Condominium Mediation and Disputes with Marc Bhalla
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Rafal Dyrda: Hi and welcome to the Condo Web Show. On today's episode, we will be talking about condominium mediation, who's a mediator, what a mediator does, and how to hire the right one so you can resolve your problems peacefully and respectfully, so stay tuned.
Today, we'll be speaking with Marc Bhalla, who's a mediator who focuses his practice on condominium conflict management.
He holds the Charter Mediator designation of the ADR Institute of Canada, which is the most senior designation available to practicing mediators in Canada. He also is on a Condo Mediator's Team and manages the Marc on Mediation website. He relates to his clients as he himself is a condominium resident, owner, and director, and understands how condominiums work, in servicing the industry for 15 years including as a law clerk. He volunteers his time to support at Toronto and ADR Chapter of the Canadian Condominium Institute, where he currently serves as a second Vice President. He's the editor of the award-winning "Condo Voice Quarterly" magazine and led the development of the Condo Strength Program. Welcome to the show Marc.
Marc Bhalla: Thanks for having me.
Rafal Dyrda: I'll be honest with you, Marc. I've been on the board since 2007 and we've really never hired a mediator. Tell me, what do you do?
What Does A Condo Mediator Do?
Marc Bhalla: Basically, I help people who are involved in a conflict, better understand each other and look at different ways that they might agree to find and improve a situation, ideally even resolve their conflict by working together.
Rafal Dyrda: That sounds pretty interesting. Tell me, what got you into it? What are you excited about the job?
Marc Bhalla: Being a mediator always seemed to come naturally to me. I find that I always like to look at different people's perspectives and try to find what they have in common, which is really the cornerstone of what we try to do in a mediation. When I found out that I could make a living doing it, that was great because it just really applying what comes to me naturally in a way that I could earn a living.
Rafal Dyrda: You sound pretty comfortable in this role. How long have you been doing it for?
Marc Bhalla: Well, I took my first mediation training course, back in 2005. At that time, I was working as a law clerk in a condominium firms who got to learn condominiums a little bit. Really got serious about pushing a practice in 2012, and since than have been doing so.
Rafal Dyrda: What drives you in this role? What keeps you going everyday?
What Keeps You Motivated In This Job?
Marc Bhalla: It's extremely a rewarding work. When you have people who come to you who are very stressed out about a situation that they're involved in that effects them personally, that causes them a lot of cost of time and money, to be able to do something to help them at the end of the day is very personally rewarding.
Rafal Dyrda: It sounds like you must have helped quite a bit of people in this industry, so on a ball park, how many customers have you worked with, clients?
Marc Bhalla: To be honest, when I'm working with condominium communities or boards of directors who are representing condominium corporations, I can have hundreds, sometimes even thousands of units. When you are successful as a mediator, or you help narrow issues, you're helping them all save time. You're helping them all save money, so to answer you questions honestly, I feel like I have helped thousands of people because they're all part of the communities that I've been able to help out.
Rafal Dyrda: Thousands? Not many people can say they've helped thousands of people, right? Usually, it's like one or two, especially certain lawyers, they help customers on a one-on-one basis. Tell me, since you've been working with thousands of people, what's the hardest mediation that you ever had, thus far?
The Hardest Condominium Mediations
Marc Bhalla: The hardest mediations I find, are when people don't come to a mediation with the realistic sense of what their options are outside of mediation. Basically what happens as we mediate, we get to the point of looking at different options and seeing if any of those, those who are involved in the conflict, might be agreeable to.
In order to determine if it's worthwhile for them to select any one of those options, they need to weigh those options against what else they could do to address their dispute like proceeding to court, if they don't have a realistic sense of what that looks like.
Unfortunately, TV these day does not really depict what going to court looks like. In reality, if people come to the table at a mediation and they have a fairy tale idea of those options outside of condo mediation, they're not really well equipped to make the decision that's best for them. As a result of that, that can pose a big challenge and can cause some difficulties because ultimately in mediation, I don't impose any decisions on anyone. They make the decisions themselves, but if they're making a decision that's uninformed, or perhaps uneducated because they didn't take the time to understand what their options are outside of mediation, it can be a challenge.
