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Neighbor VS. Neighbor. Mediation?

Bad smells, bouncing basketballs, barking dogs, illegally parked cars, tall trees, dog droppings, cat droppings, wayward soccer balls, loud pool parties, and excessive outdoor lighting.  The list can go on and on pushing neighbors against neighbors.  We live in homes and lots that can be too close for comfort on occasion. While not necessarily a matter of personality conflicts, it is usually a problem of space. In some cases, neighbors no longer have enough private space to conduct personal activities, without intruding on the quiet and peace of their neighbor. In addition, many homeowners have not met their neighbors. Other than a cursory nod from time to time, many neighbors are complete strangers.

Neighborly disputes typically fall into three categories. Number one is noise, followed by boundary disputes, and lastly vandalism (whether intentional or not). Contrary to popular belief, many of these disputes end up as part of the American judicial system. Unfortunately, judges hate neighbor disputes, and usually order the disputing parties to mediate their opposing viewpoints. Unlike a court decision, mediation allows the parties to come to a mutually satisfying agreement. The neighbors make their own agreement.

What is Mediation A process whereby a neutral person acts as a facilitator between parties to reach a resolution?

Is it Binding? It can be binding by the parties and can become a contractual

What kind of powers does the mediator have? Generally speaking, none. As a facilitator, the mediator is responsible for assisting in the process of a resolution.

Where can a mediator be found? Mediators are available through community organizations. Contact can be made with local or state agencies. Research the mediator's background and make sure you are comfortable with the mediator.

Is there a formal hearing? The hearing is usually informal and the parties are encouraged to speak freely and present their views and feelings on the dispute. This would be a good opportunity for the disputing parties to present documentation and evidence of the dispute.

How does mediation begin? The parties need to agree to a mediation hearing. The dispute is submitted to the mediating party with an agreement to mediate in good faith.

Should the disputing parties bring attorneys? This is a decision to be made by each party for themselves, though it is not a requirement for the mediation process.

Should the homeowner association intervene? Although homeowner associations are not designed to intercede in private party matters, associations should review its own governing documents and determine if the dispute is one that the association has sufficient power to regulate. Communication with the disputing parties and providing mediation information would certainly be within the confines of the association's authority.

Mediation is a means to avoid costly legal fees and to contain the dispute between the feuding parties. Consider seeking out a mediator prior to invoking legal action.

Association Times' Staff Writer, Association Times, July 2003


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