by Dan Krell
You may find it odd that a Realtor is talking about mediation; after all I am not an attorney. Although a majority of real estate transactions close without incident, many are very happy endings indeed (no pun intended); disputes do arise.
Many disputes between home buyers and home sellers get resolved through normal lines of communication. However, communications can break down and a resolution far off.
If you do have a real estate dispute of any kind, please consult your attorney. But before you sue in court, discuss mediation with your attorney an alternative vehicle to resolve your dispute.
For those who don’t know, mediation is a process of bringing the parties together in an attempt to communicate differences and reach an agreement through a trained and neutral third party (the mediator). The mediator does not make judgment nor does the mediator pass any binding decisions. The mediator is trained in special techniques to facilitate the process of mediation.
The Maryland Association of Realtors (MAR) describes the benefits of mediation as follows (MDRealtor.org): mediation is faster than litigation, as litigation can take as long as several years for resolution while mediation can take as long as sixty days; mediation is less expensive than litigation as both parties split the cost and no one pays an excessive amount; mediation is non-adversarial and focuses on a win-win result, while litigation focuses on the disagreement and has a win-lose outcome; mediation results in an agreement that is mutually agreed upon by the parties;
Another benefit is that the parties who decide to pursue mediation retain the right to use other legal remedies. If mediation does not work the parties involved can pursue arbitration or litigation as if the mediation never took place.
Although mediation is not appropriate for every situation, common disputes that have been successfully resolved through mediation include repair and inspection issues, costs for repairs, missing fixtures, earnest money deposits, and claims of misrepresentation about property and appliance condition. Certainly, criminal allegations should be pursued by legal means not through mediation. Similarly, unethical behavior by Realtors should be referred to the real estate commission.
As a service to consumers, the MAR offers mediation as a means to resolve real estate disputes in Maryland. The MAR has established uniform procedural guidelines to maintain standardization and homogeneity in the process. These guidelines can be obtained through the MAR Mediation Service Provider, as indicated by the MAR.
Before mediation begins, the parties must have a written agreement to mediate. The agreement can be signed before or after disputes may arise. In fact, if you use the MAR purchase contract, there is a clause that states you agree to try mediation before litigation as means to resolve any dispute that arises from the transaction.
The next step is to submit the potential disputes to mediate and have a mediator selected. Although the mediator is selected by the mediation service, all parties involved must agree to the selection. All mediation sessions are typically held in the county where the dispute arose and are private and confidential.
I was once told that litigation results in unhappy parties regardless of the result. As a faster and inexpensive alternative, mediation is a means to resolve real estate related disputes agreeably.
This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of June 11, 2007. Copyright © 2007 Dan Krell.