The government has launched its much-anticipated Housing Possession Mediation Scheme for landlords and tenants, provided by The Society of Mediators (SoM) at a cost of £2-3 million.
It will last for between six and nine months and is being operated jointly by the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
It will offer a free, dedicated service staffed by seven clerks to engage with possession claims as they progress through court and facilitate settlement without a substantive hearing, where possible.
The service is understood to be voluntary and both landlord and tenants must agree to take part in the mediation process, although landlords may feel obliged to use it as judges making possession decisions are likely to look favourable on those who do.
“This service aims to help further promote compromise to the benefit of all parties, sustain tenancies and manage capacity in the court system,” the tender notice outlines.
The Society of Mediators, which is a charity, will have a significant operation on its hands – the service is designed to offer an online mediation service for all of the 170 county courts around the UK where possession cases are heard.
The new mediation service will offer landlords mediation with tenants they are seeking to evict during the 28 days between a court’s review of the files and the possession hearing.
The mediations are being conducted by telephone, WhatsApp or Zoom and both parties will also need email access.
The SoM claims its mediation is simple, fast and efficient and that 84% of cases lead to a settlement.
But many eviction experts are sceptical and say that, although well intentioned the new service is too little, too late in most possession proceedings, and that mediation achieves more when completed much earlier on in a dispute.