A trailblazing new mediation service for landlords and tenants in Portsmouth aims to settle rent disputes and avoid costly legal battles and evictions.
The pilot, run by Portsmouth Mediation Service and sponsored by the city council, offers support from a team of independent mediators for tenants behind on their rent, who can be referred by its private housing team.
Sixteen landlords have already been trained, armed with a ‘restorative toolkit’ in the hope it will reduce the need for repossession court action.
One of very few similar schemes in the country, it has a good chance of success because the local council is engaged in the process, says Alwin Oliver (main picture), vice-chair of the Portsmouth & District Private Landlords Association, a driving force behind the scheme. He has already engaged with some of his tenants, one of whom is on a repayment plan.
“We’ve tried to design something that works and hope it will grow and evolve,” Oliver tells LandlordZONE.
“We have trained landlords in the essential communication techniques so that they can avoid confrontation at the early stages, to get the tenancy back under control using a more sympathetic approach. Once a notice has been served, you’ve closed a door. Mediation works best early on in the process.”
He explains that this can start with something as simple as putting a note on a rent chase email, suggesting the tenant approaches a Citizens Advice law centre if they need to ask for help.
Oliver adds that it’s hoped there will eventually be a direct link with Portsmouth’s possession courts to flag up cases sooner.
As LandlordZONE reported earlier this week, the government’s legal boss Sir Geoffrey Voss wants to expand the role of ‘dispute resolution’ as an alternative to courts in a bid to speed up evictions and other types of civil litigation.
Following a pilot scheme launched in February, there is an ongoing MOJ consultation into dispute resolution. Several national privately-run mediation schemes also exist.
Read more about Portsmouth landlords.