Saturday, December 09, 2006

"Mediation Preferred Over Court to Resolve Housing Disagreements"

I have pasted below a Question and Response regarding mediation that appeared in today's "Home" section of The San Francisco Chronicle.

"Mediation preferred over court to resolve housing disagreements - Project Sentinel
Saturday, December 9, 2006

Q: The city in which I own rental property has a mediation program to help landlords and tenants resolve housing issues. I support this concept in theory, but wonder if the process really works. Since your agency offers mediation services, please "sell me" on the value of using mediation.

A: Mediation programs have a very high success rate in resolving cases, generally in the range of 75-90 percent. Mediation works because it allows disputing parties to openly discuss their issues and resolve them in a safe, confidential environment facilitated by neutral mediators. The mediators' role is to open communication and develop trust between the parties, who can then explore options and alternatives, and eventually reach a mutually acceptable resolution to their dispute.

Participating in mediation is voluntary for all parties and is usually free. The mediation session takes place in a private, neutral location. Mediators have completed specialized training and generally come from the service-oriented community. The parties control the outcome.

A traditional legal action is expensive and time-consuming. The case is heard in open court, convenience is not a consideration, and the judge, acting as an arbitrator, makes a decision for the parties. We strongly support the mediation process to resolve disputes.

©2006 by Project Sentinel, a referral and mediation service. Send questions to Project Sentinel, 1055 Sunnyvale- Saratoga Road, Suite No. 3, Sunnyvale, CA 94087, or call (408) 720-9888 or (888) 331-3332. To find the fair housing agency serving the area where you live or have property, call the Housing Discrimination Hotline, (415) 468-7464. To reach the federal fair housing enforcement center in the San Francisco area, call (800) 347-3739."

Here is the letter I sent in response (my first ever!):

"As an attorney-mediator, I would like to thank Project Sentinel for highlighting the benefits of mediation as an alternative to court in housing disputes and also to inform readers that mediation is a great alternative to court litigation in many other types of disputes as well (e.g., business, employment, family/divorce, neighbor disputes, personal injury, probate, etc.). Project Sentinel states that mediation “is usually free.” That statement may only apply to housing discrimination disputes and not to all the other disputes which are mediated every day. While certain organizations and agencies provide free mediation services from trained volunteer mediators, most mediators provide mediation services for a fee, because that is our profession; we are professional mediators and we rely on paying clients in order to continue providing “pro bono” or free services to those in need."

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