Communities governed by a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) have always been abundant in Florida; however, in recent years the number of registered HOAs has increased dramatically. Consequently, so have disputes involving HOAs and members of the HOA. Spending the time and money it takes to litigate HOA disputes can be disadvantageous to everyone involved in the dispute. Mediation is a cost-effective and efficient alternative that is often required under Florida law for an HOA dispute.
HOA Disputes and Florida Law
Given the significant (and growing) number of properties governed by an HOA in Florida and the numerous and varied types of HOA disputes that arise, the Florida legislature enacted Fla. Stat. § 720.311(1)which requires the parties to submit to mediation prior to filing a lawsuit in certain types of HOA disputes. HOA disputes that are covered under the mandatory mediation requirement include:
- Disputes between an association and a parcel owner regarding use of or changes to the parcel or the common areas
- Covenant enforcement disputes
- Disputes regarding amendments to the association documents
- Disputes regarding meetings of the board and committees appointed by the board, membership meetings not including election meetings
- Disputes involving access to the official records of the association.
Disputes that are specifically not covered under the pre-lawsuit mandatory mediation requirement include:
- Disputes over the collection of any assessment, fine, or other financial obligation, including attorney’s fees and costs, claimed to be due (although the parties may still voluntarily agree to mediation prior to, or after, filing a traditional lawsuit
- Actions to enforce a prior mediation settlement agreement between the parties.
The pre-lawsuit mediation requirement also does not apply where emergency relief is required, even if the dispute falls into a covered category. In that case, a motion for temporary injunctive relief may be filed with the court without first complying with the mediation requirement.
What Is HOA Mediation?
Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), all of which are aimed at resolving civil legal disputes without the need for protracted formal litigation. Mediation uses a trained neutral mediator (usually an attorney) who brings the parties together in an attempt at resolving the dispute. The mediator does not decide issues in dispute. Instead, the mediator tries to facilitate negotiations between the parties to arrive at a settlement that is acceptable to all parties.
Benefits of HOA Mediation
Whether you are required by law, or you voluntarily choose to submit to mediation in a Florida HOA dispute, doing so offers several important benefits over traditional litigation. First, mediation can substantially reduce the costs involved in a legal dispute. Moreover, the cost of mediation is shared equally between the parties. Second, mediation can resolve a dispute much faster than traditional litigation. Instead of waiting months for a court date, mediation can result in a settlement within weeks. Finally, mediation offers the parties more control over the outcome and allows for more creative and individually tailored solutions to an HOA dispute.
Consult the Tampa Bay HOA Mediation Attorneys at Lieser Skaff Alexander
If you find yourself involved in a Florida HOA dispute, keep in mind that mediation is a cost-effective alternative that may be required under Florida law. You may also choose to attempt mediation to avoid the time and money involved in a traditional lawsuit. Our experienced HOA mediation attorneys have the training and experience to successfully mediate your HOA dispute.