Dealing with Disputes in a Building with Few Units

Two tenants arguing and yelling at each other.

When you live in a building with many condos, owners can typically reach decisions about dealing with repairs or upgrades by following the rule of the majority. But when you live in a building with only a couple of units, disputes can get more difficult because people are looking out for their interests.

What if one owner thinks it’s time to repair the leaky roof but the owner who lives on the bottom floor thinks a less-expensive patch will be a better idea? What if the two owners disagree about plowing the driveway? The owner who leaves earlier for work may want a more expensive service with a guaranteed start time while the other prefers to save money. Or what happens when one owner has the money to put toward replacing the damaged siding, but the other doesn’t? With only two owners fighting these battles, they can get nasty, and they aren’t minimized by a large condo association.

It’s impossible to avoid all disputes, but there are things you can do to minimize them if you’re living in a condo building with a small number of units. For example, if your units are side by side, let each owner make decisions about their side of the lawn, windows, and exterior, keeping in mind property value and structural integrity. If these decisions don’t have to be joint ones, problems are minimized.

You should also have an arbitration clause in case of disputes or lay out the mediation process. Some people choose to start with mediation, then use arbitration before going to the courts. If disputes can be solved without involving the courts, all parties involved can save time and money.

Disputes are unavoidable, but if your deed outlines ways to minimize conflict and deal with it when it arises, everyone in the building will feel more comfortable.

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