Rafal Dyrda: When should somebody look for a mediator? Hire a mediator and your services, in this example?
When Should a Condo Board Hire A Mediator?
Marc Bhalla: Well basically, I help people when the come to me to mediate for them by helping them prepare for the process. I provide them with some resources to help them ask those kinds of questions to try to get a more realistic sense of what their options are outside of mediation.
Normally, I would say that anytime somebody's involved in an issue that's becomes one that's escalating, that becomes more of a challenge for them, that starts to bother them to the point where they feel that they need to take action beyond just what they can do themselves, then they might want to consider getting a mediator involved in that kind of mentality to see if they can find a peaceful and fast way to try to address the issue before it gets anymore challenging for them.
Rafal Dyrda: When we as a board decide to hire the services of a mediator, what should we be looking for in a mediator? How do we know when we're picking the right one?
What To Look For When Hiring A Condo Mediator?
Marc Bhalla: First of all, mediation is an un-regulated professional. It can be very difficult to find out if somebody that you're considering as a mediator is properly qualified. There's an institution called, "The ADR Institute of Canada." It's a national organization, and it provides designations for mediators.
There's a qualified mediator designation and there's the chartered mediator designation. The chartered mediator designation is the most senior designation available in Canada for practicing mediators.
Not only does it confirm that the mediator will abide by a code of ethics, has requisite insurance in place, has completed a certain amount of training, but they actually, to get the chartered mediated- Sorry ... to get the chartered mediator designation, somebody who is applying has to show to a panel of fellow senior mediators that they have the right skills to be able to competently mediate.
They basically have to go through a scenario where they have to prove a certain number of high-level advanced skills to be able to get that designation. The designation does help and in some ways show that your mediator is qualified.
However, what I'm a really strong believer in, and there are some debates about this in ADR communities, is I believe it helps if the mediator who's involved in a situation has an understanding of what that situation is like for the party. In my case, I focus on condominium conflict management.
I think it's important for the mediator who gets involved in any kind of conflict in a condominium setting, understands how condominiums work because they are fairly unique. Being able to draw upon that background and being able to empathize with boards, with owners, with others who are involved in a condominium setting who are having an issue, I think goes a long way to help them make the most of the mediation opportunity.
Rafal Dyrda: That's a great answer. I wasn't aware that there's so much detail and education and certifications that a mediator can actually receive. I thought it was somebody that likes to solve conflicts and has to talk to people, and basically just provide some suggestions and advice. I'm happy to hear that if we as a board, were to find and hire the right mediator with the proper certifications and education, we're not just hiring somebody off the street. We're actually hiring a professional that has been serving this industry and has been credited by a national association to provide those services.
Marc Bhalla: I think that what the designation shows is, not only that you have the training but that you have the right amount of experience, as well. It's really the two that you need to be able to be as effective as you can as a mediator.
Rafal Dyrda: You're totally right. Marc, when is it a good time for a board to hire a mediator for a dispute between one, or two or more parties?
When To Hire A Professional For Condominium Mediation?
Marc Bhalla: I find that mediators can get involved in several different stages of a conflict. Right when you're on the verge of going to court, for example, is one that's quite common. One you have have lawyers involved and you started legal proceedings. Increasingly, I find that boards are getting me involved earlier on.
I'll give you an example.
If your board were to have two residents in your community that were complaining about one another. Typical example, one is claiming the other one's making a lot of noise. The other one's claiming that the person making the complaints is being too sensitive to noise. It's not always a black or white issue.
Boards sometimes are required to do something to take action, but it might not be something where it's clear what side they should choose, or who's right or who's wrong. Sometimes in situations like that, out of fear what the courts have done recently in cost decisions, when condos haven't been seen to take enough action to address concerns of residents, a board will involve me in having a mediation with those two residents to see if we can find a way to improve the situation, and at the same time, show that the board is taking action to try to address a situation, as opposed to a traditional way where you might get a very strongly written letter to actually try to encourage a peaceful way of addressing the situation.
