One of the official redress operators - Property Redress Scheme - has launched a tenancy mediation service for agents, landlords and tenants to aid finding a resolution to issues which have arisen during the Coronavirus crisis.
The service was in planning prior to COVID-19 but has been brought forward to support the rental sector struggling with the impact of the pandemic.
Current court cases have been suspended and the government is urging landlords and tenants to come to agreements.
This is likely to continue in the future as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is working with the Master of the Rolls to strengthen pre-action protocol requirements and extend this to possession claims in the private rented sector. This will put the onus on all parties to negotiate and reach an agreement, rather than go to court.
PRS Mediation is a telephone-based service where the initial instruction comes from the landlord, or the agent acting for the landlord.
On logging a case, an independent mediator will contact the tenant to ascertain whether they are happy to liaise with the mediator, and then discuss the issues raised with a view to coming to an agreement on either paying a reduced rent, deferred rent or settlement amount, with agreed ending of the tenancy.
“Mediation is a voluntary, without prejudice and confidential process, which allows disputes to be resolved much quicker and with less cost than court. As a landlord, it also enables you to demonstrate to the court that you have attempted to resolve your issues before coming to them. As an approved redress scheme, with extensive experience in housing matters, we are well placed to provide the expert help and assistance needed for successful outcomes” explains Sean Hooker, head of redress for the Property Redress Scheme.
Hooker adds: “When the Section 21 possession process is removed as proposed, there will be even greater need for end of tenancy mediation to allow parties to move on without the need to go to court. Should landlords have problems with future possession claims, using the mediation service will demonstrate landlords’ readiness to engage with tenants through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which PRS is authorised to provide under the ADR Regulations 2015.”
Eviction expert Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, says: “Our recent survey found that 74% of landlords have already been contacted by tenants who are struggling to pay rent due to reduced or terminated employment resulting from the pandemic. With the reality that life will not return to ‘normal’ for some time, the most sensible solution is mediation, particularly as landlords will be unlikely to be able to gain possession of their properties for six to nine months or more.
"Safe in the knowledge that the professional mediators at PRS are completely impartial, the service will help tenants and landlords have successful engagement, help them to reach a fair agreement.”