Every­one starts out happy, but life unfolds, events play on us, and rela­tion­ships can go sour. It’s good to have a mech­a­nism in your lease for resolv­ing dis­putes. The best way to avoid dis­putes is to com­mu­ni­cate. If every­one under­stands each other’s expec­ta­tions and is informed of changes, then mat­ters can be dealt with before they explode into larger problems.

If a dis­pute can’t be resolved, then it’s a good prac­tice to require the par­ties to medi­ate their dis­putes. If medi­a­tion doesn’t work, then the par­ties have two options: they can arbi­trate or they can go to court. There were high hopes for arbi­tra­tion, but it has turned out to be just as oner­ous as lit­i­ga­tion in some cases. It’s also expen­sive. The par­ties pay for the arbitrator’s time which can be hun­dreds of dol­lars per hour, then you’re stuck with the arbitrator’s deci­sion. You can’t appeal it. Some have said that arbi­tra­tors often just split the baby. Yet, it’s still quicker than litigation.

Lit­i­ga­tion on the other hand takes a lot of time. The judges are busy and have many other cases. But the rules are more defined; you can appeal a deci­sion and you don’t have to pay for the judge’s time. In Alaska there are loser pay rules and offers of judg­ment that help bring cases to set­tle­ment. You can ask for a set­tle­ment con­fer­ence with the judge. And you can agree to waive your right to a jury trial which speeds up the process, but leaves you at the mercy of the judge.

So take these into con­sid­er­a­tion and choose your dis­pute res­o­lu­tion pro­ce­dures appropriately.