Resolving Neighbor-To-Neighbor Disputes in HOAs and Condos

Perhaps you received my recent E-Newsletter entitled – “Neighbor-to-Neighbor Disputes – Let ‘Em Duke it Out?”  I received lots of feedback. It resonated with many.  It is archived on my website at – on the Main Page under “E-News Archives”.

Here is one of the questions/comments I received:

“Our CC&Rs have the standard section that says that problems can be worked out via the Alternantive Dispute Resolution, civil code section 1369.510.  A complaint about a common area tree removal and our request for another tree to be planted falls within the that code section, right?”

Almost any problem can be worked out via ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) if the parties really want a solution and are willing to participate in good faith. And the law referenced here was passed to encourage (strongly) HOAs and owners in them to participate in ADR before considering suing one another. The incentive comes through the idea that if either party refuses ADR, a judge can use that refusal to deny reimbursement of attorney fees to a prevailing party.

However, mediation and arbitration (ADR processes) are not cheap, and so they are often ignored. As to tree removal, it can be a very emotional issue. I have had owners call my office and leave tearful messages or if they reach me rant and rave about a board’s or neighbor’s removal of a tree that was providing shade, privacy or pleasure. Sometimes boards begin a tree removal project without letting anyone know what to expect and owners come unglued, assuming the board has gone mad. The problem in using ADR for this problem is that it is not immediate; it takes time to arrange a mediation or arbitration. The parties have to agree on a facilitator or arbitrator and then there are all of the “schedules” to coordinate. And while this is going on, trees may be coming down. The law provides an exception to the ADR requirements in a situation where immediate relief or orders may be necessary to stop “irreparable harm”.  For that, a court order is quicker, but still expensive.

If more boards or neighbors would share information with those who may be affected that suggests tree removal is necessary for some reason, or that replacement of a similar tree is planned, fewer eruptions would occur.

And if more boards and owners would seek resolution of issues via mediation prior to escalation or serious positioning, both would save money over going to court, and I mean lots and lots of money! I have been involved in  many mediations where the parties coming in thought there was no chance of a solution, but walk out relieved, with a written agreement/solution going forward.


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