Resolving Disputes

Accell Property Management, Inc. Board Member Orientation Handbook

Resolving Disputes
The Board Member's Duties...
By Steve Feistel, PCAM®

Remain objective:

Remain objective: For Board members to effectively facilitate the resolution of homeowner disputes with the Association, it is crucial that homeowners view the members of the Board as objective with a genuine concern for resolving the issues in the best interest of all involved.If the perception is that the Board is predisposed to a single point of view, an important trust will be broken. For this reason, the Board must operate as an independent neutral participant whose role it is to keep focus on the common goal of resolving the dispute.

Employ dispute resolution procedures: Disputes involving our homes can be very emotional issues. Often what is at stake are very precious commodities in the form of pride, lifestyle and perceptions of homeownership rights. These strong feelings can lead to shouting matches if basic courtesies and parliamentary rules are not followed. For this reason, it is crucial that all parties involved in the discussion clearly understand the parliamentary procedures enforced by the Board. It is the Board's duty to insist that these procedures be followed.

Specify what's wrong: The first step in solving a problem is to define the problem. Before effective solutions can be reached, a clear definition of the problem needs to be developed and agreed upon. From this point, progress towards resolution begins.

Open and facilitate communications with all parties concerned: Most homeowners have a lot in common. But when disputes arise, this common ground is often abandoned because of personality conflicts and inflated egos. Charging ahead without taking a careful survey of the terrain can lead to devastating outcomes for all parties involved. When homeowner disputes arise all parties need to look to the common ground for mutually beneficial resolutions. The Board member's role is to facilitate this process by providing advice, insight and leadership.

Mutual resolution starts with understanding and trust. Participants need to get to know each other and make a commitment to resolving the dispute. Objectives and perspectives need to be openly discussed. Emphasis needs to be placed on common goals and finding solutions.

Not all disputes can be easily resolved, but mutual resolution will result in many more disputes’ being resolved earlier, more fairly, more efficiently, at less cost and with less animosity.

Listen to all positions and options: Listening is the most powerful tool of a successful facilitator or mediator. Often a combatant's opportunity to be heard by a neutral and interested party is adequate compensation for accepting compromise and submitting to resolution.

Volunteer solutions: Disagreements are a natural part of negotiations. When they occur, alternatives need to be explored. As an unbiased participant, the Board member can be a valuable source of alternative solutions to resolve differences. Sometimes a little unbiased insight can lead to amenable solutions to impassable barriers.

End with a clear decision and take action; the resolution process should lead to a clear and decisive ending. After all parties have been given a reasonable opportunity to be heard and participate in the resolution process, it is the Board's duty to make a decision. Decisions should be free from ambiguity and clearly state the action or actions to be taken by all the involved parties. If necessary, the Board may wish to perform some follow-up to verify that the intended results of the decision have been reached.

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