When issues arise with your tenants, mediation is one option for reaching a solution that works for both parties. The process for mediation varies by jurisdiction, but these five questions and answers can give you a feel for how it generally works. This article does not offer not legal advice. Please consult an attorney if you need a legal opinion.
- What is mediation? How can you resolve your dispute through the mediation process?
Mediation is a conflict resolution and negotiation process in which two parties discuss a matter of conflict with assistance from an unbiased, neutral third-party. This third party would be a trained, certificated mediator.
Throughout the mediation process, each party will have a chance to express the grievances related to the issue at hand. The mediator will guide the two parties towards a potential compromise, but it will be up to the parties to discuss
- What kind of a compromise they are comfortable with and
- The terms, timeline, and actions required for any compromise they reach.
However, the mediator’s presence assists the two parties in achieving a sense of progress, since each party will understand the aspects of the conflict that the other party is, and is not, willing to negotiate. If the parties have reached a compromise at the end of the process, a written mediation agreement can be prepared to outline the terms of the compromise. Additional steps can be taken to ensure that the mediation agreement becomes legally binding, should the parties choose to do that.
- Which kinds of disputes are best resolved through mediation, rather than through litigation?
Although landlord-tenant mediation can be a useful tool to resolve a wide variety of conflicts, there are some cases best suited for litigation. If the issues involve tenant discrimination or persistent illegal behavior that is done on the rental property, litigation may be a more appropriate choice. However, mediation can address many other issues, including handling unpaid rent or property damage payments, managing tenant evictions, and arranging timely property repairs. Consult an attorney if you have questions about whether mediation is an option in your case.
- What is the difference between locating an independent community mediation service and going through mediation in court?
If you and the other party in the conflict agree to participate in mediation independently of court proceedings, you can find a community mediation service and go through the process with a private mediator. If legal proceedings have been initiated, you may be required to go through court-ordered mediation.
In Washington D.C., parties can participate in either Landlord Tenant Same Day mediation or Landlord Tenant Jury Demand mediation. The former is voluntary and requires that both parties agree to speak with a mediator on the day when they go to the court to see a judge. The latter is required if the parties have requested a trial with a jury. The DC Courts website has more information about the D.C. Landlord and Tenant Mediation Program.
- What can you expect from landlord-tenant mediation?
Because mediation aims to find a mutually agreeable solution, you should consider what you might be willing compromise on and what would be deal breakers. For example, If the problem is related to property damage, would you be willing to agree to a payment schedule to cover the cost of the damage? Alternatively, if the conflict is related to eviction proceedings, would you be willing to negotiate a timeline for the tenant to remedy the problem and vacate the property? In cases where mediation is optional, weighing potential options may also help you determine if the process makes sense for you. .
- Are the results from the mediation process binding?
The results from the mediation process are not binding. A mediator can neither make a decision for the mediation participants, nor enforce it without the consent of the two parties in the process. Nevertheless, if both parties agree to make the mediation agreement binding, this can be done to create a contract, which would be enforceable in court.