Tips for Conflict Resolution and Mediation in HOAs

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The goal of any homeowner’s association (HOA) should be to build a positive and inclusive community culture. However, when groups of people share the same space, disagreements will inevitably arise. When they do, it’s the role of the HOA to successfully and civilly resolve the conflict through mediation, compromise, and effective communication. 

Some of the ways HOAs can do this are highlighted in this blog. 

Identifying Conflicts within the Community. It’s helpful for HOAs to keep their ears to the ground and learn what types of conflicts are the most likely to crop up. (Reading case studies presented by other HOAs can help.) HOAs should keep an eye on all social media accounts that relate to the property, as conflicts often begin online today. With a little proactive effort, HOAs can head these small problems off before they become big problems. 

Create Dispute Resolution Plans. It helps to have formal strategies in place that HOA’s can refer to in case of disputes. By formalizing dispute resolution procedures, HOAs can avoid the perception of favoritism or bias and will have a framework in place for solving small conflicts before they become larger problems. 

Implementing effective mediation strategies. For simpler conflicts, it might be a process by which both parties sit down with a mediator. For more complex issues that cannot be resolved through talking and compromise, it’s helpful to outline the process for arbitration. Arbitration is a type of informal “court” trial in which disagreeing HOA residents can be represented by legal counsel, and an arbitrator (or “judge”) oversees the process. In arbitration, both sides are provided with an opportunity to present their cases and their evidence, after which the arbitrator decides the outcome based on the evidence and state or local law, if applicable. The two parties also agree in advance – according to established HOA rules — whether the decision is binding or non-binding.

Build a Positive and Inclusive Community Culture. As always, the best way to mediate disputes is to avoid them in the first place. HOAs should strive to build a community that communicates openly with members and encourages respectful disagreement. Ensure that one group – long-time residents versus newcomers, for example – does not have more say in outcomes than another. Address conflicts early and with diplomacy and civility and underpin decisions regarding these disputes with a set of positive community goals. Members of an HOA are more likely to participate in community rules when their values are reflected by the HOA board. This is more likely to result in a collective agreement of shared values and drive positive behavior. 

Finally, professional property management companies can help, as they generally have deep experience in conflict resolution. Paladin Property Management offers management of day-to-day operations for HOA client associations, including maintenance requests, communication, collection of common charges, payment of vendors, bookkeeping, rule enforcement, resale packages, and construction projects, as well as any other routine administrative responsibilities. We offer consulting services to HOAs that are largely self-managed. For more information or to contact us, call 860-395-8863.