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How to Handle Conflict: Check Dispute Resolution Requirements

Dispute Resolution

Unfortunately, being a friendly neighbor will not always result in a resolution.  Let us assume at this point that you have tried to be positive and work with your neighbor to solve issues which are concerning you.  Notwithstanding your best efforts, your neighbor has blown you off and shows no interest in addressing your concerns.

Before doing anything rash you should send your neighbor a friendly letter putting into writing the concerns that you attempted to address with him or her previously.  Sometimes seeing something in writing will allow a person to recognize an issue and spur him or her into taking some action.  The letter should remain neutral and identify the issues and suggested ways to address them.  Be sure to tell your neighbor that you would like to work with him or her toward a resolution. Ask that your neighbor talk with you again.

If, however, none of these efforts work and you do not want to sell your home and leave the community, then it is time to take other steps to see if a third party can help you resolve the issue.  This third party may be a mediator, an arbitrator, the association’s board of directors or a judge.

Before proceeding down any particular path, you should do your homework.  Review your city, county and state regulations to determine if your neighbor has violated any of these provisions.  Also review your association’s governing documents to determine if the presence or actions violate any of these regulations.

Once you have determined whether any violations exist you should check your governing documents and state or local regulations as to what Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) processes are available to help you work through the issue.  Most cities have low-cost mediation centers that will allow parties to meet with a third party facilitator to work toward a resolution.  Even if a form of ADR is not required by your state or local regulations, you may wish to give mediation a try.

As an alternative, you may also wish to file a complaint with your association’s board.  Perhaps other owners have complained as well.  If the board of directors has received multiple complaints from many different homeowners, it is possible that some enforcement action will be taken.  It is also possible that enforcement action is already taking place and that your additional complaints will lend further evidence and support to the action being taken by the board.  Remember that your efforts are not geared toward “telling on” your neighbor, but instead on asking for your board to assist you in your goal of living in your community peacefully.

If the board takes no action and a form of ADR does not resolve the issue, then you can use the regulations which you identified as having been violated to take further action.  Whether this involves filing an incident report with the City or County or filing suit, you should have all of the information necessary to make your case.

You should also remember that all of the steps taken by you to address the issue in an informal and amicable manner will be reviewed by the Court.  Your prior actions will show the Judge that you are not being obnoxious or acting rash, but that you have a legitimate concern that you are attempting to address and that you have tried every other avenue prior to filing suit.

When taking action through the court process, you should always remember that unless you plan on selling your home, you will have to live next to your neighbor for years to come.  Being civil during litigation can prove priceless in this regard.  Litigation does not always have to be spiteful and obnoxious.  It will be expensive however, so make sure you have consulted with appropriate experts and determined that litigation is the best course of action.  To avoid this expense, you should make a determined effort into attempting to informally resolve the issue using the tools outlined here.

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