Condo associations often find themselves at odds with unit owners (and others) in a range of disputes, from fee/payment conflicts to repair concerns.
In the condominium context, the existence of a conflict does not necessitate aggressive litigation, however. Pre-litigation solutions are generally preferable to the traditional litigation process – they tend to be cheaper and more time-efficient and may reduce “friction” between the parties involved in the dispute.
The relationship between a unit owner and the condo association board is much more likely to be amicable in the future if conflicts can be resolved through simple communication and perhaps mediation. Allowing the conflict to develop into a lawsuit is a recipe for disaster in many cases.
So, what are the options?
If you are involved in a dispute, it’s important to get in touch with a qualified New Jersey condo association lawyer as soon as possible – even if you would like to smooth over the conflict with some casual, friendly conversation. Statements you make during these initial stages could be turned against you, and as such, it’s worth consulting an attorney for early assistance.
Oftentimes, conflicts arise because of a lack of basic communication. One side may feel slighted or misunderstood by the other – there may not actually be a reason to continue down a high-conflict path. Consider reaching out and discussing the dispute in a reasoned manner. A friendly conversation could get the disputing party to compromise.
Pursuant to N.J.S.A 45:22A-44(c) and the Condominium Act 46:8B-14(k), an association is required to provide a fair and efficient procedure for the resolution of disputes between individual unit owners and the association, and between unit owners, which shall be readily available as an alternative to litigation. This alternative can be achieved through mediation, which is a form of alternative dispute resolution that involves a neutral mediator who helps guide a collaborative discussion between the disputing parties in the hopes that a compromise can be reached. Mediation is “casual” in the sense that it is not overly complicated by formal procedures. Parties are encouraged to speak honestly and openly about their concerns, through the mediator who will assist in trying to resolve the dispute between the parties.
Arbitration is a somewhat more formalized process than mediation, though it is less formal/strict compared to standard litigation. Arbitration – like mediation – involves an independent party, the arbitrator, but the arbitrator’s job is to evaluate the claims, evidence, and arguments put forth by each side and to come to a decision regarding the dispute. The decision reached during arbitration may be binding or non-binding.
In the event that alternative dispute resolution processes do not work, litigation may be necessary. Though litigation is more involved, more expensive, and more time-consuming than the alternatives, a trier of fact will them make the ultimate decision pertaining to the dispute.
Here at Griffin Alexander, P.C., our partners boast decades of combined experience representing the interests of condo association boards and individual association members in a range of condominium-related disputes.
We understand the unique challenges typical of such disputes and are well-positioned to employ alternative means through which to reach a satisfactory resolution for all involved. In the event that pre-litigation dispute resolution tactics do not secure a favorable result, we are ready and willing to advocate aggressively on your behalf in litigation.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can assist you throughout the dispute resolution process, we encourage you to call (973) 366-1188 or to schedule an appointment today.
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