Preserve Strong Communities with Housing Mediation

by Center for Conflict Resolution
Preserve Strong Communities with Housing Mediation
Mar 5, 2021

Communicating Despite COVID

The participants in this mediation were Ann and Mathias. Ann had acted as a live-in caretaker for Mathias’s mother, Mama Claire, in exchange for reduced rent in Mama Claire’s home from early 2017 until her death in January 2020. After Mama Claire’s death, Mathias expected Ann to move out of the house, but she did not and the two ended up in a series of arguments that resulted in Mathias contacting CCR to schedule a mediation. Due to the eviction moratorium, he was unable to file a case in court.

During the mediation, the mediator learned that Ann and Mathias first met Mother’s Day of 2017 and initially, they liked one another. They both wanted the best for Mama Claire and thought that Ann living with her in exchange for rent was a great solution. However, Mathias later came to believe that Ann was a poor caretaker and would leave for weeks at a time. In response to the charges of poor caretaking, Ann stated that she did not want to give Mama Claire her prescription injections and left that to the home health care nurse that visited the house, but that otherwise she cared for all of Mama Claire’s needs. She said that Mama Claire had severe memory problems and would forget that she had seen Ann and would ask her where she had been for the last few weeks when she had seen Ann the day before. She felt that her contributions as a caretaker were undervalued. She was hurt by Mathias’ accusations and felt that Mathias was lying about his conversations with Mama Claire regarding her wishes for the house after her death. A true accounting of the events was important to both parties, even though it was impossible to determine what had really occurred.

The mediator worked with the parties to help reframe their conversation. Without Mama Claire available to confirm or deny their stories, there was no way to determine if anyone was misrepresenting what happened. The mediator helped the parties shift to a conversation of what was important to both of them and asked questions to help them both determine if there were any options available to them in mediation that would resolve the disagreement.

Ann initially stated that she had been paying rent but then later in the mediation admitted she had not paid rent for the last year. She said she had consulted a legal aid attorney who told her that because the deed was not in Mathias’s name and there was no written lease agreement, she was not obligated to pay him any rent. Ann said she tried to move out in early 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, but with the shelter-in-place order she had nowhere else to go.

Mathias stated that he cared deeply for his mother. Despite living seventy miles away, he visited her regularly. While he had concerns near the end of his mother’s life, he did agree that Ann had been a good caretaker for most of the time she lived in the home.

Mathias was willing to agree that Ann would move out when the eviction moratorium was lifted. Ann considered this calmly and thoughtfully but then stated that she was reluctant to move out because she said she was struggling to find alternate housing during the pandemic. The mediator helped the parties talk about the difference between the moratorium ending and the pandemic ending. The parties soon realized that those were difficult ideas to define because there were so many unknown factors. They agreed that Ann would stay in the house for at least two more months, but that she would begin to pay rent to Mathias. The mediator helped them draft an agreement and let them know that they were welcome to return for a follow up mediation session at any time.

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Center for Conflict Resolution

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
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Project Leader:
Cassandra Lively
Chicago, IL United States
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