When there is a legal dispute between a property owner and the homeowners association, either side may want to take the matter to court for a resolution. However, Florida statute 720.311(2) says that in certain situations, the parties must engage in presuit mediation.
By requiring parties to work with a neutral third party trained in dispute resolution tactics, courts have seen a significant drop in the number of lawsuits involving HOA-related issues.
Disputes eligible for mediation
A parcel owner and an association may take their dispute to mediation if it involves the following:
- Changes to the parcel
- Changes to common areas
- Covenant enforcement
- Amendments to association documents
- Meetings of the board
- Board-appointed committees
Election and recall disputes and disputes involving election meetings may be subject to arbitration but not mediation.
Benefits of mediation
Mediation generally saves time as court dockets are often crowded. Parties may reach a resolution long before they would have had a court date. This method of alternative dispute resolution typically involves fewer expenses, as well. The law states that each party is responsible for an equal share of the cost of mediation.
The mediator is a facilitator rather than a judge and does not make decisions about who is right. An agreement is not mandatory, but if parties do commit to a resolution and put it in writing, it becomes legally binding. Parties may have legal representation present during the mediation session if they wish.
If parties are unable to reach an agreement, they can still take the matter to court to obtain a judge’s ruling.