Rafal Dyrda: Most boards, nobody likes conflict. People push conflict to the end of the agenda. Tell me, have you come across a board where they should have hired a mediator at an earlier stage and what was the outcome after that?
Condominium Mediation With A Service Provider
Marc Bhalla: I had a situation recently, where I was involved in a condo mediation involved in a condominium corporation and a contractor that had entered into a service contract with.
Unlike most of the condominium conflicts that I tend to get involved in, it's not a situation where there's an forced, ongoing relationship between the two parties. If you're in a situation with your board of directors, you might run into them in the hallways or by their common elements and that can be very uncomfortable situation so there tends to be a forced, ongoing relationship.
In this situation that wasn't the way the work didn't work out as everybody had hoped. It was basically dispute between the two of them as to what was owed and what would be done to rectify the problem.
The problem really though, was it had been several years and these parties were really on the verge of going to court. Over the course of all that time that they had to wait for their day in court, there's a lot of bad blood between them.
When it came time to try really, at the eleventh hour to mediate the situation, both of them were so mentally ready to go to court that it was going to be very difficult for them to open their minds to find a full agreement with the other party.
Unfortunately in that situation, because mediation does offer no guarantees because it's the parties themselves that decide whether or not to settle, they really weren't in a mindset to fully settle. The wanted to go to court after spending all that money and all that anguish in getting ready to go.
We were able to narrow the issues which is helpful, but really in the situation afterwards, I really couldn't help but reflect back that if they had only thought about mediating earlier before all that animosity, they might have had a better chance of saving themselves an awful lot of money and an awful lot of time.
Dealing With Vendors and Court
Rafal Dyrda: It's actually interesting that you brought up the topic of mediation between the board and the actual vendors because when there's an issue, boards right away, try to hire the services of a lawyer and take it over to court, where they can avoid that and the additional expenses and additional investment in time, and actually hire a professional like yourself, to help resolve those issues way earlier, at a way earlier stage.
Marc Bhalla: Sometimes though, in those service contracts, there is requirements that if there's a dispute it gets mediated or they attempt to mediate it or they attempt to mediate it to try to preserve everybody's relationship. If you sue somebody, that becomes a public record. Condo Mediation is confidential. There's nothing to say that a condominium board, they quite often do as do others who are involved in mediation, involve their lawyers for representation at the mediation as well, so that they have that legal advice present and that counseling available for them.
Rafal Dyrda: That's interesting. People are able to bring additional counsel to those meetings?
Can I Bring Additional Support and Help To The Condo Meditation Process?
Marc Bhalla: They're always able to provide, to bring legal representation if they want. In the mediations that I conduct, that's something that I would never want to deprive somebody of having the legal representative there. One thing that I do that's a little bit different to some other schools of thought in mediation is I like to try to do my best to have the parties I'm working with to be as comfortable as possible in the process.
Practically speaking, if you think through a situation where a condominium owner is having a conflict with their board of directors, and that's a five member board of directors. They've involved their property manager in parts of the dispute and they've decided to get their lawyer involved for some guidance. That could be seven people participating in the mediation on behalf of one of the parties. If you have on the other side of the table, a single unit owner, it can be very intimidating for them to see seven people across the table from them.
One thing that I try to do is help structure a mediation so it provides as comfortable a setting as possible. We might discuss amongst the board if the full board needs to be there or who might be an appropriate authorized representative to be there on behalf of the board. The unit owner, perhaps they don't have the money for a lawyer. Perhaps, they don't have an interest in getting a lawyer involved.
They might benefit by just having a friend along, just for that moral support. While I go out of my way to make sure that everybody who participates in my mediations is aware well ahead of time who's going to be there, I do try to keep it open so that people can be as comfortable as possible and bring people along, if they like, as long as everybody knows in advance so there are no surprises on mediation day.
Rafal Dyrda: Of course. Well, that's a great idea to bring some personal support with you. Another question that I have for you, before mediation, what can a party or individual do to prepare for the mediation so it's as effective as possible?
How To Prepare For The Mediation Process
Marc Bhalla: I have a form, and I think I've sent it to you to include with this, that I provide to my clients. It's been very successful in the past. It's a form that helps somebody prepare for an awkward conversation.
