Since the eviction ban was lifted on May 31, landlords are once again able to move forward with eviction proceedings. However, with the court backlog growing by the day, many of those pursuing action are facing lengthy delays and mounting fees.
Mediation, therefore, has never been more important and is something the government is advising all landlords to explore as a first port of call.
Goodlord's Director of Insurance, Oli Sherlock, explains why mediation is so important, how it works, and how to set yourself up for success.
Why mediation is worth pursuing
The main benefit of mediation is that it avoids the cost, stress, and time involved in taking an eviction case through the courts. Through structured dialogue, a resolution can be found - often more quickly and with less fuss.
Even if the relationship between you and your tenants has broken down, an impartial third party can break the deadlock. Mediators are trained to manage this friction and navigate everyone towards a positive outcome that all parties are comfortable with.
Any decision reached through mediation can be made legally binding through the signing of a written agreement by both parties. Therefore, no decisions will be made against the will of either party. Safe in this knowledge, you can discuss your concerns honestly and approach the discussion with a more open mindset.
The outcomes are also open-ended and could include a repayment plan, an agreed date to vacate the property, or requirements that need to be met for the tenant to stay on.
Another benefit of considering mediation is that, even if your tenant refuses to participate, it may be noted in any subsequent court proceedings that you attempted to pursue mediation.
How to start mediation
As the landlord, you are responsible for requesting mediation and can choose from a range of options. Your selected service will then contact you and your tenant separately to invite you to the mediation and explain the process.
If you have applied for a possession order, you could take advantage of the government’s free mediation pilot scheme, which aims to settle any dispute before a hearing becomes necessary. Your desire for mediation should be expressed during the case’s review stage. If you have a small claims case, there is also a free mediation service available via the courts.
Insurance providers might also offer mediation services (as is the case with Goodlord’s Rent Protection & Legal Expenses Insurance) or your letting agent may have a recommended supplier. If you haven’t already started court proceedings, these services would allow for earlier intervention aimed at avoiding the legal route entirely.
Approaching the negotiations
While a third-party mediator allows a discussion to occur without any unnecessary contact between you and your tenant, it’s important to still prepare yourself for the negotiations.
A few things to remember in order to make mediation conducive to resolution include:
Being sympathetic to your tenant’s situation. This will help to diffuse any tension which is preventing the discussion from moving forward.
Expecting compromise. While mediation attempts to find a solution that makes everybody happy, keeping an open mind is essential. Making some compromises may be necessary in order to reach a profitable outcome.
Focusing on resolution. Putting aside any negative feelings you may personally harbour and concentrating on working toward an agreement will speed up the process and help you to solve the issue much sooner.
For more tools and advice on approaching the mediation process, the housing ombudsman offers this free resolution e-learning resource.
When to quit - what to do if mediation doesn’t work
Despite best intentions, the mediation process doesn’t always work. If attempts to reach a resolution have been unsuccessful, then it’s time to look at next steps.
If your mediation was not part of an ongoing court case, the first step will be serving your tenant with a Section 8 or Section 21 notice (Housing Act 1988). This should detail when you want the tenant to leave the property. If this is ignored by your tenant by the date stated, you can then apply for a possession order from the court. This will start court proceedings and lead to a review, and potential hearing if no resolution can be found.
If your mediation was part of the review stage of an ongoing court case, your next step will be a court hearing.
By seeking out mediation as a first resort for resolving a tenant dispute, and approaching negotiations with an open and sympathetic mind, you may be able to save yourself a lot of time, money and hassle.
*Oli Sherlock is director of insurance at Goodlord
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