Resolving a Dispute in a Condo or Co-op

Posted by Michael Kanayo on November 12th, 2019

Disputes in a co-op are, unfortunately, a relatively common situation that is bound to happen every now and then when several different personalities live in the same general area.

Personality clashes, differences in, and sometimes selfish interests, a feeling of being victimized, individual disputes and arguments are just some of the many situations that can bring rise to such a situation.

Before we get into the resolution aspect of these disputes in a co-op, it is perhaps best to first explain what exactly a co-op and condo is.

Condominiums, often referred to as condos, are often confused with co-ops, and, in terms of the living arrangement, that confusion is understandable. However, the two vary greatly especially as it concerns their ownership and a few other features. For starters, condos are usually buildings in which the individual units or apartments in them are wholly owned by one landlord. This means that a single entity, whether that entity is an individual, family or even a registered business holds the title deed to an individual unit or apartment in a larger building containing several units or apartments. There are several other features that characterize a condo such as the property being taxed the way the owner of a single home is taxed; I.e. individually. Also, there is the fact that there are usually no financial requirements or other restrictions for buyers.

Co-ops, on the other hand, can be described as a multi-unit apartment building where each occupant or owner of a unit doesn’t actually own the unit but instead owns an interest or shares in the corporation that owns the entire building. This is very similar to the way that people invest in, and own shares in a publicly-traded company that might be engaged in any form or type of business. Only that in this case, they own shares in a company that is formed to buy and own a residential building, and in which they are given a stock certificate as well as a proprietary lease to live in a specific unit in the building.

Condos and the communal spaces or common properties that encompass them will usually be managed by a Homeowners Association (HOA,) while a co-op is managed by an elected Board of Directors. The rules enacted by HOA will usually be much less strict than those of a co-op board of directors.

For this reason, Co-ops might be a little more difficult, and definitely more time-consuming to purchase, just as disputes in a co-op might be a little less difficult to resolve than in a condo. This is because the rules and regulations in a co-op will usually be much more specific and black and white, while those of a condo much less so and therefore, easily misinterpreted.

So when disputes arise in a co-op or condo and arise they will, the most important and the first thing that should be employed to resolve them is for each party to the conflict, especially when it concerns adults, to be accommodating and compromising. The alternative and next step to take to resolve a conflict when the parties cannot resolve the conflict themselves is potentially for the responsible governing body to step in to apply their rules if they are applicable.

The last option will likely involve taking the dispute to a civil court, often referred to as a housing court. This last option should be avoided at all costs because while a court decision might certainly end the conflict, it is a lengthy, time-consuming, and incredibly costly affair, that no party will benefit from in any capacity. 

Additionally, even if you do end up in court, and the judge’s decision fails to rectify the problem on hand or leaves one or more parties deeply unsatisfied, (which will come in conjunction with a noticeably thinner wallet), the ground is ripe for more disputes to follow. It is, therefore, easier to just maintain good, respectful relationships with your fellow residents while also trying your very best to follow all the governing body’s rules.

At this point, mention should be made of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as another dispute resolution mechanism for settling disputes in a condo or co-op. This solution may or may not be an option, depending on the agreement that might have been signed at the time of taking occupancy.

ADR focuses on mediation and arbitration and works well in instances where the rules are not clear-cut and dry, as can be the case in some rules and regulations that govern condos.

There are issues that contracts often won’t cover in enough specificity to end a dispute. An issue with dogs in a co-op or condo that doesn’t allow them is easily solved with the offending party being found to be in the wrong.

An instance of a noisy neighbor, for example, may not be so easily resolved. So, even though the rules might prohibit excessive noise, it becomes very difficult for one party to factually prove that the other party’s noise-making was “ excessive.”

Of course, if the “ excessive noise” being made was by the neighbors crying baby or a mentally ill individual, then this is a situation where the “ compromise and accommodation” that was previously spoken about should come into play.

Whatever the case, mediation is a good place to start. Mediation involves the two parties that are at odds with one another sitting down and discussing their problems, with a third party present to help mediate this process. Here, the third party can be anybody, from a member of the HOA to a real estate agent, a retired judge or an attorney, (including, or especially a real estate attorney,) as they are well versed in laws that govern real estate or communal property.

The thing about meditation, however, is that it is entirely voluntary. You can not force someone to mediation if he or she does not want it. The upside, though, is that if both parties are present then it might seem that they do indeed want to find a resolution. But if they don’t show up, then what? 

That’s where arbitration comes into play. It is more of an adversarial procedure and involves the disputing parties airing their grievances to an arbitration panel, which will then express a judgment on the issue. Their decision is final and legally binding. It is often a faster and cheaper process that has a result similar to a court hearing without the headaches and costs.

Overall, mediation might be the better option, as it has a higher rate of satisfaction. People can better repair relationships, which can help to avoid future conflict. Plus, mediators can come to some pretty creative and unconventional solutions to disputes, which judges or arbitrators simply are not allowed to do. It just comes down to talking. If you can be objective and empathetic, and try to look at the situation from the perspective of the person or persons you are having a dispute with, there is a higher chance of resolution.


Kanayo Okwuraiwe is a startup founder, an incurable entrepreneur and a digital marketing professional. He is also the founder of Telligent Marketing LLC, a digital marketing agency that provides law firm SEO  services to help lawyers grow their law practices. Connect with him on Linkedln

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Michael Kanayo

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Michael Kanayo
Joined: May 17th, 2019
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