Landlords in many states are facing a temporary ban on evictions for nonpayment of rent. Even in states that don’t have a ban, the courts are closed or on reduced hours. As the summer progresses, these courts will need time to process the backlog.
One option that can fill the void is mediation, a cost-effective alternative to legal action — or to waiting it out.
Unlike court hearings or arbitration, mediation is not legally binding. As such, it does not require proficiency in legal jargon or posturing. The parties simply present their positions, and then listen to the other side’s point of view, all in the presence of a referee who is trained to keep the lines of communication open.
The mediator may offer suggestions as to how the problem can be resolved. If the parties reach an agreement, they put it in writing and move on.
For example, if a tenant believes they have the right to participate in a “rent strike” because they saw something about it on the Internet, mediation can serve to open their eyes to the potential consequences. Rather than threatening to evict the tenant, the landlord can remain open to working out a payment plan or offer to waive late fees — this one time. The landlord gets paid, and the tenant keeps a roof over their head.
Mediation services often are available for free, through the local court system, housing agency, and even local tenant groups.
For mediation to work, both parties must feel comfortable that the mediator is neutral and objective. Once that comfort level is established, each side should be prepared to present a summary of their position. The mediator may ask for that information in advance of meeting. Given the current climate, many mediation services are moving to virtual meetings.
Not every case is appropriate for mediation. If the tenant is a danger to others or damaging the property, for instance, a landlord needs a legal order from a court. But if it’s a matter of working out a payment plan, resolving a lease dispute, or settling a spat between tenants, mediation may be all it takes to get a tenancy back on track.
In mediation, no one wins. But, with a little luck, both sides walk away with an agreement they both can live with. And right now, that’s a lot.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.