The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to the closure of many condominium amenities. Beyond condominium communities, a series of other venues have been closed for over half a year now, to limit unnecessary in-person gatherings and to keep people safe at home. When it comes to condominium living, however, staying at home does not necessarily mean being isolated. One consideration surrounds encounters while multiple members of a community cross paths on the common elements at the same time, giving rise to many communities doing their part to encourage mask-wearing and physical distancing; another inevitable consequence of condominium residents spending more time in their units has been that they will inevitably encounter one another more frequently. Even while keeping a safe distance apart, neighbours can still impact one another.
Consider a neighbour who used to leave the premises each working day to venture to their office and who is now working from home. As she is now in her unit throughout the day, noises emanating from her neighbours’ units during business hours that were not previously a factor have become one. No one had ever expected that a door slamming in a residential community in the middle of the day would be heard for miles around by everyone participating in a professional Zoom meeting.
Couple this with COVID-19 and the uncertain times it has brought adding to stress, tension and anxiety to most of us and it is no surprise that conflict in condominiums has increased during the pandemic. The combination of our collective mindsets these days and everyone spending more time in close quarters makes it inevitable. While times have certainly changed – that it may no longer be socially acceptable to smile when greeting a neighbour unless it is behind a mask – the same principles that have always existed around promoting good relationships in our condominium communities remain. The idea of working together to improve relationships and jointly overcoming challenges is still solid. Mediation gives those experiencing an issue the chance to have a say in their outcome, allowing for the preservation of relationships within a condominium community.
As more people have become comfortable using technology to communicate in response to the pandemic, the opportunities to participate in mediation have expanded to offer more comfort, convenience and flexibility. No longer do parties need to travel to mediate, they can participate from the comfort of their own homes. Costs are reduced without the need to pay for meeting space. Scheduling hurdles are overcome by not necessarily requiring every participant in a mediation to come together at the same day and time. The flexibility mediation offers to craft creative solutions is only enhanced with online mediation. Now that many more of us regularly connect with friends, family and colleagues through technology, the notion of addressing their conflict, in the same way, is no longer as foreign.
We will let you in on a little secret. Online mediation is not new. It has been around for decades and has been the subject of much academic study (including as the focus of both writers’ Master of Laws studies). It has also been subject to a great deal of practical experimentation. The hesitation in the condominium context to embrace mediating online in years past had to do with a lack of understanding of what it is and how it works. During the pandemic, where has not safely be an opportunity to gather in-person to mediate disputes, online mediation has offered us a way forward – the chance to do something about conflict before it escalates and damages relationships between people stuck in community together whether they like it or not. We predict that online mediation will not be the 2020 version of the fidget spinner. It is not another fad that will be forgotten about in a couple of years. It is here to stay because it offers convenience, comfort and efficiency that traditional in-person processes do not.
Editors’ Note: Stay tuned for an upcoming article from the authors that will focus on the mechanics of the online mediation process.
Colm Brannigan, C. Med-Arb., FCIArb.
Mediate.ca – Brannigan ADR
Marc Bhalla, Hons. B.A., C.Med, Q.Arb, MCIArb, CCI (Hon’s)
Mediator & Arbitrator
Elia & Associates