Alabama's First Landlord/Tenant Mediation Program
Sample Order for Referral to the Landlord Tenant Mediation Program
For an eligible
Thanks to grants during 2022 from the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation (the “Foundation”), the Alabama Law Foundation, and the Alabama Access to Justice Commission, additional help is now available for landlords and tenants.
The Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution (the Center) was awarded $130,500 to provide free mediation services, for up to two hours per case, for landlords and tenants in unlawful detainer, eviction actions and landlord/tenant disputes filed in Alabama courts. Mediators participating in the program are on the state court roster of registered mediators maintained by the Center. This is court-ordered mediation.
Availability for funding is on a first-come first-served basis.
“From March 2020 through February 16, 2022, there were 8,632 unlawful detainer cases in Alabama. Jefferson County had over one-third of those cases. This program is a great way to help landlords and tenants facing hardships created during the pandemic,” commented Eileen Harris, Executive Director of the Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution.
Jefferson County Judge Shera Grant previously noted, during her September 13, 2021 interview with AL.com, “Tenants obviously are in a serious situation, but landlords have also not been able to receive any rent for over a year. Some of our landlords are seniors who have used this as retirement income, who have not been able to receive any rental income, and so they have been put in a very difficult position as well. So, it hurts everyone.”
Landlords and tenants would work with a pro bono mediator on unlawful detainer cases, eviction cases, and/or landlord/tenant disputes that are pending in court. “Mediation helps to put the decision-making process in the hands of landlords and tenants as well as promoting peaceful resolution to the conflict,” said Harris. Parties unable to reach an agreement will have their case heard by a judge.
What is the Mediator’s Role?
The mediator is not a judge and does not render a decision or impose a solution on any party. Rather, the mediator helps those involved to talk to each other, thereby allowing them to resolve the dispute themselves in a way that meets the needs of both parties.
How does Mediation Work?
The mediator meets with the parties in a room that allows for privacy and safety. In some situations, the mediator meets with the parties virtually through a web-based platform. Parties may elect to bring their attorneys with them, and this is often advisable. After a brief description of the process, ground rules are set, confidentiality is explained, and parties are asked to sign a paper saying they agree to mediate.
The mediator will usually meet privately with each party to explore more fully the facts and needs of the parties. This gives the participants the opportunity to communicate to the mediator their real interests as well as to vent anger or frustration outside the presence of the opposing party.
When authorized by a party, the mediator will communicate ideas and proposals to the other party so that agreement can be reached. The agreement is then written down and signed by the parties.