Mar 28, 2018

Repairs and Reconciliation

Carlos, the landlord, liked his tenants, Vernon and his family. Unfortunately, they’d lately had trouble paying the rent and had fallen several months behind. Carlos couldn’t afford to keep the house without their rent. Carlos knew he had to make some repairs before he could put the house on the market, and he had to get started soon. Carlos said he’d tried to be patient, but he just couldn’t afford to wait any longer. He filed for eviction – there was nothing more to discuss.

On the day of the court hearing, the judge asked Carlos and Vernon if they’d like to try mediation. They were willing.

The mediator asked each of them about their situation and what they needed. Vernon was able to express that he respected Carlos and that he was sorry he’d been unable to pay the rent these last few months. His work hours had been cut and his family had other expenses, and he just didn’t have the money. He’d told Carlos he was trying to find a cheaper place. He also realized that having an eviction on his record would make it even more difficult to find a new home.

The last thing Carlos wanted was to make it hard for his tenants to move out. He also realized that he was unlikely to see any money from the back rent – he’d settle for possession right away. Vernon had nowhere to go right away – he wanted a couple of months. Carlos couldn’t wait that long, although he appreciated how well Vernon and his family had always kept the place, and how Vernon had fixed little things that needed fixing, and done a good job.

The mediator guided the conversation toward the repairs: Vernon told Carlos that he could do all the repairs that Carlos had listed. From that point, Carlos and Vernon agreed on a list of repairs, and Vernon estimated how long it would take him.

The mediator helped them detail their agreement in writing. Vernon would move out in two months. During that time, he would complete the agreed repairs, with Carlos supplying all materials. Carlos would waive the back rent, which he thought was uncollectible anyway, and no rent would be due for the next two months. The eviction case would be dismissed, but Carlos could reinstate it if the agreement was not fulfilled.

Vernon got the two months he felt he needed, avoided an eviction order and a judgment against him, and maintained his self-respect in the eyes of his family. Carlos would be able to get started right away preparing the house for sale.

The judge approved the agreement, and both parties left the courtroom pleased with the result.

Jan 26, 2018

Resolution not Rumors

Jason and Markus are two teenagers who only knew each other because they sometimes hung out at the same park. One afternoon Jason started pushing Markus around because he had heard rumors that Markus was trying to date his girlfriend, Veronica. The pushing turned into something more aggressive. Jason became angrier as he chased Markus around the park, landing blows and kicking Markus when he was on the ground.

There were other teenagers in the park and the incident was recorded on a phone and posted on social media. Eventually, the police arrived. Jason was arrested for battery and sent to mediation by the court.

Jason and Markus, along with Jason’s mom, Denise, and Markus’ dad, Henry, met with the CCR mediator. At first, it seemed that Henry had more to say than Markus. Although he was very upset that Markus had been beaten up, Henry was even more upset that the altercation was posted online. Henry believed that the video was embarrassing for his son and would have a negative impact on his reputation. It was Henry’s priority to make sure the video was taken down.

During the conversation Jason and Denise shared that Jason had been dealing with anger management issues. He had been building resources for how to better manage similar situations, but had been strongly impacted by the rumors about Markus and Veronica. Markus used the time to explain that he and Veronica were very good friends and that he wasn’t interested in dating her.

The mediator asked them both questions about the incident and came to learn that both Markus and Jason had been at the park for the same reason – they were looking to make friends. Since the incident, neither of them had gone back to the park and both expressed feelings of isolation and loneliness. They agreed that they would both like to use the park again without concerns about a future confrontation.

With the mediator’s assistance, the young men were able to discuss their dynamic and came to an agreement that everything was settled between them. Henry still wanted to have the video removed from the internet and Markus agreed to do so. During the mediation, Markus was able to use his mother’s phone to delete the video from his social media pages.

Everyone left the mediation satisfied that the matter had been resolved. 

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Dec 28, 2017

Preserving Relationships with Housing Mediation

Marisol and her husband James found themselves in court to evict their tenant Eric after a series of unfortunate events. Several years ago, Marisol and James purchased their dream home with the assistance of Marisol’s father, who co-signed for their loan. They moved in with their infant son, Tomas. About a year after they moved in, Tomas was involved in an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. They moved into an apartment because their home was multi-story and was difficult for Tomas to navigate. Marisol and James rented the house to a woman who quickly fell far behind in the rent and then disappeared. As a result of her nonpayment of rent, they found their house in foreclosure.

Knowing that the process was likely to take a while to unfold, and hoping they’d be able to get a loan modification in the meantime, they reached out to Eric. Eric was a family friend of many years – he was engaged to Marisol’s cousin, they had cared for each other’s children, and they all shared a relationship of trust and respect. Eric needed a place to live for his three children, and while he knew his tenancy was subject to the foreclosure process, he saw it as a great place to stay while he looked for other long-term options. Shortly after Eric moved in, he was injured at work and was not paid for several months. As a result, he fell behind on his rent payments. Eric tried to contribute in other ways, such as finding a great deal on a new air conditioning unit for the home and installing it with his brother. Marisol and James were very appreciative of his efforts, but asserted that the value of the work on the home did not outweigh the back rent that was owed. With an upcoming court date on their foreclosure case, they wanted to recoup some of the rent money to help their case for a loan modification, and to set a date for Eric to move out in case they needed to work out a short-sale instead. Communication had grown strained in the following weeks, and not knowing what else to do, Marisol and James had served Eric with a 5 day notice.

When the parties appeared in court the judge offered them an opportunity for mediation and all three of them wanted the chance to talk. During the mediation, Marisol expressed how important the home was for her – with tears in her eyes, she explained that it was “the only home I ever saw my son walk in.” She also did not want her father’s credit to be compromised after he had tried to help them. Eric had a close relationship with Tomas, and had also come to know Marisol’s father. Their common relationship in Marisol’s cousin and Eric’s fiancé was very important for all of them to maintain. Eric did not want to put Marisol and James in a difficult spot, but he also was concerned with providing for his children and catching up on his bills from when he was injured. Through discussion, they were able to work out a solution, taking Eric’s work on the home into account. Eric worked through his budget in detail, and everyone agreed on a payment plan to take place leading up to the court date for the foreclosure case. They also agreed on a date for Eric to move out that would give him enough time to work with his fiancé on finding a new place to live.

 Mediation provided the opportunity for a structured conversation that helped Marisol, James and Eric to focus on what was most important to them, and to work collaboratively on a solution. The parties left discussing plans to celebrate an upcoming holiday together.

 
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