While living in a homeowners association ideally would be problem free, conflict unfortunately occurs from time to time. There are several steps that owners and boards may take in resolving conflicts.
Talk to the Board/Owner
A conversation between the parties in a conflict may help resolve problems. Rather than letting potential misunderstandings, or differing expectations of rights and responsibilities fester, continuing to openly discuss the issues may resolve the problems.
Many conflicts in condominiums grow because neither party openly communicates. Members in a dispute should try to suppress the emotional aspect of the dispute and focus on the facts of the conflict. Failure to do so has often resulted in expensive lawsuits that may have been resolved with a conversation. All parties in the conflict should educate themselves about the rights and responsibilities of those involved to start on common ground.
Mediation for owners within registered associations is subsidized by the Hawaii Real Estate Commission. Two types of mediation are available: facilitative and evaluative. Facilitative mediation is a more relaxed, less costly discussion focused on getting both parties to participate in understanding each other’s perspectives. Evaluative mediation is run by mediators experienced in condominium law, often retired judges or lawyers. It is costlier, but with a greater level of expertise.
Evaluative mediation may result in the mediator rendering a decision as to which party is more likely to prevail in arbitration or litigation. Voluntary Binding Arbitration Act 196, SLH 2018, expanded the use of subsidized funds to include arbitration. Unlike mediation, arbitration is binding upon both parties. Participants must have attempted evaluative mediation prior to using arbitration and participation is voluntary for both parties.
Civil Litigation or Arbitration
Should all other options fail to resolve the conflict, civil litigation via the court system and regular arbitration are available. These are often the costliest options, with cases sometimes taking years to come to trial or a conclusion.
Please review the Commission’s Mediation brochures at www.hawaii.gov/hirec.