Mike is the landlord of a small apartment building. Ben signed a lease with Mike in the Spring of 2018. When they signed the lease, Ben was a client of a social services program which payed his rent. Ben has fibromyalgia, which leaves him in constant pain and is unable to work. Six months after they signed the lease, Ben was notified that the agency would no longer be providing rental assistance and that his placement in the program would be discontinued. Ben did not know there was a limit to how long he would be served by the program and was very surprised by the news. Ben was unable to pay his rent for three months. After the third month, Mike filed a case in eviction court.
In court, the judge referred Mike and Ben to mediation with CCR. During the mediation, Mike said he had no problems with Ben as a tenant, adding that this was business, not personal. He mentioned as a single parent he was dependent on the income he made from the rent to care for his children. He stated he had given Ben many extensions to pay his rent to no avail. Finally, about three months ago, Ben told Mike that he would move out, but the date for him to leave the apartment came and Ben did not move. Mike felt he was completely stuck and had no choice but to file the court case.
Ben explained he knew that he was behind in rent, and it was not his intention to take advantage of Mike situation and live rent free. He explained his financial situation and said he had been looking for additional assistance after the first program ended, but had been unable to find any help.
The mediator helped the men have a focused conversation about their situation, helping them identify that they had a number of common interests. They both agreed that Ben needed to leave the apartment and that they respected one another. Ben said he had arranged to move in with friends, but had been unable to do so because he could not afford the costs associated with moving, like a truck and movers. After further discussion, Mike asked, “If I can get a truck and a couple of guys, can you move out today?” Ben said he could, so Mike made a few calls on his cell phone and arranged to have his brother and a friend come to the apartment and move Ben that evening.
It seemed like the parties had a clear plan, so the mediator began drafting an agreement. While the mediator was completing the paperwork, Mike expressed a bit of ambivalence. When questioned by the mediator, he stated dissatisfaction with the terms of the agreement, asking “I’m doing all of this for him, but what am I getting?” The agreement did not require Ben to pay any of the past due rent, but was simply a plan for Ben to move out with Mike’s support. Mike pointed out that he thought he had been very generous and that he was insulted that Ben had not offered to give him anything. Ben agreed that Mike was very generous, but pointed out that he could not pay. “You could have offered me a painting,” Mike said. The mediator had not heard about paintings before and asked Mike to clarify. Mike replied, “His paintings. He paints. I saw a lot of paintings in his apartment, and they’re beautiful!” Ben responded that he does paint, and has many of his paintings in his apartment. He was flattered that Mike was interested in his paintings and grateful to be able to offer something in exchange for forgiving the past due rent. Ben said, “You can have 10 paintings! Any ones you want.”
The mediator helped the parties discuss the paintings in more detail and they came to an agreement about the specific pieces Mike would take. After the mediation the parties presented their agreement to the judge and left court together - a plan in place that would benefit both of them.