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Just Court ADR

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Posts Tagged ‘AAA-ICDR Evictions’

Eviction Mediation Q&A w/ Christina Wright

Just Court ADR, December 30th, 2021

This article is part of a series of perspectives on eviction mediation program development that is being supported by the American Arbitration Association-International Centre for Dispute Resolution Foundation. The AAA-ICDR’s grant is enabling RSI to expand our outreach to court ADR colleagues working in the fast-evolving eviction field, and we are tremendously grateful to the Foundation for their support.

RSI began operating our first eviction mediation program in spring of 2021, based in Kane County, Illinois. Here, Program Coordinator Christina Wright answers questions posed by Executive Director Susan Yates about the program.

Susan Yates: Please tell us a little about who this program serves.

Christina Wright: We primarily serve very low-income renters, including section 8 and those with housing vouchers. Many are living on zero wages or social security. Family sizes vary from 1 to 5, and I rarely see families larger than 5. The families are both in large cities, like Elgin and Aurora, and in rural areas like Elburn. Kane County is a large jurisdiction that spans urban and rural populations. Those receiving services from our program are primarily white, Latino and black, and comprise all genders. English and Spanish are the primary languages spoken. Many participants have already utilized other community/government programs. Some receive these benefits, while others have been repeatedly denied, and have run out of good options.

RSI Kane County Eviction Mediation Program Coordinator Christina Wright
RSI Kane County Eviction Mediation Program Coordinator Christina Wright

SY: How does this program operate?

CW: The process begins when an eviction case is filed with the court. Once the case begins, parties are eligible to participate in the mediation program. Either the landlord or the tenant can initiate the process by contacting the program. Most first contacts are made during a court appearance. However, landlords are required to deliver a notice of the program to tenants during service, so some enrollments begin when a party reaches out prior to the first court appearance.

By initiating contact with the program, participants compel the other party to participate. The program coordinator is tasked with connecting the parties to coordinate a virtual mediation date. All mediations are currently being conducted via Zoom. Once a date is settled, the coordinator schedules a trained mediator to serve for that case. Mediators work in 4 hour shifts and may mediate 1-4 cases during that time. On average, mediations take about 50 minutes.

Mediations are confidential, so while the ultimate outcome is reported to the court, the details of the process remain private. There are many different potential outcomes to an eviction mediation, but the most common agreements involve move out dates and/or payment plans. Once an agreement is made, the mediator completes a court order that is submitted to and signed by the judge. This ends the mediation process and, typically, the court case. By coming to a mutual agreement in mediation, future court dates and eviction orders are prevented.

SY: Eviction mediation programs are often described as eviction diversion programs. What are the aspects of your programs, other than mediation?

CW: We work with the community to provide solutions to the more common problems we see related to eviction, such as financial need. Our partners help participants apply for financial relief programs that help with things such as rent and utilities in hopes of preventing evictions based on past due rent. Participants can consult with attorneys to meet their legal needs and housing counselors to help them find affordable housing.

SY: Tell us a little more about your partners in these programs. What do they do? How do parties get in touch with them?

CW: We have partnered with several other community organizations in an attempt to provide as many services as possible to those in need. Prairie State Legal Service offers free legal representation to those who qualify. The Aurora Financial Empowerment Center helps clients with a variety of consumer needs, as well as assisting applicants with financial aid applications. Consumer Credit Counseling Services and The Neighbor Project provide housing counseling services. We provide referrals to these organizations that let parties contact them directly.

SY: Who are your mediators? What kind of training do they have? What are their professional and/or personal backgrounds?

CW: Our mediators come from a diverse set of backgrounds. Many are attorneys and arbitrators, while others are counselors, teachers, executives and retired from many other careers. All of the mediators have completed a 30-hour (or longer) mediation certification, many through our partners at the Center for Conflict Resolution. They also have all been trained on the unique needs of eviction mediation. Some have also chosen to receive additional training in a variety of styles of conflict resolution. Our mediators reflect many different races and genders, speak multiple languages, and because of the virtual nature of the mediations, reside across the country (and some even internationally).

Eviction Mediation Updates, December 2021

Eric Slepak-Cherney, December 17th, 2021

This article is part of a series of perspectives on eviction mediation program development that is being supported by the American Arbitration Association-International Centre of Dispute Resolution Foundation. The AAA-ICDR’s grant is enabling RSI to expand our outreach to other court ADR colleagues working in the fast-evolving eviction field, and we are tremendously grateful to the Foundation for their support.

As the state of eviction mediation continues to evolve, we wanted to share some notable developments from across the country.

State of Moratoria

According to Nolo, the vast majority of jurisdictions have lifted moratoria on eviction filings. With the overturning of the Centers for Disease Control’s moratorium at the federal level earlier this summer, that means in most places in the country, eviction proceedings are permitted. Diversion efforts such as mediation and rental assistance programs are two common responses local governments have implemented to mitigate the impact of a large increase in filings.

