New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Ask Habitat: Can Mediation Help in Quality-of-Life Disputes with Neighbors?

New York City

Sept. 29, 2014

Mediation, on the other hand, is a private, voluntary dispute-resolution process in which a neutral third party is invited to assist the disagreeing parties in identifying issues, developing options for resolving them and finding solutions acceptable to all parties.

Myth Takes

Unfortunately, mediation has been underutilized by co-ops and condos for two reasons: (1) Unlike in other states, New York law does not require it, and (2) there are widespread misconceptions about it.

Let's dispel those myths: Mediation can be a useful, cost-effective tool and is particularly appropriate for co-op and condo disputes because residents are likely to have continuing relationships with one another in the elevator, gym or any other of the building's common areas. By providing an opportunity for parties to speak in a controlled environment such as the managing agent's office, mediation can lessen the hostility when parties inevitably interact in the future.

Unlike the public arena of a court, mediation is private and confidential. Any of the involved parties may stop the process at any time. It is also non-binding, although if the participants reach resolution, a settlement agreement may be written and signed at the table that would be binding. A party may, but need not, have an attorney present. The whole procedure allows the participants to decide for themselves how to resolve the dispute rather than leaving the decision to a judge or arbitrator.

Costs and Benefits

A side benefit is that experts believe you are more likely to be satisfied with both the process and result when you participate in creating your own agreement. And where litigation is often unable to adequately resolve quality-of-life disputes, mediation enables you to craft creative solutions that a court would be unable to achieve.

Costs are hard to calculate, but they are certainly lower than that of litigation. The New York City Bar Association's Co-op and Condo Mediation Project supplies trained mediators for a $100 non-refundable administrative fee per party. There is an hourly fee for the mediator, ranging from $150 to $400. Participants are always given a choice of mediators. Additionally, the Community Dispute Resolution Centers Program (CDRCP) helps coordinate mediation in three counties in New York State, as part of a statewide system of mediation services funded by the New York Unified Court system.  

Boards would be wise to facilitate mediation among the residents. In a co-op setting, the board (as a landlord) is bound by the warranty of habitability and must ensure the premises are in accord with the uses reasonably intended by the parties. 


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