Mediating Landlords and Tenants
Landlord-tenant cases are some of the most frequent cases that come across the desks of the mediators of the APADRC—they also represent one of the most challenging subset of cases to mediate. This is due to the inherent complexities of the landlord-tenant relationship such as: power imbalance and the need for functioning ongoing relationships post-mediation.
Party one, a group of students, sought the services of the APADRC after realizing that they could not resolve the dispute with their landlord without the help of a third party. There were many factors at play in this ongoing dispute with one of the main factors being miscommunication between the two parties. The landlord felt frustration at the students’ lack of understanding of certain cultural practices and the students felt ignored by the management. This is the deadlock that the APADRC was asked to resolve through mediation.
This may seem like a daunting task, but upon closer inspection the APADRC was able to identify and build relationships with the leaders of the two parties through regular telephone calls. We were able to keep both parties updated as to the status of this case; however there were definitely roadblocks encountered. Persistence is key in mediation and this case exemplifies this principle as evidenced by the incessant voicemails and follow-up phone calls to ensure that both sides received the most up-to-date information.
The next step in this conciliation required the DRC staff to explain some American cultural norms; this was necessary because some of the ideas seemed suspicious to party one when party two attempted to communicate these norms. For example, we explained the “middleman situation” of the landlord in this case and how this position disallowed issuing an immediate rent credit. In addition, we explained the students’ frustration with the prolonged process of receiving what they felt was their due reward. It was also necessary to explain to both parties that using examples involving other individuals outside of the case is detrimental to the conciliatory process.
Maintaining a positive attitude and facilitating forward movement in a case is extremely crucial and this case attests to this. Negative attitudes or dismal outlooks manifest themselves in several ways. In this case, party one began to doubt whether mediation could solve this conflict and party two sought to escalate the conflict. Through reframing and restating. The DRC staff was able to re-channel this energy into seeking a speedy resolution to the case. It is interesting that through the back and forth communication between the two parties through a neutral mediator, this case was successfully resolved (in the eyes of both parties) with an intact landlord tenant relationship.
By APADRC CRS Intern Akilah Booty