Dealing with conflicts in cohousing groups
Conflicts are part of life; what are the best ways for cohousing groups to prevent and if necessary, resolve conflict?
Cohousing groups bring people together from all different walks of life and it is only natural that conflict sometimes arises. Different individuals bring different ideas and experiences and it is important to balance these against the wider needs of the group.
Conflict can be a good thing, offering the opportunity for cohousing groups to grow and become more resilient, while through recognising that members won’t agree all the time. Nonetheless, it is important to mitigate conflict and to ensure that any conflict which does arise is resolved as painlessly as possible.
A cohousing group can take steps to reduce the change of conflict arising in the first place. For example, putting in place clear policies and procedures governing communication, decision making and conflict resolution can all help. Thinking about topics which might potentially be contentious and agreeing how to deal with these up-front can also be useful: this might cover anything from a policy on pets to deciding if residents will be permitted to run a business from the community site.
Consensus decision making can help as everyone is (theoretically) on board with each decision. However, we would advise including provisions which deal with deadlock situations, for example a requirement to move to a vote if consensus is not reached after two (or more) meetings. Comprehensively recording all decisions is also vital, both as evidence of the process and to highlight where there were dissenting voices or differing opinions.
Fostering community engagement is also vital as this ensures the wider community is involved with the cohousing group, bringing together a plurality of views that can also assist if a group needs to apply for planning permission or wishes to develop further.
If conflicts do arise, groups should consider seeking external support, whether through appointing an impartial external chair or even a professional mediator. If a conflict cannot be resolved, the group’s governing document may also provide further guidance: in some circumstances it may allow for a member to be expelled, although this needs to be weighed up against their property rights.
We’ve recently delivered a webinar exploring this topic. You can now view our discussion on demand by following this link.
The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. The law stated is correct at the date (stated above) this article was first posted to our website. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors