Housing Possession Mediation Pilot Scheme

Earlier this month, on 1st February 2021, the government launched the Housing Possession Mediation Pilot Scheme in a bid to further address the problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic for landlords and tenants.

The scheme is funded by the government and is being run independently by the Society of Mediators. The purpose of the scheme is to mediate on possession proceedings as they progress through the court system, to facilitate settlement between the parties without the need for a court hearing if possible, and to manage capacity within the over-stretched court system. The pilot will initially run for 6 months.

The service is staffed by clerks who take referrals from all over England and Wales, and the mediators themselves are fully trained professionals. Mediation sessions will be conducted by telephone, email, WhatsApp or Zoom.

Mediation is a staple part of dispute resolution within the English legal system. Mediation by its nature is independent, informal and neutral. At its best, it provides a way for parties to resolve disputes without the stress, anger and recriminations that can arise within the heated temperature of a contested court hearing. However, the Law Society has expressed some reservations about the effectiveness or appropriateness of mediation within residential possession matters. They note that “mediation has an important place in dispute resolution, however housing is such an essential life requirement that mediation cannot replace the usual routes of access to justice through the courts.”

It should be noted that the scheme is designed to complement and integrate with the other measures put in place by the government to address possession proceedings during the pandemic, rather than replace them, but it remains unclear what value mediation can have in cases where matters have already progressed to possession proceedings. In most cases, matters have reached that stage due to rent arrears, the actions of problem tenants or because of the landlord’s wish to regain possession of the property for other purposes. It is difficult to see how these issues can be resolved in mediation once court proceedings have begun if they have not been resolved in the months between service of a s8 or s21 notice and its expiry.

The mediation scheme is voluntary and requires both the landlord and the tenant to agree to the process. Resolving disputes by mediation rather than litigation is certainly praiseworthy, and it is hoped that the scheme will be a valuable addition to the Covid-19 measures put in place by the government when it comes to residential possession matters. The scheme will be evaluated at the end of 6 months to assess how effective it has been.

If you need advice on any landlord and tenant matters then please contact Fiona Hannaford or call her on 01803 403403.

The content of this article is correct as at the date of posting and is for information purposes only. Whilst we try and ensure it is accurate we do not warrant or guarantee that this is the case, nor do we accept any responsibility in the event that it is relied on. The information is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice which you are recommended to obtain.

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