A much-hyped government proposal to introduce a Rental Mediation Service to resolve disputes, sustain tenancies and reduce pressure on the courts appears to have flopped.
The idea came up during the pandemic when the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities wanted the County Court service to operate the mediation idea.
However, it’s now been discovered that there were just 0.73 per cent of potential referrals which - according to a statement from Propertymark - “indicates a lack of awareness and communication of the scheme by duty advisors in the County Court.” This in turn led to just nine cases going through to the Rental Mediation Service.
Now a review of the idea has thrown up the general consensus that the mediation was offered too late in the possession process.
It was offered after relations between tenant and landlord had fully broken down, and the case had already progressed to the court stage. Participants also reported that tenants did not have appropriate legal advice during mediation making it confusing and overwhelming for all parties involved.
“Propertymark believes there is a missed opportunity to include local authority housing and homelessness departments in the referral process, who are usually in contact with tenants at a much earlier stage and may be able to deliver guidance and signposting to the scheme” says the trade body.
It continues: “Mediation needs to be implemented at an earlier stage, as it could delay possession proceedings and cause more issues from tenants. If effectively implemented, the Rental Mediation Service would also be beneficial for landlords not wanting to lose good tenants, who are happy to engage in order to resolve disputes.”
Timothy Douglas, Propertymark’s policy and campaigns chief, adds: “The UK Government’s PRS White Paper includes proposals for mediation to be used as a tool to resolve renting issues and despite the pilot receiving an extremely low number of referrals, we believe that mediation should still form an important part of reforms to eviction rules and dispute resolution going forward.
“What’s key is that decision makers recognise that the timing of mediation is vital, and it is utilised early before relations between landlords and tenants have broken down.
“Propertymark’s The Future of Renting position paper sets out action across ten areas, which we believe can help enhance dispute resolution and improve the possession process. These include communication and reporting, negotiation, and conciliation, complaints, escalated complaints, mediation and mandatory pre-action consideration of alternative dispute resolution.”