Following the government’s introduction of their new mediation pilot last February, revisions were made to take into account the lifting of the eviction ban. The scheme is free-to-use and is designed to help resolve cases without face-to-face court hearings. However, demands are made by Propertymark’s policy and campaigns manager to see the pilot’s results.
The premise of the scheme is that both parties – tenants and landlords – work with a neutral mediator who is independent of HM Courts and Tribunals Service. They will attempt to identify what’s gone wrong and how you and your tenant can work towards resolving the issue.
One advantage of the process is that it is quicker than a full court hearing. The aim is to conduct mediation within ten days of referral and, if successful, will result in the case being officially closed. If the mediation is a success, you will sign an agreement that will be put in front of a judge for approval. It will go on to explain what actions both parties must take next.
However, if mediation is unsuccessful, the case will then continue through to the substantive hearing. The government says that the court will be told nothing about what was said during the mediation during this time – as it is confidential – and the process will proceed as usual.
Propertymark’s policy and campaigns manager, Timothy Douglas, has voiced his concerns about the viability of the pilot. He believes it is “essential” that previous results are made publicly available to give others an idea of how the process works and if it is indeed successful.
He said: “Letting agents have worked hard to support landlords and tenants and manage tenancies safely throughout the public health crisis. Consequently, when landlords and tenants are involved in a housing possession court case, it is important that they are able to identify issues and have the additional resources necessary to help resolve them. For this reason, we recognise the role that mediation can play in dispute resolution. However, we must see the results of the recent pilot and outcomes of reviews to determine whether it can take the pressure off the court system and be a viable option for the private rented sector in the long run, especially with the court backlog caused by the crisis.”
Just this month, eviction notice periods were reduced from six months’ notice down to four months’ notice. As the UK continues to meander its way throughout the backend of the pandemic, notice periods are set to be further reduced to just two months from 1 October.
Landlords are welcoming these changes made to eviction notice periods as they have been restricted to when they can shift a tenant. The government enforced temporary rules to shield tenants from being unfairly evicted during the national health crisis of the pandemic. This, however, had an impact on landlords who were unable to sell their properties for months on end.
As things slowly but surely get back to normal, landlords will continue to benefit as the government is making these changes. Although the mediation pilot is not designed to protect the landlord solely, it should, in practice, be a solid solution to many problems that may arise.