It's pretty much an exercise that's intended to give a little bit of self-reflection. Basically, it has you focus on what it is you want to accomplish out of the discussion. I'm thinking about the best way to go about accomplishing what you want. I like to give the example that telling someone that they have a lousy taste in music might not be the best way to convince them to turn down their stereo. If you do want somebody to turn down their stereo, there maybe other things you can say to them to encourage them to do that, and so often, it's the choice of words, the choice of tone.
Increasingly these days, with emails and text messages, so much can get lost in translation in some of those things, that spending a little bit of time to think it through and to strategize helps equip you to get make the best of the situation.
Rafal Dyrda: Thank you for the form. We're going to include it underneath the video on this episode so people can download it and utilize it for their benefit. Looks like you're pretty organized. Is there a specific process you follow with new clients to make this as seamless and as painless as possible?
Marc's Condominium Mediation Process
Marc Bhalla: I try to provide all clients, new or old, as much information as possible about mediation and how to prepare. Various articles I've written or the years, that sort of thing. If they have legal counsel, I try to work with their legal counsel to make sure that they get those materials and have the opportunity to think through what they're going to be participating in, in the process. It's really a question though, of making sure that they are comfortable to make the most out of their situation.
Rafal Dyrda: You did mention bringing in lawyers and things like that. Is the mediation process set in stone? Is it like going to court or is it more a little bit more flexible?
Marc Bhalla: This is something that does create a little bit of a controversy in the ADI, the Alternative Dispute Resolution community because I'm a very, very big believer that a tell-tale sign that a mediator is inexperienced is if they provide you with a pre-set agenda or tell you that the process is fixed.
There are times when it comes to training new mediators that we use a set process to help them get familiar with how things are going to go. There are times with some community organizations or formalized dispute resolution systems within companies that has a set process designed to be systematic. The problem with that is if you make the process as much of the parties who are participating their process, as well as your own, you're able to cater it to their comfort.
As I've mentioned, I found that if someone is comfortable participating in a mediation, they tend to be able to get the most out of the mediation opportunity. An example is, traditionally in mediation at the start of it, everybody would come together in the same room around the table and talk.
There might come a time when they end up splitting up and going into separate rooms, reflecting personally on things that have been said and thinking about how they might want to approach things, what kind of offers they might want to make, that sort of thing. It's never set in stone, as far as I'm concerned in mediation, how it goes.
I've had mediations that have stayed in what's called, "Joint session," the entire time. I have had times where the parties, for their own comfort level, prefer to split up a little bit earlier.
There's some schools of thought now, and some lawyers, who push to start the mediation in separate rooms and then come together. It can really be however you want. I find that allowing that kind of flexibility really helps because you have the people who are participating in the process comfortable.
To that end, every single mediation that I conduct takes place a slightly different way because I cater the process to my clients. I actually say that I find the most client to be someone who's participated in one mediation before, when they come, assuming that it's going to play-out exactly the same as their one experience because every mediation is truly different.
Rafal Dyrda: You've read up on the focal clients and usually, people like to allocate blame to the other party. When it gets to mediation, whose fault really, is it? Is it the board's fault or a specific party's fault? Is it a combination of both?
Does Condo Mediation Determine The Party At Fault In The Dispute?
Marc Bhalla: See, really with mediation, it's a little bit different. It's the only opportunity that people have in trying to address a dispute, where there's not judgement of who's right and who's wrong. There's no assessment of that. There's no assessment of somebody's to blame or not to blame because the mediator doesn't impose any decisions on the parties.
The mediator works with the parties to help explore options. The only way the mediation is going to conclude in the settlement is if everybody all agrees, as opposed to if you go arbitration or you go to court, you're trying to then convince a third-party, an arbitrator or a judge, that you're right and the other person is wrong. Mediation, we don't focus on that kind of thing, as much. We focus more on the underlying interests, how people have been impacted by the situation, what intentions were, giving each other a better understanding of one another, and then try to find ways to improve the situation in a way that helps both parties, not that punishes one in the process.