ODR in Miami-Dade

Miami-Dade County, Florida joins a small cohort of other jurisdictions, such as Delaware and Akron, Ohio, in piloting an eviction ODR program. The program utilizes Court Innovation’s Matterhorn platform to allow tenants and landlords to exchange messages and documents, set up a payment plan and explore other options to reach resolution. Parties can either negotiate directly or request the involvement of a mediator while using the platform.  

New Hampshire Expands Pre-Filing Programs

The New Hampshire Judicial Branch recently expanded upon its pre-filing diversion program statewide after promising results in pilot programs in two locations. This effort concentrates on resolving as many cases as possible before a court case is initiated, and either party can request a remote mediation session through the state Office of Mediation and Arbitration. Post-filing mediation is only available in a limited number of circuits, so parties are heavily encouraged to act before that stage is reached, especially in light of the fact that the pilot program boasted a 70% agreement and 91% satisfaction rate.

Keeping Up with Developments Nationwide

To stay up to date with the latest court eviction mediation developments, make sure you bookmark our National Program Database. And if you have any information for us that you see missing, please be sure to drop us a line!

Eviction Mediation Program Development in The Midst of Uncertainty

Eric Slepak-Cherney, December 9th, 2021

This article is part of a series of perspectives on eviction mediation program development that is being supported by the American Arbitration Association-International Centre of Dispute Resolution Foundation. The AAA-ICDR’s grant is enabling RSI to expand our outreach to other court ADR colleagues working in the fast-evolving eviction field, and we are tremendously grateful to the Foundation for their support.
 

Over the past year and some change, RSI has been involved in developing three new eviction mediation efforts in northern Illinois. We have also had numerous conversations with court administrators and other court ADR practitioners across the country about how they were planning to deal with a possibly enormous spike in case volumes once eviction filings resumed. An underlying theme in all these efforts has been the tremendous level of uncertainty involved: When would this spike come? How big would it be? What could we do to mitigate its impact?

In the majority of jurisdictions, evictions can now be filed in most instances. But even where filings have resumed, the picture is not totally clear. For one, the prevalence of rental relief might be staving off some potential cases. While that is a great outcome, rental relief is not a permanent solution to maintaining affordable housing. The assistance can help renters and landlords get current and stave off eviction for a certain period of time, but many tenants are still faced with unemployment or underemployment that threatens to put them at risk for eviction again later. 

Advocates also noted that some defaulting renters chose to ‘self-evict’, leaving their homes without waiting for a judicial eviction order. Anecdotally, we have heard about some landlords intimidating their tenants into leaving. Similarly, some landlords and their lawyers complain about tenants not paying rent when they were able to do so during the moratoria. With regards to all of these phenomena, good data is not available, which leaves the view of the real eviction landscape quite unclear.

It is in this uncertain climate that we, and other court ADR professionals across the country, have been developing diversion programs. The closest analog we have had to rely upon in this program development phase was the mortgage foreclosure crisis over a decade ago. While the foreclosure mediation programs provided helpful guideposts about developing eviction mediation programs, those programs were developed in response to the foreclosure crisis, not in anticipation of it, as is the case with eviction mediation. In the previous crisis, we had quite a bit more reliable data. 

Of course, the upside here is that in this current situation, as these programs have mobilized much more rapidly in response to an expected crisis, they can hopefully mitigate far more of the damage. But as program developers and administrators, we have had to operate in the dark and make our best guesses in a lot of situations. 

For instance, without knowing the volume of cases, we have had to make lots of conjectures about hiring program staff, how many mediators we would need, how many mediation sessions we should schedule in a day, and for how long we should schedule each session. We have followed the introduction and renewal of the various moratoria, constantly revising our programmatic timetables. RSI, and many others, went through learning pains in developing programs that meet the needs of their local communities. Now, one program operates primarily online, but can also serve parties physically appearing in court, while others operate entirely online. We do all this in the midst of continuing uncertainty about whether court operations will remain online, go back to in-person, or follow a hybrid approach.

These examples are just some of the critical details that must be navigated when making a successful eviction mediation program. While the outcomes achieved at the mediation table (or mediation Zoom room) are ultimately the difference between a party being evicted or not, it is worth appreciating everything it takes to actually get the parties to the table. Throughout the pandemic, the obstacles to that have been great, and even now, there still remains a thick curtain of fog that we will continue navigating in order to do so.

New Eviction Mediation Special Topic Offers Courts Guidance in Midst of Housing Crisis

Eric Slepak-Cherney, June 25th, 2021

This article is part of a series of perspectives on eviction mediation program development that is being supported by the American Arbitration Association-International Centre of Dispute Resolution Foundation. The AAA-ICDR’s grant is enabling RSI to expand our outreach to other court ADR colleagues working in the fast-evolving eviction field, and we are tremendously grateful to the Foundation for their support.

