Sep 18, 2019

We Can Work It Out

Tina had only lived in the apartment since spring, but by July she had stopped paying rent. Her landlord, Terry, had been a landlord for over 30 years and when Tina stopped paying rent, he filed for an eviction.

On the first court date the judge sent the parties to mediation. In mediation, Terry explained that he considered himself to be a very fair person and expected his tenants to be the same. He said that he told his tenants that they could break the lease at any time if they weren’t happy. For Terry, however, it was important that he be paid the rent that was owed to him under the lease while the tenant was still there. The mediator noted that it seemed like being paid rent was a matter of respect for him.

Tina had never been to eviction court before. She was angry that Terry had filed the case and unfamiliar with an eviction proceeding. She was resistant to engage in the mediation process. With arms folded she said that she would take her chances with the judge. Tina said the apartment was not adequate and she didn’t want to stay there and that because of the condition of the apartment she should not be obligated to pay the rent. The mediator gave Tina a chance to express her frustrations with Terry and with going to court. The mediator explained that Tina would not be obligated to come to any agreement in mediation and would be free to see the judge if the case did not settle.

Tina agreed to participate in the mediation and in telling her story the mediator learned that Tina had three children and would need time to find a place for them all to move. She also said that she needed what money she had to find a new place and would not be able to pay any money to Terry while trying to secure new housing.

The mediator facilitated a conversation between both parties and in the end Tina agreed that she would pay Terry some of what he was asking for in exchange for the ability to determine the date upon which she would leave the apartment. She was willing to pay Terry an amount on her next pay date and agreed that he would keep her deposit. For his part, Terry realized that although he was not going to get all of the rent that he sought, settling for some of the money and knowing the date the apartment would again be available to rent allowed him more certainty.

Jul 16, 2019

Mother and Daughter Connect Through Mediation

Dalia, age 16, and her mother, Celeste, were referred to mediation after Dalia was arrested while attending a protest of a City Council meeting with her mother’s permission. They arrived at the mediation ready to share, but were disappointed that the officer involved in Dalia’s arrest had declined to participate. “Communication is good between us,” Dalia’s mother Celeste began, “so I’m not sure how much help we need with conflict resolution. The person I really hoped to have across this table was the officer.” Nonetheless the mediation began.

Without the officer present, Dalia and Celeste got to take a deep dive into the aspects of their relationship that were affected by the arrest. Dalia volunteers for a non-profit that advocates for equity in education and, as she put it, an end to Chicago’s “rapid gentrification that harms those in our black and brown neighborhoods.”

Celeste and the mediator listened while Dalia described her fear at being separated from her group, shouted at, surrounded, slammed against a glass door, handcuffed, not read her rights, questioned without a parent or attorney present and referred to as an animal. Celeste had heard this story before, and was incredibly supportive, but hearing it made her visibly anxious. The mediator helped explore Celeste’s fears as a mother of a 16 year old girl of color. “She’s going to continue her activism. I won’t stop her because it’s who she is. All I can do is pray, but I’m worried constantly about her safety.”

Celeste’s most pressing need was for her daughter’s safety. She also needed to have her motherly concern taken seriously. Dalia’s most pressing needs were for her mother’s trust and to continue her activism. She needed Celeste to know that she was raised right and knew how to avoid and react to dangerous situations. Since both were committed to Dalia’s continued activism, the mediator helped the parties explore ways Celeste’s concern could be managed through both self-care and better communication from Dalia.

Celeste and Dalia also talked about strategies Dalia could use if she found herself surrounded by police and separated from her group in the future. Dalia described how she shut down her emotions in police custody because she “knew they didn’t see me as a juvenile; they saw me as a threat, and being in my emotions could have put me in danger.” This led to discussion about Dalia’s struggles with schoolwork and places Dalia felt most at ease to express her true herself and let those powerful emotions flow. It all came back to family and education--the loudest common values in the room.

It was clear that both mother and daughter felt their needs were heard by the other in a new way in the mediation. Dalia worked to reassure her mother and show gratitude. Celeste worked to demonstrate both pride and trust. The two women were both clearly committed, each in her own way, to strengthening their relationship and their city.

Jun 19, 2019

Co-Workers Working It Out

Aricela and Marisol have worked at the same company for several years. They are in the same department, see each other every day, and get along well. Several months ago, Aricela needed to go to California to be with her mother, who was ill. She was looking for someone to watch over her home while she was gone. As it happened, Marisol’s lease was up, and she was looking for somewhere to stay. They agreed that Marisol would move into Aricela’s home and pay $500 per month. Since Aricela’s mother’s health was unstable, the two did not discuss timing or make a specific agreement about how long the arrangement would last. When Aricela filed an eviction action against Marisol after claiming unpaid rent, the two ended up in court and were referred to mediation.

The arrangement had worked out well for the first several months. When Marisol sent Aricela the rent money, Aricela would send back a written receipt. Aricela kept a record of the money that came in, which was usually in the form of a cashier’s check, although occasionally Marisol paid in cash. Aricela brought an eviction action claiming she had not been paid for April rent; Marisol said she gave Aricela the payment in cash, but had forgotten to get a receipt.

There was an additional issue; after several months, Aricela’s mother seemed to be doing a lot better. She did not need Aricela’s assistance anymore, so Aricela decided to move back to Chicago. Both parties agreed that since there were multiple bedrooms, Marisol would continue to stay in the home. However, once Aricela moved back in, Aricela discovered that Marisol was hosting more people in the home than she had expected. Marisol’s new boyfriend had moved in, and some of Marisol’s nieces and nephews sometimes stayed over.

Aricela explained that having new people in her home, who she didn’t know, made her uncomfortable. Marisol said that while she was paying rent, she felt she should have the freedom of allowing her boyfriend and family members to stay with her. She said that the nieces and nephews only stayed every once in a while, and that they were not disruptive. In fact, they helped her with the dishes, daily household chores, and were very respectful.

After talking the issue through, Aricela identified that her primary interest was feeling comfortable in her own home. She also wanted to make sure that she was not being taken advantage of by Marisol. Marisol needed a stable living situation until she found a new place to live. Both parties valued their ongoing relationship, since they still work together. To preserve their relationship, the parties agreed that Marisol would move out, but would have two months to find housing. Aricela agreed to forgive April’s rent as long as Marisol paid for the current month of May in full during the mediation, and also agreed to pay for June and July on specified dates. Aricela agreed to give Marisol written receipts for payment.

With the help of the mediator, the parties crafted an agreement that allowed them to avoid court and preserve their relationship.

 
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