Neighbor to Neighbor A Guide to Alternative Dispute Resolution

 When someone moves into a community, they often look for the friendliness and  camaraderie that living in an association brings. But with many personalities  often butting heads on everyday living situations, it can often get tense and  things can go awry. Neighbors argue with each other, associations complain about residents, and residents complain about associations. Minor issues can  often be settled quickly and cordially without involving anyone beyond the  disagreeing parties. But that's not always the case. And when it isn't, things  get tricky.  

 Alternative Options

 Many disputes can arise between residents—anything from noise and assessments, to common area usage or differing  interpretations of bylaws, says Matt Lacy, a liaison for the American  Arbitration Association (AAA). Problems between residents have a greater chance  of being resolved quickly, since association managers can act as a third party. A  good association manager can often use his or her authority within the building to  resolve an issue without the need of outside help.  


 Disputes between residents and boards can be more complicated. Emotions can run  high if residents feel wronged by a board's use of their authority, and if a  resolution can't be reached, the use of an association manager as a third party can  also prove to be problematic, since managers by necessity work closely with  boards, and may give residents the impression of partiality to board concerns.  Due to such conflicts of interest, the opposing parties are often better off  seeking outside help in such a situation.  

 Alternative dispute resolution (ADR for short) has been gaining popularity in  recent years as an effective problem-solving method—partly because of its results, and partly because of the logjam of court cases  already wending their way through the system. ADR can be a powerful tool to cut  through red tape and legal entanglements to get real results.  

 The problem-solving process should start with the association manager doing what he  or she can to diffuse the situation. Most conflicts—even difficult ones—can be guided toward settlement by a competent, level-headed association manager. For example, in the case of a noise problem, a solution might be to speak with  the individuals in dispute, installing some soundproofing measures, like  carpeting or foam insulation, or setting reasonable hours if the sound relates  to music playing or construction work and the like.  


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