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CONDOCENTRIC: Conflict In Condominiums: Value-Added?

Value in Conflict?! …Conflict is the struggle that results from incompatible or opposing needs, wants or other demands. As we all know, in everyday life conflict arises in a variety of circumstances: from dealing with the driver who cut you off, to deciding with your kids what to have for dinner. In the condominium industry, the non-payment of common expense arrears and noise transmission between units, are some of the conflicts near to our hearts. If conflict can be viewed as a means to understanding our own and others’ needs and can be resolved, then perhaps we can find value or derive benefit from conflict. Particularly, if we can do it more quickly and cost effectively than through other means of dispute resolution.

Conflict is generally motivated by opposing or incongruous needs, one owner’s need for a good night’s sleep vs. another owner’s need to play the piano.

The Condominium Act (the "Act") now presents parties, who are governed by the Act and who are in conflict, with the opportunity (and sometimes the obligation) to resolve their differences and hopefully find resolution through mediation. Besides being a trend used to resolve disputes, mediation can be a valuable tool to control conflict because it allows the parties, with the assistance of a mediator, to identify their respective interests (i.e. needs, drives, motivations) and develop and implement practical and durable solutions with each other without having a third party (i.e. a court) impose a solution, which third party may or may not (that’s the gamble) address the interests of the parties who are involved in the dispute.

A key starting point in a mediation is the identification of the parties’ respective interests. Often, this can be done by having the parties relate their stories to each other. This may provide productive insight to one party about another party’s interpretation of the facts and his/her emotions. With this information on the table, a mediator can go forward in facilitating a solution. Mediation is a process which belongs to the parties; the mediator is only there to facilitate the resolution. The solution is developed by the parties (as opposed to being imposed by a third party). The parties should, therefore, be able to live and comply with the solution. In a condominium community, this provides value because the relationships are, generally, ongoing. Neighbours must continue to live with neighbours until such time as they move out. Individual owners must work with the Corporation and vice versa, to achieve the statutory and non-statutory objectives of the Corporation, which at the end of the day are for the benefit of each of the individual owners in terms of quality of life and asset value.

Mediation is a fascinating and often cost effective opportunity to resolve disputes in certain circumstances. While mediation may not be the best option in all circumstances, the drafters of the Act obviously envisioned the potential value in conflict and its resolution through mediation.

From “Common Elements” Summer 2003
By Richard A. Elia
B. Comm. LL.B., LL.M. (ADR), A.C.C.I.

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All of the information contained in this article is of a general nature for informational purposes only, and is not intended to represent the definitive opinion of the firm of Elia Associates on any particular matter. Although every effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this newsletter is accurate and up-to-date, the reader should not act upon it without obtaining appropriate professional advice and assistance.


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