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Can mediation resolve residential real estate disputes?

Buying or selling houses in Alberta involves complex business dealings and contracts, often leading to disputes between buyers and sellers. If the parties fail to resolve residential real estate disagreements through communication, other potential remedies may be helpful. The prospect of going to court often leads to people walking away from arguments in which they were in the right, not realizing that there are other methods of dispute resolution.

One option is mediation, which involves an unbiased third party who will facilitate communication between buyers and sellers. The mediator will not play any legal role in the process, and his or her goal will be to encourage communication and compromise to resolve disputes. The mediating parties may have legal counsel present during mediation to ensure their legal rights are protected.

Arbitration is a more formal option; while mediation aims to encourage compromise, arbitration typically results in a decision made by a panel of arbitrators. In arbitration, a buyer and seller (each with their legal representatives) oppose one another much as in court; each submits documents in evidence and may even call witnesses. The arbitrators evaluate the evidence and provide a written decision. The ultimate decision will be that of the majority vote, and it may be binding or nonbinding.  The third and most costly and time-consuming option is litigation which will leave the decision in the hands of a judge, meaning the outcome is often unpredictable.

The prospect of being involved in a litigated battle often causes residential real estate buyers or sellers to accept whatever loss faces them rather than spending more money on a fight in court. However, many an experienced lawyer in Alberta makes every reasonable effort to resolve issues out of court. Having an experienced lawyer to guide and support a person through mediation or arbitration can lead to an acceptable agreement between buyer and seller without the expenses related to ongoing litigation.

Source: FindLaw, "Mediation vs. Arbitration vs. Litigation: What's the Difference?", Accessed on Jan. 24, 2017

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