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WSCAI Mediation Program FAQs

What?

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a private, confidential, and inexpensive way for parties to resolve disputes using a trained, neutral, third-party mediator.

How Is Mediation Different From Going To Court?

In court, a judge (or jury) listens to both sides of the dispute, typically through lawyers, and then decides for you. You must obey the determination, even if you think it is unfair. You will also be responsible for paying your lawyer’s fees, and possibly, the winning party’s legal fees too.

In mediation, you and the other party work to solve the dispute yourselves, with the help of the mediator. Your only cost is the shared cost of the mediator’s time. If you cannot agree, you can still go to court.

How Is Mediation Different From Arbitration?

In arbitration, the arbitrator plays the role of judge. The arbitrator decides the case and makes an award to one party. The award is usually binding and final.

In mediation, the mediator does not decide winner and loser, doesn’t even offer a decision in the dispute, and makes no award. Instead, the mediator facilitates a discussion between the parties that allows the parties to settle the dispute themselves, on terms agreeable to both. If the parties do not end up reaching agreement, the mediation simply ends without consequences to either party.

What Are The Benefits To Mediation?

Mediation allows for a win-win solution, unlike court actions, where one party wins and the other loses. In mediation the parties create their own solutions, rather than leaving it to a judge or jury to decide. Mediation also allows parties to preserve or rebuild relationships with their neighbors and their community associations. Mediation is also private and confidential, far faster than the court system and far less costly.

How Successful Is Mediation In Resolving Disputes?

Mediation is very successful in resolving disputes with a high rate of settlement. Mediation has such a good track record that all civil cases filed in King County and many other Washington courts are required to mediate before a case can proceed to trial. We can’t guarantee your dispute will resolve through mediation, but the benefits of this approach are compelling.

What Does WSCAI Mediation Cost?

The total cost is $250 for members and $275 for non-members. By contrast, private mediation services often cost thousands of dollars. WSCAI is providing its mediation service at low cost as a public service to community association residents statewide.

Why?

Why Should I Use The Service?

Mediation can be completed far more quickly and for much lower cost than litigation or arbitration. The parties waive no rights if they cannot agree and resolve their dispute only if both sides reach an agreement.

Mediation as a process is designed to build voluntary agreement between the participants instead of hardening opposing positions. This can help restore good working relations between neighbors who will have a continuing relationship.

Mediation has the potential to improve the parties’ understanding and mutual respect, even if an agreement cannot be reached during the mediation session.

What Types Of Disputes Does The Program Accept?

The WSCAI mediation program is designed to address typical common interest community disputes. These include:

  • Persistent noise and smoking complaints, cooking odors
  • Unauthorized improvements or additions
  • Governance issues
  • Assessments, late fees, and interest
  • Architectural control decisions
  • Unit or common area modifications
  • Fences and boundaries
  • Native protection areas, trees, vegetation, and views
  • Use and restrictions of common areas
  • Parking
  • Pets, service animals, emotional support animals
  • Reasonable accommodations or modifications
  • Responsibility for insurance deductible or damage amounts [expenses]
  • Covenant enforcement
  • Rule enforcement
  • Tenant issues
Is Mediation Appropriate In A Dispute Between A Homeowner And The Board?

It certainly could be appropriate. Mediation provides a forum for each party to air its view of the situation and a safe environment in which to explore possible solutions.

Who?

Who Is The WSCAI Mediation Program Intended To Serve?

WSCAI’s Mediation Program is designed to serve homeowners, condominium associations, homeowner associations, co-ops, board members, tenants, managers, and vendors in community associations in Washington State, and is open to members of WSCAI and nonmembers alike.

Can The Association Initiate A Mediation Between Two Owners?

Yes, but both parties will have to consent in writing to participate before a mediator can be assigned and a mediation date set.

Can The Association Pay The Mediation Fee For Both Parties?

Yes, it is lawful for an association to pay the fee for two owners to mediate, and in some cases it may be worthwhile for an association to do so.

Who Attends The Mediation If One Of The Parties Is The Association?

A board member or the community manager will usually represent the association at mediation. Whoever is selected, that person must be able to negotiate in good faith on behalf of the association. It is best if the person has full authority to settle, but if needed a settlement agreement can be made subject to board approval.

Who Are The Mediators?

WSCAI mediators are experienced CAI professionals who serve common interest communities. Each mediator has received a minimum of 40 hours of training and earned certification from an approved training or credentialing organization.

Most of our mediators are lawyers with a minimum of five years’ experience working with community associations or managers who have earned their PCAM credential from the Community Associations Institute.

Qualified and trained reserve specialists, insurance professionals, and other industry professionals may also serve as mediators under eligibility standards approved by the WSCAI Board of Directors.

How?

How Do I Start A Mediation?

It’s easy. First, you ask to use the service by completing the online intake form, and pay one-half of the fee: $250 for WSCAI members, $275 for non-members. WSCAI will confirm intake of the request and contact the other party to request that person’s agreement to mediate.

