The parties arrived to mediation upset. Betty, the landlord, had filed an eviction case against Julie, the tenant, because Julie had fallen two months’ behind in her rent. Julie’s mother had come to court to support Julie, and was very angry that her daughter was being taken to court. Julie’s mom yelled at the landlord in the courtroom, and the judge asked her to leave before sending the parties to mediation.
Julie and Betty sat down with the mediator. Julie was worried; she and her husband had three children under the age of 10, and a dog. They had started to look for other places to live, but it was difficult to find an affordable apartment large enough for their family. Betty was also worried; she was not able to work anymore, and this building was her primary source of income. She lived in one of the units and prided herself on being a good and responsive landlord. And she needed the income from Julie’s apartment.
Betty initially offered to forgive the back rent if Julie and her family were able to move out immediately. Julie explained that she had been looking, but couldn’t find any other suitable units. Julie’s husband had just switched jobs, and a period of unemployment had left them behind in their bills. However, Julie argued that, given a short-term payment plan, they family could catch up on the rent.
Julie also raised concerns about the condition of the apartment, including a too-large hole cut into a wall for the installation of a sink, and some problems with window seals. Julie said that Betty had been a good landlord, and fixed things that needed fixing urgently, but that these problems had lingered. Betty admitted she would need to resolve those issues before she could have a new tenant move in.
The mediator helped Julie and Betty think through what might happen if they did not reach an agreement. Betty was concerned about the cost associated with repairing the unit, and, with nowhere else to go, Julie said she was considering filing a countersuit related to the issues in the apartment. Both parties felt uncertain.
The conversation began to turn. Both parties began talking in a different tone and looked at one another with more understanding. Betty had not known that Julie’s husband was working again, and that gave her hope they’d be able to make up the past-due rent. The mediator helped the parties discuss the financial obligations of the tenant’s family, and then of the land lord’s obligation to the outstanding mortgage on the apartment, and if more time was possible, what a payment arrangement might look like.
The mediator assisted Betty and Julie in writing their agreement; three-hundred-dollar payments a month, on top of the current months rent due, until the outstanding rent was paid. The tenant could stay residing in the apartment. The landlord would have her money in full, keep her tenant, and have time to make the outstanding repairs to the unit. The tenant would have the eviction case dismissed, preserve her credit, and still have a good reference for when her family does want to move.
Mediation helped Betty and Julie have a thorough conversation and make a realistic plan to move forward.