Preserve Strong Communities with Housing Mediation

by Center for Conflict Resolution
Preserve Strong Communities with Housing Mediation
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.

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Center for Conflict Resolution

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
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Project Leader:
Cassandra Lively
Chicago, IL United States
$44,038 raised of $75,000 goal
 
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