Once both parties have agreed to participate WSCAI will assign a mediator from its list of certified mediators. The mediator will contact the parties and schedule the mediation, typically within 30 days. (Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mediations are being conducted using Zoom.com.)

During mediation, the mediator will assist the parties to resolve their differences and reach a mutually acceptable resolution that is put into writing as an agreement and signed by both participants.

Must Both Parties To A Dispute Agree To Participate?

Yes. A party cannot be forced to mediate against their will. If one party initiates mediation, the WSCAI Chapter office will contact the other party and invite them to participate.

What Happens If I Initiate Mediation But The Other Party Does Not Agree To Participate?

If the second party’s agreement and payment is not received within 30 days of the first party’s request, the first party’s fee will be refunded in full and no further action will be taken by WSCAI.

What If One Party Withdraws After Both Parties Have Agreed To Mediate?

If one party withdraws after the mediation date is set, the other party’s payment will be refunded in full and the canceling party’s payment will be refunded less a $50 administrative fee. If both parties cancel after the mediation date is set, each party will be charged a $50 administrative fee. If a party does not attend the mediation on the scheduled date and time, the entire mediation fee of that party will be non-refundable.

What Do The Parties To A Mediation Have To Do?

Parties to mediation must participate in good faith. This means listening courteously to the other party, keeping an open mind, and working towards a solution. Courtesy in mediation means not interrupting the other party, no name calling or use of inflammatory language, and generally acting with respect for the process.

How Long Does Mediation Take?

Mediation usually takes a half day (three hours). In most cases, three hours is sufficient time for the parties to either resolve the dispute or determine that an agreed resolution is not possible at this time.

Can My Attorney Attend Mediation?

No. The WSCAI Mediation Program is all about the parties—not their lawyers. The parties speak for themselves, without attorneys speaking for them. The only persons attending the mediation are the parties themselves, as in small claims court. A party is free to confer with an attorney separately before or after the mediation, but the attorney cannot attend and should not be contacted during the mediation.

What Actually Happens At Mediation?

The mediation begins with a short introduction by the mediator. Each party then makes a statement to the mediator, explaining the dispute from that person’s perspective and saying what he or she would like to see happen. The mediator then helps the parties create a list of issues to discuss during the mediation. After that, with the mediator’s assistance, the parties negotiate directly with each other. When agreement is reached, the mediator helps the parties put the agreement into writing that the parties then sign. This concludes the mediation.

Does The Mediator Decide Who Wins?

No. The mediator is not like a judge or arbitrator and does not decide anything about who wins or loses. The mediator tries to help the parties to reach agreement by carefully facilitating a discussion between them using proven mediation techniques.

Are The Agreements Binding And Enforceable?

Yes. Once a mediation agreement is signed by the parties, it becomes a binding contract between them and enforceable by either party.

Can I Have A Lawyer Review The Agreement Before I Sign It?

Yes. If a party to mediation wishes to have a lawyer review the agreement before signing, an opportunity for that will be provided. Again, the mediator has no power to make the parties sign an agreement.

Is It True That Nothing Said Or Done At Mediation Can Be Used Against A Party?

Yes. Public policy favors the amicable resolution of disputes. By protecting what people say at mediation, the law creates a safe space for parties to try to settle their disputes. If they do not settle, nothing they said or offered to accept can be used against them later, subject to exceptions for information revealed in mediation concerning past or future criminal activity. This is part of Washington State law under RCW 7.07.030 and Evidence Rule (ER) 408.

When You Say Mediation Is Confidential, What Does That Mean?

It means that the mediator cannot reveal what the parties said at mediation, and nothing said or offered can be used against either party in a court of law or otherwise, subject to certain legal exceptions for information revealed in mediation concerning past or future criminal activity. This is part of Washington State law under RCW 7.07.030 and Evidence Rule (ER) 408.

What If The Parties Do Not Reach Agreement At Mediation?

Not all mediations succeed. If the parties do not reach agreement at mediation, they are no worse off than where they were before they went to mediation, and often they lay the groundwork for a future resolution in the process. Nothing they said or offered at mediation can be used against them if a lawsuit starts later, subject to certain legal exceptions for information revealed in mediation concerning past or future criminal activity. This is part of Washington State law under RCW 7.07.030 and Evidence Rule (ER) 408.

Where?

Where Will Mediation Take Place?

During the Covid-19 pandemic, mediation will be held remotely using Zoom.

After the pandemic ends, mediation can either be held in person at a location designated by the mediator or remotely, using Zoom.

When?

When Does The Mediation Take Place?

You can initiate a mediation, and if everything happens in a timely manner, you may be only two weeks away from a solution.

Mediation Program Intake Form

WSCAI’s Mediation Program offers a private, confidential and inexpensive alternative to litigation, when parties need an assist to resolve a problem or dispute. The program is designed to address day to day community association disputes.

Become A Mediator:

WSCAI invites all qualified candidates to apply to serve as a WSCAI Mediation Program mediator. The WSCAI Mediation Program utilizes the facilitative model for dispute resolution, based upon the county Dispute Resolution Centers’ (DRC) eight step facilitative mediation method.

Mediation Program Flyer

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