A Better Way to Resolve Disputes

September 1, 1999

NAR is moving toward making it mandatory for local REALTOR® associations to offer mediation for resolving disputes. Currently, local associations have the option of offering mediation in addition to arbitration.

In May the Professional Standards Committee’s Arbitration Work Group made a series of recommendations to the full committee that would make it a duty of local boards and associations to offer mediation in some circumstances. They include contractual disputes and other disputes specified in the Standard of Practice 17-4 in cases between REALTORS® or between REALTORS® and clients. I served in the work group, which was chaired by Steve Casper of Covington, Ky., and I believe the shift toward mediation is a good idea.

Why? As Bruce Aydt mentioned in his Ethics column last month (“REALTORS® and arbitration,” August 1999, page 48), REALTORS® were early users of dispute resolution practices; we’ve been arbitrating disputes since 1913. To avoid costly, lengthy, and often acrimonious court settlements, REALTORS® have sought, and still seek, to use arbitration as a preferred method of resolving disputes.

Arbitration has served us well, but in my opinion, mediation will serve us even better.

Mediation is effective and efficient. Nationwide, mediators report an 80 percent success rate in dispute resolution. A number of factors contribute to its success:

  • It’s less adversarial and confrontational than either litigation or arbitration.
  • Participants fashion the agreement instead of having it made for them by an arbitrator or a court.
  • It’s simpler, quicker, and less expensive than arbitration. Mediation reduces the time and expense of dispute resolution, not just for members but also for local associations. In addition, local associations potentially reduce their liability.

And there are no losers: Mediation is a win-win method, because the parties together come to an agreement that both are satisfied with. Although mediation isn’t perfect--parties don’t always reach an agreement--it’s the best method of resolving disputes in the culture of cooperation in which we work.

Boards and associations have had the opportunity to provide mediation as a member service for years, but it still isn’t offered to a substantial number of REALTORS®. Implementation of the work group’s recommendations would make mediation more available to you.

So what’s the next step in the implementation process? After the Professional Standards Committee received the work group’s report at the 1999 Midyear Governance Meetings, a database was established at One Realtor Place®, and comments were solicited from REALTORS®, local and state associations, and association executives. It’s anticipated that the report will be acted on at the 1999 REALTORS® National Convention & Expo in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 11–15.

Carolyn D’Agosta is the 2016 Chair of the NAR Professional Standards Committee. A San Diego-based real estate broker, D'Agosta also provides instruction, expert witness testimony, and litigation support. Learn more or contact D'Agosta at cdagosta1@aol.com.

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