New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Mediate, Don’t Litigate

Extremely loud and incredibly close. Most disputes between neighbors are about noise, especially in older, prewar buildings with wooden floors and joists and walls that are not soundproof. We represented a hospital worker on the night shift who had been at war with her neighbor, a single mom, for more than a year. She complained about being unable to sleep because the neighbor’s landline phone was right next to her bedroom wall, the kids were noisy getting ready for school and the family’s dog barked incessantly. 


Leading the way. The managing agent tried to make peace but couldn’t resolve it, and faced two choices: let the parties sue the building for failure to keep it habitable or let the parties sue each other and the building. So he decided to try mediation. As a mediator, I’ll meet separately with each of the parties. We’re strictly neutral and don’t offer advice, but the impartial process can help guide people to solutions. In this case, the parties agreed to pay for adding soundproofing to the walls and to install carpet padding at their own expense, and the neighbor sent the dog to training school to learn how not to bark. 

A win-win. If the matter had gone to court, you’re talking months, if not years, of litigation, during which the problem persists. The dispute becomes public rather than private, which can make matters worse. In the meantime, there are attorney fees, court fees and the expense of hiring acoustical experts to testify, which can far exceed the cost of solving the problem through mediation. In this case, the parties came to an agreement just a month after coming to the table. I may be biased, but mediation is a no-brainer.

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