In a condominium context, one of the biggest problems when a dispute arises between neighbors, between a unit owner and the Board, or between neighboring condominiums, can be the cost of the dispute.
When lawyers are required to be involved, there is a monetary cost associated with the dispute. As more than one wise soul has said: “In a legal battle, the only winners are the lawyers.” And there’s no question that’s often the case. Even the successful party will rarely recover all of that party’s costs (from the unsuccessful party).
Furthermore, a dispute (particularly a legal battle) can take an emotional toll – on all parties.
Still, we all know that some disputes are unavoidable. But there are also ways, I think, to minimize the financial and emotional costs (and the risks) of these types of disputes. Here’s my list:
1. Try to gain a full understanding of the dispute – of the rights and obligations of both parties – early in the process, so that you can make a fair assessment of the dispute, early on.
2. Be sure to preserve your rights and to gather critical information and evidence – so that you are ready for battle (if that’s necessary).
3. At the same time, be as open as possible to a reasonable resolution. In particular, be ready to listen to the other’s perspective.
4. Finally, be open to a dialogue – a meeting or a discussion – about the dispute.
To my way of thinking, listening is the key. If we can listen to one another – and of course “it takes two to tango” – in many cases we’ll find a reasonable solution. Doing so may be the key to avoiding unnecessary costs and to minimizing the hurt feelings that often accompany a dispute.
Arriving at a reasonable resolution, if possible, can also preserve good working relationships between the parties into the future, which is an important part of condominium living.