Rafal Dyrda: It sounds like this process can be a little bit of stressful and emotional for some people. Do you have any tips and advice that we can share with our audience today, that would prevent them going, even to mediation? Forget about court and lawsuits.
Can You Avoid Conflict and Mediation?
Marc Bhalla: I think the biggest problem is that it's just natural.
First of all, conflict is natural so it's going to come up from time-to-time. From the time that your alarm clock goes off in the morning and you want five more minutes sleep and you question if you turn it off or not. That's a conflict.
When you focus on a condominium community with people, basically being part of a community with different interests and different backgrounds, there's no question that conflict is going to come up, but the natural human tendency is to ignore it because it can be uncomfortable.
Ignoring conflict doesn't make it go away. Often times, I get involved in situations that have gotten worse because of how it was addressed in the early stages. If you spend a little bit of time to be, perhaps a little bit more thoughtful, take a deep breath before you react, know your buttons and try to avoid them getting pushed, or at least stop yourself from doing something that's going to leave you in a worse situation because you let your emotions get the better of you, and try to do something that's constructive for everybody.
That can tend to help try to avoid a situation escalating to the point where you need to involve somebody additional and have a mediation, in the first place.
Costs Associated With Mediation
Rafal Dyrda: Interesting. One thing that individuals/boards/owners look at when trying to hire somebody to help them with the problems, mediator or legal counsel, they always look at the cost. They don't look at the benefit of the outcome. Can you elaborate on that?
Marc Bhalla: Sure.
Rafal Dyrda: How much does it cost? How much time is actually involved by hiring a mediator instead of basically doing things on your own? How much time do they save? How much stress do they save?
Marc Bhalla: It varies. First of all, one of the challenges in this is that mediation does not offer any guarantees.
Now if you go to court, you might say that you get guarantee of a judge's decision, but then there can be rights of appeal. Arguably, there's not necessarily a path that guarantees you with a specific timeline, a result, except for potentially arbitration, and even then in some situations, there can be appeal right.
Mediation, I like to equate it more to preventative maintenance. It's making an investment into something earlier on to prevent it from getting more costly and more of a problem in the future.
Basically, typically, the parties who are involved in the conflict will tend to proportionally split the cost of engaging a mediator. How much the mediation costs comes down to how long a period of time is appropriate to mediate.
The mediator should be able to help give you some kind of recommendation there. If you want to have legal representation because obviously, you need to pay for your lawyers and some people might seek legal advice before going into a mediation but not actually have their lawyer present to keep their cost low.
Other people feel the comfort of having a lawyer present at a mediation, to give them advice on the fly if something new comes up that hadn't been considered before. Also, to help make sure that any key points that they might have trouble making if the emotions gets the better of them, are made in the course of the mediation.
Where Can You Mediate?
If you have to pay for mediation space. That can also add to the cost. One thing that I find increasingly in my practice that I'm doing, is conducting mediations at condominiums themselves, when they have the appropriate facilities. Not only does it avoid the cost and the travel for the people who are in the community, but it also provides a familiar setting for them, which goes to help make them more comfortable and encourage their participation in the process.
Rafal Dyrda: You look like you're pretty involved. You help out and you try to be as accommodating as possible during this process. What else do you do different than other mediators?
How Is Marc Different From Other Mediators
Marc Bhalla: I think about the little things, perhaps too much. I actually recently, wrote an article.
It's called, "The Mediators New Clothes," for the ADR Institute of Ontario. It gets circulated within Atlantic provinces, as well.
Basically, I share with my mediation colleagues the importance of thinking about what they wear to a mediation. It might sound silly, but in my experience it actually can mean a lot. If you have people who are on the verge of going to court, and who are expecting it to be a very formal process.
If you're not wearing a suit, it could give them the wrong impression. At the same time, if you are having an early conflict resolution session and you're doing it in the comfort of their own condominium, and it's supposed to be a relaxed and formal environment, showing up in a suit could completely rub them the wrong way. In that case, you dress a little bit more casually to put them at ease.
It's the same way when you deal with different demographics of your client-base. If you have people who are, perhaps not the wealthiest of people, to dress in a way that they can't relate to isn't going to make them the most comfortable.
