Jul 10, 2020

Caught in the Middle

Lisa rented an apartment from Arthur and Annie for over 3 years. Everything went well between them until about 6 months ago. Lisa was late with her rent on two occasions and then stopped paying altogether. Arthur and Annie filed an eviction against Lisa and when the three of them appeared in court the judge referred them to mediation with CCR.

As soon as she had a chance to speak, Annie began angrily demanding that Lisa pay the $2,300 she owed and get out. Before the mediator even had a chance to say anything, Arthur jumped in telling Annie to calm down and be quiet. This did not have the desired effect. Instead, Annie got even more upset and started yelling at Arthur! The mediator intervened quickly and asked everyone to pause and re-set. She then began again by turning to Annie and acknowledging that this was a really upsetting situation for her and asked her to explain in more detail why she was feeling so angry.

Annie felt Lisa had been disrespectful by paying rent late, and then by eventually not paying at all and avoiding their calls. Lisa argued it was Annie who had been disrespectful by confronting her about past due rent in front of her children, and explained she had just been reacting to Annie’s insults.

As the mediator explored this incident more, it became clear that both women had been going through a difficult time. Annie and Arthur’s adult daughter lived in the apartment prior to Lisa, and there had been a falling out between them. This resulted in the daughter damaging the apartment and being arrested for drunken and disorderly conduct. The event was traumatic for Annie and she had not recovered from it. Lisa had recently lost her job and been sued for custody of her two children by her ex, who claimed she was an unfit mother. She had been under a lot of pressure when Annie confronted her about the rent.

The mediator highlighted that when the two women had their confrontation, they had both been angry about other things. This impacted their ability to have a productive conversation at the time. The mediator asked if they had it to do over, would they change anything? Lisa acknowledged she could have notified Annie and Arthur about the situation and asked to make a plan to pay her rent when she was able. Annie agreed that more communication would have helped and that she could have waited until she was able to speak with Lisa privately to discuss the rent.

Arthur, who had quiet for most of the mediation, interjected that Lisa had always been a really good tenant, and it had been disappointing and scary when she had gone silent. When the mediator asked him to say more about why it was “scary,” he talked about how their daughter had been staying rent free, even though they needed the money, because they were trying to help her get on her feet and deal with her substance abuse issues. They had come to care about Lisa as well, and seeing another young woman possibly going down a concerning path made them worry that they were in for another bad experience both emotionally and financially.

Lisa told them that she had a new job, but that it didn’t pay as much as her old one, and she could no longer afford to stay in the apartment. If she could find a cheaper place to live, she would make some payments to catch up with the back rent. Annie said that she appreciated that honesty and believed that Lisa would pay what she promised.

Arthur and Annie agreed to give Lisa six weeks to find a new place and to dismiss the case as long as she was able to make some payments under a payment plan. Lisa agreed, since it would avoid an eviction on her record which could be problematic for her custody case with her ex and would impact her ability to find new housing.

Everyone expressed to the mediator that this resolution made them feel much better about the future and allowed them to resolve the issue completely. They thanked the mediator and headed back to dismiss their case.

May 8, 2020

Virtual Mediation Allows for a Resolution

When David’s friend pulled up in front of his house on a Saturday morning and asked him if he wanted to drive, David said “Yes!” and cruised around the neighborhood. It turned out David was driving a stolen vehicle. As part of his probation, David participated in a mediation session with his mother, Monica, and Marina, the owner of the car. Due to Covid-19, the mediation took place via video conference.

David reluctantly began the mediation by sharing his side of the story - that he did not steal the car, claiming he had no idea the car did not belong to his friend. David felt his friend who stole the car should be the one at the mediation and not him. His mother, however, was quick to remind David that he was responsible because he was the one driving. She told him the minute he left the house, where he was supposed to be watching his younger siblings, and got behind the wheel, he was responsible for his behavior. Monica also wanted to be sure Marina knew that David was a good kid, had great grades and had never been in trouble before. During the mediation, David shared more about himself; that he wants to do well in school and become a video game designer.

Marina appreciated the opportunity to share her side of the story as well. Marina is a single mom with a teenage son and was completely panicked when she could not find her car one morning. She searched for an hour before finally calling the police. She could not go to work that day and her son missed school. Even though she got her car back, she had been unable to drive it due to the damage. Marina had to rely on others for rides and spend money on Uber to get to work. Marina also expressed that she felt violated that her car had been stolen.

