10:58 AM, 16th March 2023, About 12 months ago
The Rental Mediation Service pilot to enable landlords and tenants to access a free independent offering during the landlord possession process has flopped, it has been revealed.
Between February to October 2021, there were just 22 referrals out of a potential 3,000 cases – or just 0.73%.
The Rental Mediation Service, a joint pilot project between the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC), was created in the County Court service to resolve disputes, sustain tendencies, and reduce pressure on the courts.
The scheme was set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic but the low numbers being referred highlight a lack of awareness and communication of the scheme by Duty Advisors in the County Court.
The consensus of participants in the service pilot review says that mediation was offered too late in the possession process.
They say it was offered after relations between the landlord and tenant had fully broken down, and the case had already progressed to the court stage.
Participants also reported tenants did not have specialist legal advice during mediation making it confusing and overwhelming for all parties involved.
Propertymark says there was a missed opportunity to include Local Authority housing and homelessness departments in the referral process since they are usually in contact with tenants at a much earlier stage.
That means they might be able to deliver guidance and signposting to the scheme.
Propertymark also says that mediation needs to be implemented at an earlier stage as it could delay possession proceedings and cause more issues for tenants.
And if effectively implemented, the Rental Mediation Service would be beneficial for landlords not wanting to lose good tenants and who are happy to engage to resolve disputes.
Propertymark’s head of policy and campaigns, Timothy Douglas, said: “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.”
He added: “Propertymark’s The Future of Renting position paper sets out action across 10 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.”
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