums are communities. They work better when there is mutual understanding and respect, even if agreement is impossible. The next time you think to yourself that there is “nothing to discuss,” please reconsider.
Jeanette Bicknell is a mediator with the Sadowski Resolutions Group.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.