The Association of Residential Letting Agents’ wing of Propertymark is demanding to see the results of a mediation project initiated by government to reduce the number of evictions.
Over last weekend the government revised its guidelines for the new scheme, which it says will avoid some possessions now that the eviction ban has finally been lifted.
The mediation system is free to use for landlords or their agents, and tenants, and utilises an independent trained neutral mediator to help identify issues.
As remote mediation is likely to happen within 10 days of a referral, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says this will be quicker than a full court hearing.
The MHCLG says that following one or more meditation sessions “if mediation succeeds and you are happy with the proposed solution, you will sign an agreement, which will be put in front of a judge for approval. The agreement will explain what actions each party [landlord/agent and tenant] must take next.”
Now Timothy Douglas, Propertymark’s policy and campaigns manager, has issued qualified support from the organisation - but wants to see how the scheme has worked so far.
He says: “Letting agents have worked hard to support landlords and tenants and manage tenancies safely throughout the public health crisis.
“Consequently, when landlords and tenants are involved in a housing possession court case, it is important that they are able to identify issues and have the additional resources necessary to help resolve them, for this reason, we recognise the role that mediation can play in dispute resolution.
“However, it is essential that we see the results of the recent pilot and outcomes of reviews to determine whether it can take the pressure off the court system and be a viable option for the private rented sector in the long run, especially with the court backlog caused by the crisis.”
The mediation is conducted remotely, by telephone, and the ministry says one or both parties may nonetheless want to have legal advice.
Following an in-principle agreement - if it is reached - any party can apply to the court to enforce the agreement if it is broken by the other party.
If mediation is unsuccessful, the case will continue to the substantive hearing. The court will not be told about anything that was said during the mediation and the judicial process will proceed as normal.