Mediation is an informal and voluntary way of resolving disputes. It is a means of addressing certain Rent Stabilization Ordinance requests as an alternative to an administrative hearing. It can also be used to resolve condominium homeowner association disputes as required by association governing documents and the Davis- Sterling Act. Mediation helps to promote communication between parties by opening up dialogue and fostering positive participant relations.
Q: What kind of disputes can be mediated?
A: Mediation offers participants an opportunity to resolve a wide variety of issues:
- The performance of maintenance and repairs in a tenant’s apartment, such as when carpets or vinyl floors, drapes and/ or wallpaper need to be replaced; when the apartment needs to be painted; when appliances need to be repaired or replaced; or when other maintenance needs to be done.
- The performance of maintenance and repairs in a common area shared by more than one tenant, such as a washer or dryer in the laundry room that is not working, or a hallway carpet that needs replacement.
- The substantial reduction or loss of housing services (amenities) that were previously provided by the landlord as part of the rent, such as the loss of parking spaces or loss of the services of a resident manager.
- Disputes that arise while enforcing condominium homeowner association governing documents. This might include rules and regulation violations, noise disputes, homeowner maintenance disputes and conflicts between association neighbors.
Q: Who conducts the mediation?
A: Mediations are conducted by a staff member from the City’s Legal Services and Legislative Affairs Division. In some instances a contract mediator may be used. The mediator has considerable training and experience assisting participants in resolving their disputes.
Q: What happens during mediation?
A: The participants meet with the mediator in a neutral setting. The mediator is an impartial third party who does not take sides but serves to facilitate the discussion and focus on all issues. Participants have the opportunity to communicate openly and directly with each other to arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement.
Q: Are participants required to mediate?
A: No. Mediation can be requested by either side but participation by the parties is voluntary.
Q: Is the mediation open to the public?
A: No. One of the advantages of mediation is that the proceedings only need to include the parties involved in the dispute and the mediator.
Q: Do the parties have to meet face to face?
A: There are times when it may not be necessary to have a sit down mediation. Parties may be assisted by the mediator on the telephone. Again, it is voluntary. Both parties have to agree to participate in a phone conciliation. The mediator will help both sides through negotiation, discussion and exploring options to facilitate an agreement. However, many disputes are best resolved in a more formal setting. Discuss with the mediator what would be the best in the given setting.
Q: What are the major advantages of mediation?
A: There are several advantages to mediating a dispute:
- There are no filing fees or forms to complete.
- Mediation is non-adversarial; both parties benefit
- Mediation can lead to a more positive relationship between the parties
- Mediation can address a wide range of issues.
- The participants arrive at their own resolution voluntarily rather than having a decision imposed upon them.
Q: If an agreement is reached is it binding?
A: A mediation agreement is the result is the result of a voluntary process. The agreement can be written and signed by all parties at their request. This agreement is not enforced by the City’s Legal Services and Legislative Affairs Division. However, since the parties voluntarily participate in mediation and negotiate their own agreement to resolve their disputes, most agreements reached between parties are followed. Agreements can sometimes be enforced as a contract, in court if necessary.
Q: What if an agreement is not reached?
A: If an agreement is not reached during mediation the participants can still take advantage of their rights under the Ordinance administrative process. In addition, parties still retain all of their legal options, such as going to court.
Q: What if a tenant has already filed for a hearing?
A: Mediation can sometimes be scheduled prior to a hearing to resolve housing services or maintenance issues regarding the tenant’s amenities. By requesting mediation before the scheduled hearing, the tenant and landlord have opportunity to make their own decisions about what is to be done and when. If the tenant and landlord are able to come to an agreement about the items before the hearing takes place, the hearing may be withdrawn.