Q: We are in a dispute with our homeowner’s association over the placement of our fence. If we do go to mediation, would you recommend taking an attorney with us? We are trying to avoid high attorney fees, hence our interest in mediation. What would you recommend?
A: The point of mediation frequently is to avoid using attorneys and reduce costs. Even if you want an attorney present, some mediation rules may prevent you from having one with you to present your case.
You need to find out what the rules for the mediation are and what restrictions there are in using an attorney. If you find out that you can’t have an attorney represent you, you might still want to talk to one to determine how you should proceed.
Make an appointment with the attorney, bring your documents and listen to what he or she has to say about your situation. You should be able to use your time with the attorney to develop a strategy for the mediation and understand your rights and options.
If you don’t know a good real estate attorney, you should contact your local bar association and ask for the head of the real estate committee. The person who chairs that committee will be a good real estate attorney and, more importantly, should be able to guide you to the best person for the situation.
If you decide not to use a real estate attorney, you should learn as much as you can about your issue. Determine where exactly the fence is located and read the documents that govern your homeowner’s association to determine what rules those rules. Once you’ve done your homework, you should be in a better place going into the mediation.