Thinking about those little things and dressing for my clients, for example, is something that I do to try to help. Again, just have the process be as comfortable as possible for them.
In some mediation circles, there's talk of the benefits of having food at mediation. Traditionally feelings of breaking bread and avoiding people getting angry because they're hungry can go a long way.
Did you ever think about what happens if somebody who is participating has a food allergy? What if they have an anaphylactic food allergy to peanuts? The presence of that allergen in the room really changes the perception of comfort for the person.
I go out of my way to ask those type of questions to do everything I possibly can to make sure that everybody who comes to a mediation session that I facilitate is as comfortable as possible in the process.
They're not going to like everything they hear. They're involved in a conflict that's emotional for them. It's difficult for them to participate so I do all I can to make it as easy as possible for them.
Rafal Dyrda: You know, it's great to heart that, that you actually take the time and the effort to make this process as comfortable as possible for everybody and be as accommodating to everybody. Tell me, Marc. You've been on a lot of work in the past. How do condominium disputes differ from other types of disputes?
How Do Condo Disputes Differ From Other Disputes
Marc Bhalla: Condominium disputes can be much more complicated than they would appear to be on the surface.
When you take a situation of two neighbors who are having a problem, it may look as though it's a two-party dispute.
When you factor that the board of directors might have certain rights and obligations if concerns are expressed to them, when you factor in that there maybe the law that applies to the situation or specific restrictions or regulations within the community, it can get much more complicated than that.
A mediator who doesn't understand the nuances of condominium can really risk preventing their parties from being able to make the most of the mediation opportunity. I'll give you an example.
I know of a case that after a very long time, it was finally the day to go to court. The trial day. When the parties finally showed up for their day in court, as if often the case, the judge had a very long list of trials for that day and was not sure if they were going to be able to squeeze in this trial.
What the judge did was required these people to try to mediate with some mediators who were at the courthouse before the trial would go ahead.
The mediators were there, and it was a unit owner on one side of the issue, self-represented. On the other side was a condominium corporation represented by two directors, their property manager, and their lawyers.
Well, these mediators were so concerned about potentially impacting the testimony of the director's as witnesses, that they left them out of the room for the mediation. The mediation was between the unit owner, the property manager, and the lawyer. What's the problem with that?
The condominium corporation's authority lays with the board of directors, not the property manager.
Unfortunately, I have seen situations where it used to be the case, maybe 10 or so years ago, where certain lawyers who maybe didn't believe in mediation or didn't want to mediate because litigators like to litigate, not necessarily mediate.
They would try to find ways to avoid having to mediate. Find loopholes around clauses to mediate.
These days now, what's happened is the courts have started to look at the path that has taken an issue to trial in the course of awarding costs. What they've done multiple times now, is if they don't like a path that somebody has taken to go to trial, if they felt that that person was rather aggressive or didn't try to embrace a conciliatory approach first, what they'll do, while it's not legally required for them to, is they'll make them suffer when it comes to award and costs.
If you went about trying to address and issue with me in a very forceful, aggressive way and didn't even try to make an effort to find some kind of reasonable solution in the meantime, you might be 100% right at law, but you're not going to be able to recover nearly as much of your legal costs, as you would had you done that. Where does that leave lawyers?
No longer trying to avoid mediation because they want to be able to say to judges that they tried. The biggest challenge that I have in my practice and most mediators have in their practices these days, are certain lawyers who don't, in good faith, want to mediate.
They want to go through the motions so they can say to a judge when they go to trial, that they've tried.
What do they do, sometimes?
They try to manipulate the process. I've seen situations where a property manager has been set up purposely to appear as though they're representing the condominium corporation, and the mediator doesn't even ask about authority to settle.
If you have a condominium board like the example I gave earlier, five people, you might not have all five participating in the mediation, but how that's structured can vary a great deal.
You might have a board that authorizes one or two directors to participate in the mediation with complete freedom to making a decision that will bind the board. You might have them have to call their board members in the course of the mediation if they need to run an idea by them.
You may have them have to go back to their board afterwards, to ratify any decisions. In reality, there's not going to be a binding settlement put in place, even if everybody ends the mediation with some kind of agreement.
