Earlier this week, I was asked by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section of the Colorado Bar Association to participate in a luncheon conversation about the use of mediation in HOA disputes. We talked about the types of disputes which can occur in HOAs and the importance of mediators understanding the role of the governing documents and Colorado law in the HOA context. However, I found the experiences shared by mediators who have actually mediated HOA disputes to be the most interesting part of the conversation.
While the mediators obviously gave no details of the parties involved or the particulars of any dispute which they mediated, they did share the cathartic affect of giving owners and board members the ability to vent their frustrations and express how they really feel about the dispute. These mediators recognized that underlying many disputes in HOAs is the need for folks (both homeowners and board members) to truly be heard, respected and recognized as having vaulable input.
I think it’s fair to say that many of us are extremely uncomfortable with conflict. As a result, we tend to avoid constructive and important conversations early on in a dispute. Unfortunately, this often results in an escalation of the dispute and increased anger, frustration and mistrust between the parties. As a result, for your consideration, I would like to recommend that both board members and homeowners make a commitment early on in a dispute to really listen to each other, to treat each other with respect and if necessary to agree to disagree in a constructive and respectful manner. I suspect this commitment may go a long way to reducing destructive disputes in HOAs.