When to Choose Mediation vs. Arbitration: CAR Provisions Explained

When to Choose Mediation vs. Arbitration: CAR Provisions Explained

When to Choose Mediation vs. Arbitration: CAR Provisions Explained


Real estate transactions can be complex and occasionally give rise to disagreements and disputes among the parties involved. To address these issues efficiently and cost-effectively, the California Association of Realtors (CAR) has implemented Mediation and Arbitration Provisions in its contracts. This blog post by Real Estate Law Corporation delves into the distinctions between mediation and arbitration and provides insights into when to choose one over the other, with a focus on CAR’s provisions for dispute resolution.

Understanding Mediation and Arbitration

1.1. Mediation: A Collaborative Approach

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process in which a neutral third party, known as the mediator, facilitates discussions between disputing parties. The mediator helps the parties identify their concerns, explore possible solutions, and work collaboratively to reach an agreement. Mediation is non-binding, meaning that if the parties do not come to a resolution, they are free to pursue other legal remedies, such as arbitration or litigation.

1.2. Arbitration: A Binding Decision

Arbitration, on the other hand, is a more structured ADR process where one or more arbitrators hear the evidence, arguments, and witnesses presented by the parties. After careful consideration, the arbitrator(s) render a binding decision, which is enforceable by law. Unlike mediation, arbitration leads to a final resolution that both parties are legally bound to honor.

1.3. CAR’s Commitment to ADR

CAR recognizes the importance of dispute resolution in the real estate industry and has incorporated comprehensive Mediation and Arbitration Provisions into its contracts. These provisions encourage parties to resolve disputes through mediation or arbitration before pursuing litigation, fostering a cooperative approach to conflict resolution.

When to Choose Mediation

2.1. Voluntary Participation

Mediation is typically a voluntary process, and both parties must agree to participate. It is an excellent choice when:

The parties wish to maintain a working relationship or future business interactions.
The dispute is complex, and the parties prefer to have more control over the outcome.
Time is a critical factor, as mediation can often lead to a faster resolution than arbitration or litigation.

2.2. Non-Binding Resolution

Mediation offers a non-binding resolution, providing an opportunity for parties to explore creative solutions without the fear of being bound to a decision that may not fully address their concerns.

2.3. Privacy and Confidentiality

Mediation proceedings are private and confidential, ensuring that sensitive matters are not exposed to the public, which can be particularly important in real estate transactions.

When to Choose Arbitration

3.1. Mandatory Arbitration

CAR’s Arbitration Provisions make arbitration mandatory for certain disputes, such as commission disputes or contractual disagreements between real estate professionals. Arbitration is the default path when:

The dispute involves issues specified in the contract’s arbitration provisions.
The parties want a final, legally binding resolution.
The dispute is straightforward, and there is no need for extended negotiation or collaboration.

3.2. Binding Decision

Arbitration results in a binding decision that both parties are required to abide by. It is suitable when a definitive resolution is needed to conclude the matter, and the parties are prepared to accept the arbitrator’s ruling.

3.3. Expertise in Real Estate Matters

Arbitrators in real estate disputes often possess specialized knowledge and expertise in the field, ensuring that they understand the intricacies of the industry and the nuances of the dispute.

CAR’s Perspective on Mediation vs. Arbitration

4.1. CAR’s Encouragement of Mediation

CAR’s Mediation Provisions encourage parties to engage in mediation as a means of resolving disputes amicably and collaboratively. This approach aligns with CAR’s commitment to fostering positive working relationships among real estate professionals.

4.2. CAR’s Mandate for Arbitration

CAR mandates arbitration for specific disputes through its Arbitration Provisions, recognizing that some issues, such as commission disputes, require a legally binding resolution. This ensures a streamlined process for addressing these common real estate conflicts.


When navigating real estate disputes, knowing when to choose mediation over arbitration or vice versa is crucial for achieving a satisfactory resolution. CAR’s Mediation and Arbitration Provisions offer flexibility, encouraging parties to select the most appropriate method for their specific circumstances. Whether you opt for the collaborative and non-binding approach of mediation or the binding finality of arbitration, CAR’s commitment to dispute resolution ensures that real estate transactions can proceed efficiently, fostering positive relationships and reducing the need for protracted litigation. Ultimately, the choice between mediation and arbitration should be based on the nature of the dispute, the parties’ objectives, and the desire for a binding or non-binding resolution.

Whether you’re a property owner, investor, or business owner, Real Estate Law Corporation™ is your trusted partner on the path to legal success. Contact us today to embark on a journey of exceptional legal support. Our team of seasoned attorneys brings decades of experience to every case, demonstrating a profound understanding of real estate law, transactions, litigation, business intricacies, and estate planning. With a proven record of success, our portfolio is adorned with numerous landmark cases that stand as a testament to our dedication, expertise, and commitment to achieving favorable outcomes for our clients.