Jerome bought a two-flat a few years ago and moved in to the upstairs unit and rented the first floor apartment to Carl. Carl worked the night shift at a machining plant, so he was rarely awake during the day. Since the men kept very different hours, they rarely interacted and this created a fair amount of conflict. Jerome and Carl ended up in Eviction Court where the judge sent them to mediation.
To begin, the mediator asked each man to explain what had happened from his perspective. Jerome, as the initiator of the case, began by explaining how there had been numerous small damages to the property in Carl’s unit in addition to personal items of Carl’s that were left around the property, creating an eye-sore. Carl countered by describing how, whenever he would approach Jerome about fixing something, Jerome would not follow through in a timely fashion, if at all.
Both men agreed that this situation had been going on far too long and needed to come to an end. Jerome was seeking a certain move-out date from Carl, but Carl was unwilling to provide that, suggesting that during the pandemic and with his work schedule, it was going to be very difficult to find a new place to live.
The mediator succinctly summarized the position of each man, then pivoted from that to inquire about the underlying interests that were driving their behaviors. Jerome cared a great deal about his new property and wanted to maintain its appearance and quality. He had tried to contact Carl many times about keeping things neat and tidy, but often Carl was unavailable or unresponsive. At other times, Carl would say that he was going to fix or clean something up, but then wouldn’t do it.
For his part, Carl indicated that since he was usually trying to sleep during the day, the noise that came from Jerome’s unit often kept him up and made him too tired to clean or do other small projects around the unit during his free time. When something would break, he would sometimes message Jerome about it, but because their schedules didn’t align, they often missed opportunities to discuss solutions and would go weeks or months with nothing being done.
The mediator highlighted that a shared value they were both expressing was timely communication and follow through on what was promised. Both men agreed. The mediator also asked about how their relationship had been with regard to payment of rent. Jerome was quick to point out that Carl was great at paying rent on time and that he really appreciated that. He indicated that one concern he had was that if Carl moved out, he might not find someone as prompt in that regard or someone who was as financially secure during the pandemic.
Consequently, the mediator inquired if they could sort out their communication and follow through issues, did they believe they could fix things well enough to keep the relationship going? Both men thought they could. Through brainstorming ideas and some reality testing by the mediator, they were able to come up with a solution whereby they would set up a weekly phone call to discuss any issues that needed attention. If there were any, both men agreed to make a plan about how to start those projects that weekend and clarify when the project would be completed. Jerome also agreed to purchase some runner carpets for his hallways, in order to dampen the noise from foot traffic and help Carl get better sleep.
With both men understanding better what was important to the other, they were satisfied that they could continue to remain landlord and tenant for the foreseeable future and were able to dismiss the pending eviction.