When people live in close proximity to each other, disputes arise. The firm's goal is to assist its clients in resolving disputes before a lawsuit becomes necessary. There are several kinds of alternative dispute resolution methods, including the following.
- Mediation. The most effective form of alternative dispute resolution is mediation. Mediation is a forum in which a neutral, skilled third-party, the mediator, facilitates a discussion of the issues among the parties and helps negotiate the obvious and subtle issues to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. With mediation, the participants retain control over the process, a control which is ceded to the judge or jury in a lawsuit. In most cases mediation is far more cost-effective and efficient, and significantly less stressful, than the litigation process, which can take a year or more to yield a final result. About 85% of the mediations in which the firm participates with its clients result in settlement. The attorneys at Kriger Law Firm, APC assist their clients with every phase of the mediation process to find solutions for all kinds of community association conflicts.
- Disciplinary Hearings. Though not officially an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, disciplinary hearings pursuant to Civil Code Section 5850 et seq can be an effective means for resolving a dispute with association members without resort to the courts or even a third-party mediator. Under those provisions and/or applicable provisions in the Governing Documents, the board may convene a confidential hearing with a homeowner in violation of the governing documents, or a disgruntled homeowner or board member, to allow the parties to air their concerns and attempt to achieve a solution to the dispute. Fines or other disciplinary action may be used to encourage compliance. Clients may choose to have the firm's attorneys attend the hearing and serve as an informal moderator, or may consult with an attorney to prepare for the association's position at the hearing.
- Internal Dispute Resolution. The Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act provides for an internal dispute resolution procedure at Civil Code Sections 5900-5920. This process is a cross between mediation (without a mediator) and a disciplinary hearing, as another means of informal dispute resolution between the association and one of its members.
- Arbitration. Arbitration, or a private trial, is often identified as a form of alternative dispute resolution, because it simplifies the trial process by eliminating juries and appeals. An arbitration can be binding or non-binding. Arbitration differs from mediation in that the arbitrator actually receives and weighs the evidence in an arbitration, and makes a decision on the outcome of the dispute (as opposed to a mediator, who listens to the evidence, but does not decide what evidence to accept, reject, or use to reach a conclusion). Arbitration can be effective in some circumstances as an alternative to a court proceeding, especially if time is a factor.
No one wants to be at odds with his or her neighbor, and everyone can agree that a mutually satisfactory resolution to a dispute is less costly, in terms of money as well as aggravation, than going to court. At our firm, we emphasize alternative dispute resolution as a cost-effective means of achieving a peaceful compromise of disagreements.