In February this year, as part of their pledge to improve the possession process and provide support in response to the pandemic, the Government set up a new mediation pilot for landlords and tenants in England and Wales. The aim is to help both parties reach an agreement without the need for a formal court hearing.
Here are five key things to know about it:
- You can access it as long as you’ve already begun a possession claim to evict your tenant
Once a review date has been scheduled by the court, your tenant will have access to free legal advice from the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme. If both you and your tenant are in agreement over mediation, the case will then be referred to the Society of Mediators and you’ll work with an independent mediator to identify and resolve issues.
- It’s completely confidential
The mediation sessions are conducted remotely by phone and each party is contacted separately, so you won’t have to speak directly to your tenant at any point. If you don’t reach an agreement and the full hearing goes ahead, the court will not be informed about any details of the mediation.
- It’s quicker and likely to be less stressful than a court hearing
Mediation generally takes place within 10 days of referral. If an acceptable resolution is reached, you’ll simply sign an agreement that explains what actions each party must take and that’s then put to a judge for approval. If you can’t reach an agreement, the full hearing will go ahead as scheduled.
- It’s free
If you go to a full court hearing, there are additional fees and expenses, whereas the mediation service is free. That means if you’re able to reach an out-of-court agreement, you could save a fair amount of money.
- There’s nothing to lose!
Taking up mediation won’t affect the overall length of the possession process and if your tenant breaks the agreement, you can apply to the court to enforce it.
At the moment, this service is only available if formal eviction proceedings are underway and a case has been considered suitable for review; however, the Government is looking at options for providing mediation at an earlier stage, to explore every option for continuing the tenancy.
Full information is available on the GOV.UK website.