Being able to understand that, being able to think about that, and being able to ask that before the mediation takes place makes sure that the parties get the most out of the opportunity.
Mediators like to look at themselves like surgeons, in the sense they don't want to leave people worse off then they came to them. Not having that kind of knowledge, not asking those kinds of questions at an appropriate time, having it come out at the very end when everybody had a different impression could really risk doing some damage.
How Do You Find a Professional Condo Mediator?
Rafal Dyrda: You touched up on a very important point here, is you need to hire and look for professionals that specialize in the condo industry because it's a very specific industry with different laws, different by-laws, and different regulations that need to followed, and the right parties need to be involved.
You also have to find professionals that keep themselves educated in this industry and they keep on being aware of the changes that are coming along.
That's how I met you Marc, through the Canadian Condo Institute where we're trying to educate board members of the processes they need to take, the education they require, things they need to know so they make the proper decisions for the benefit of the corporation, as well as the owners.
I know that you volunteer your time at the Canadian Condo Institute, and you're very involved in the association. You're the second Vice President in the Toronto Chapter, right now.
Tell me, do you volunteer your time anywhere else? You mentioned you wrote articles for ADR. Do you do anything else?
Marc Bhalla: I do some volunteer work with the ADR Institute of Ontario, but most of my volunteer focus is on the Canadian Condominium Institute because I'm truly passionate about what the organization is looking to do. It's a nation-wide organization. It's been around since 1982, 16 Chapters coast-to-coast, and one thing that it really does that I really enjoy, compare to every other organization I've ever had the opportunity to be apart of, is it brings together people with different perspectives.
On the Board of Directors at CCI Toronto, we have lawyers, we have engineers, we have accountants, we have property managers. I was actually the first to fill the mediator profession category in the Chapter's history with is something I was very proud of.
Rafal Dyrda: Congrats.
Marc Bhalla: There have been mediators in other Chapters across Canada, but when you have these people come together to try to explore problems, or try to find ways to help condominium boards, to help condominium owners, to help condominium residents, you have all these different perspectives. The amount of creative ideas and the amount of breadth of knowledge that you can draw upon is just incredible. I have real passion for that. I do volunteer an awful lot of time for it because I find it very rewarding to try to help people in this way.
Rafal Dyrda: That's fantastic. I see everyone online, especially through CCI, and all the members here refer to your expertise, advice, and suggestions which is fantastic, because you are quite involved in this industry. You're focusing on the condo aspects of things, not on everything, and you're truly an expert in mediation in condominiums, which is fantastic. Marc, I don't have any other questions for you today. Is there anything else you'd like to add and you'd like to share with our audience?
Marc Bhalla: I think I'd just like to just clarify because it comes up sometimes, where people aren't exactly sure about the mediation process.
When we say that it's confidential and without prejudice. Basically, the whole idea of mediation is that it's an off-the-record conversation. The idea is that people can come to a mediation, it's not going to be audio recorded, there's not going to be minutes or a transcript taken.
They're there to speak freely.
The idea is to give them the chance to be able to say what they need to say, and to explore some different ideas.
When we say the term, "Without prejudice," what it means is, if you make me an offer, I can't turn around and hold that against you later on unless I accept that offer, and we otherwise agree, and bind it and settle it up. It allows us to have a free conversation, a free exchange of ideas to see if something is worthwhile.
I think that's really instrumental.
When we talk about the court process being public, what we're able to do in mediation is have a closed-door, just-those-who-are-there discussion that can be more open as a result of that, and really try to get creative and see if we can find ways to address and issue, which is very different to the processes of court and everything. That's where we get some interesting opportunities.
Rafal Dyrda: That's fantastic. I'd like to thank you for your time here, Marc. I hope you listeners and viewers, have learned something on today's episode. I encourage you to subscribe to our YouTube channel or click on the link below, to be notified of the next, upcoming episodes. Also, if you have any feedback or comments, I highly encourage you to share them with us in the comments below. I hope to see you on the next episode. Take care.
In this interview you’ll discover what a condominium mediator does, how to find the right one, and how a condo mediator can help you resolve condominium disputes.