Mediating Co-op and Condo Disputes
CNYC thanks Abigail Pessen for the following
guest article. A former commercial litigator, Ms. Pessen
now mediates business and employment disputes in New York
Some Illustrative Cases:
These examples are all too commonplace in the densely-populated and
intensely litigious city of New York; indeed, all are loosely
based on actual cases. Each almost certainly would have
been disposed of in a single, inexpensive session with a
skilled mediator. Yet no co-op or condo board ever suggested,
let alone mandated mediation.
Mediation can be a very powerful tool for settling disputes.
By engaging a mediator for a single day, boards can quickly
dispose of unpleasant and time-consuming problems at a fraction
of the cost of litigation. And if the mediation does not
succeed (a very small percent of the time), all that has
been lost is a minor investment of time and money. Communications
made during the mediation are confidential and either side
is free to proceed with a lawsuit if not satisfied with
the proposed resolution.
In mediation, the parties themselves attempt to resolve
their dispute with the mediator's assistance. The mediator
has no authority to impose a solution; rather, he/she explores
the interests underlying the dispute and helps to develop
options that satisfy the parties' respective needs.
Specifically, in the three examples cited above, within a day or half
a day the mediator might:
In the first case, help the Board and shareholder fairly apportion
the repair and tile replacement costs, by discussing the necessity for
the work, the time spent by the contractor to replace the additional
tiles, the benefit (if any) to the shareholder in using the Board's
In the second case, help the shareholder and Board find a reasonable
way to protect the co-op in the event of default, while giving effect
to the divorce decree.
In the third case, facilitate a resolution between the unit owner and
tenant by discussing both sides' grievances and crafting a stipulation/
protective order providing for penalties in the event of violation.
CNYC has long advocated mediation for resolving disputes
of this nature. Ms Pessen and other mediators knowledgeable
about cooperatives and condominiums have helped bring adversaries
to the table, to hear one another's point of view and to
put together a reasonable compromise. For the names and
numbers of mediators to help your cooperative or condominium
bring disputes to resolution, call CNYC at (212) 496-7400.