During the mediator’s private conversation with David and his mother, David spoke about how frightening the entire experience had been for him. David was incredibly scared and cried when he was arrested. His younger sister and Grandmother witnessed his arrest and they both were traumatized by the experience. Mom and David both spoke about how they wanted to move forward and put this incident behind them so David could focus on school and his future.

When the mediator brought the parties back together, David apologized to Marina. Marina told David how much he reminded her of her own son and how she knows teenagers make mistakes and that is important to learn from them.

David’s mom then shared that her own car was stolen the previous year and found totaled in a neighboring state, filled with firearms. She understood what it was like to lose the independence a car provides and the expense of having to use Uber. Since she knew David did not have any money to give, she offered to pay Marina $225, and in return David would help her out more around the house; doing weekly laundry, cleaning out the garage and babysitting his siblings. David quickly agreed to this.  

They decided to write up this agreement, exchanged cell numbers and Marina, David and mom all wished each other well. Through mediation, David, Monica and Marina were able to find a solution that met their needs and opened the possibility for a more positive relationship in the future.

Mar 13, 2020

Comfort and Respect

Reginald and his wife Loretta were landlords of a 3-flat building in Hyde Park. Their tenant, Jessica, and her two daughters had been residing in a unit on the top floor of the building. Reginald and Loretta lived on the first floor.

For a little over two years, there were no problems with Jessica paying her rent on time and the landlords were happy to have a long-term tenant.

At some point, Jessica started noticing rodents in her unit and notified Reginald of the situation. After a few weeks passed with no action taken, Jessica took matters into her own hands. She paid for an exterminator to come to the building to address the rodent issue. When Reginald found out about this gesture, he offered to pay Jessica back. Jessica refused as she considered the matter over. Reginald was grateful that his tenant cared about the building so much so that she would do something so generous.

A few weeks later, Jessica’s father asked her to provide a temporary home for his dog. Jessica asked Loretta if it would be acceptable to her and Reginald to have a dog for a short period of time. Loretta mentioned that it wasn't allowed by the terms of the lease, but as long as it was for a short time, it would be ok.  

Jessica then purchased a puppy for her children without telling Reginald and Loretta, which meant there were now two dogs living in the unit. The puppy was not trained and left piles of feces in the hall and on the back porch. When the landlords started receiving complaints from the other residents, they addressed the dog issue with Jessica. She agreed to have the carpets professionally cleaned and again paid for the carpet cleaning service.

Loretta continued to confront Jessica about the dogs. The relationship between them began to erode. Jessica noticed a leak in the kitchen and asked Reginald to have it repaired. When it was not repaired, Jessica stopped paying rent. Three months passed with no rent, so the landlords took Jessica to court, asking for an eviction and back rent. They cited that she had dogs that were not permissible under the terms of the lease. Jessica mentioned that she wasn't paying rent because of the rodents and the repairs not being completed violating the terms of the lease.

The case was referred to mediation with Center for Conflict Resolution. To learn a little about the relationship between the parties, the mediator asked Jessica how she decided to live in the unit. Jessica said she was referred to Reginald and Loretta through a mutual friend they knew from church. Loretta began insulting Jessica, saying "She needs to pray a lot harder because she has the devil in her!" Jessica said she felt disrespected, and that this was one of the reasons why she has not been paying rent.

Loretta kept trying to show the mediator evidence that she brought to court to show the judge. The mediator said, "I can tell you are passionate about showing me this evidence, why do you feel so strongly that you need to show this to me?" Loretta replied, "Because I want you to see what it has been like for us to wake up and come get our paper in the morning and be greeted by dog feces in the hallway." At that point, the mediator asked her to explain what that was like for her. She said the smell was terrible and that she was no longer comfortable living in her building anymore. The mediator said, "so you need to be comfortable living in your building." The mediator asked Reginald and Loretta how they felt when Jessica paid for the exterminator. Reginald said, "I think she is a good mom, works hard, and has taken pride in our building, and I am appreciative of that." The mediator asked Jessica how she felt hearing those words. She replied, "Although Reginald didn't come to fix things as quickly as he said, he always respected me." The mediator said, "so you need to be respected."

With the mediator's help, they were able to understand more clearly each of their needs and interests. The mediator was then able to facilitate a conversation that ended with the tenant agreeing to move out by the end of the month. This amount of time would allow the landlord to do the necessary repairs to have the apartment rented again. The landlord agreed only to collect one month of the three months' rent owed as long as she moved out at the end of the month.

They ended up shaking hands at the end of the meeting, able to put things in the past and leave without having to return to court.

 
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