In this Mediation Minute, we are going to discuss Florida’s crazy Associations. Many if not most of us live in some type of Home Owner’s Association or Condominium Association. We’ve got rules and regulations and there are all sorts of goofy, crazy disputes that come up. So, we’re going to talk a little about how to work through HOA disputes in Florida.

Well, first, they tend to come in three different flavors, we’ve found:

First, it’s someone on a power trip. Somebody gets on a board of directors, they are now a big fish in a small pond, and they like to throw their weight around.

The second type is simply someone who doesn’t like following the rules. They come from up North or somewhere else where they can do what they wanted with their property, it didn’t matter. Now they are being told they’ve got to cut their grass, power-wash their roof, and park their car in a certain place and it better not stick out too far. They can get cranky about these things.  But, the rules are the rules.

The third type is interpersonal disputes among neighbors or other people.  This can mean things like: someone’s dog is not doing what it’s supposed to be doing, it’s going to the bathroom where it’s not supposed to be, etc. Could be someone smoking in a non-smoking area or association. HOA disputes in Florida can be started by a lot of different things.

So, how do you work through that? The key thing with Home Owner’s Association is: people have to continue living together. There is going to be an ongoing relationship, so at some level, it pays to have everybody understand that in the future, they are going to be dealing with each other, so how are you going to do that? If you go scorched earth, it’s not going to help anybody in the future. And God forbid someone has to move. That feeling doesn’t benefit anybody, and usually, neither party wants to move.

There have been cases where someone says, “alright, we’ll offer to buy them out.” But then the other party says, “well, we don’t want to move.” And then we’re back to square one. How do we deal with these rules even if we don’t like them? That’s what we try to get people to look at.

Another thing with HOA disputes in Florida is that now that every HOA or other association requires pre-suit mediation under Florida Statutes, take advantage of those. Because once the lawsuits start, the prevailing party is going to get their attorney’s fees, and often the fees become a bigger problem, or, the tail wags the dog, as they say. So, have everyone take a big picture look at the beginning and make a tough decision now as opposed to going through a lot of time and money over a couple of years and then still having to make that same tough decision, just at a lot greater expense.

We hope this has helped, and check back in next month for more Mediation tips.