Those of you familiar with Resolution Systems Institute will know that over the past year, we have been heavily focused on the rise in eviction cases in the aftermath of COVID-19. This evolving eviction crisis has begun to, and will continue to, test the capacity of our court systems in a way likely not seen since the foreclosure wave of the last decade.  RSI’s mission is to strengthen access to justice through court ADR, and with many courts looking at diversion efforts to address a surge in eviction cases, we see both significant opportunities and challenges ahead to ensure that participants receive due process.

We are thus very proud to share with you our new Eviction Mediation Special Topic. In the past, we have shared with you our Special Topics collections on subjects such as Child Protection Mediation, Community Mediation and Online Dispute Resolution, to name a few. These resources provide background on how court ADR programs address these cases, share insight into how to evaluate such programs and share relevant resources such as articles, evaluations and sample materials.

The Eviction Mediation Special Topic contains all of this information, with a slight twist. Due to the topical nature of this subject, we have prepared this resource in the context of the current crisis. Background information and certain resources are therefore presented with current events in mind, and we also have a section about key considerations we have learned thus far into the eviction crisis. Additionally, we have done our best to collect information on active court ADR eviction programs, captured in our Eviction ADR Across the Country database. We plan to update the Special Topic regularly as developments unfold, and new collective knowledge becomes available to the field.

We are sincerely grateful to the American Arbitration Association-International Centre for Dispute Resolution Foundation, whose generous funding has enabled us to create and share this resource.

Announcing RSI’s National Eviction ADR Project

Eric Slepak-Cherney, May 27th, 2021

This article is part of a series of perspectives on eviction mediation program development that is being supported by the American Arbitration Association-International Centre of Dispute Resolution Foundation. The AAA-ICDR’s grant is enabling RSI to expand our outreach to other court ADR colleagues working in the fast-evolving eviction field, and we are tremendously grateful to the Foundation for their support.

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly impacted American society in ways that are still playing out. The fallout from a public health standpoint was tremendous and its consequences rippled into almost every aspect of society. Chief among the impacts was significant economic contraction, as  a staggering number of individuals suffered reduced or lost income as a consequence of layoffs, reduced hours, contracting the virus, or caring for loved ones who had.

Unable to afford their monthly rent, tens of millions of Americans have found themselves at risk of eviction. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and Centers for Disease Control instituted moratoriums on eviction, though each had some gaps. (The CDC moratorium has been vacated by a federal ruling. As of the writing of this blog post, that decision is being appealed and the moratorium remains in place for now).

Along with these federal protections, many states and localities enacted their own, generally more comprehensive, moratoriums. Approximately one-third of states still have an eviction moratorium on the books. However, for other jurisdictions, eviction proceedings not precluded by federal moratorium have resumed, and courts in jurisdictions where there are state or local moratoriums are expecting a significant surge of cases when those are lifted.

To address this uptick in cases, many courts are turning to mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Subscribers to our monthly newsletter, The Court ADR Connection, are no doubt aware of various programs that have arisen in recent months. We have been diligently trying to capture and report on these efforts in an attempt to provide our core audience of court ADR professionals with information about how others are navigating this unprecedented situation.

To that end, we are excited to announce our new eviction ADR resource sharing project. Thanks to the generous funding of the American Arbitration Association-International Centre for Dispute Resolution Foundation, RSI will be able to share resources, guidance and our expertise with a national audience. In the coming weeks and months, we will be rolling out a series of resources we hope will help inform and mobilize the field to more effectively serve disputants and hopefully assist landlords and tenants in avoiding eviction.

These resources include our Eviction Mediation Special Topic, which will share program development insights; house sample documents like court rules, surveys and mediation notices; and even include a living database in which we have been collecting data on known eviction ADR programs nationwide. We also will be publishing a monthly blog series on our experiences developing a new mediation program based in Kane County, Illinois and collaborating with others across the country on eviction ADR. Finally, we will also conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the Kane County program’s first year, and publish it on our site, alongside smaller reports about the program’s implementation and quarterly progress, to contribute to the existing body of knowledge regarding ADR’s efficacy in resolving these disputes.

The Covid-19 crisis was unexpected, but now many courts are expecting or already experiencing eviction crises. To help court ADR programs meet these challenges, RSI is providing a robust mix of expertise, data, analysis and research, as well as sample forms, rules, videos and websites.We are grateful to the AAA-ICDR Foundation for enabling us to do this work. 

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly impacted American society in ways that are still playing out. The fallout from a public health standpoint was tremendous and its consequences rippled into almost every aspect of society. Chief among the impacts was significant economic contraction, as  a staggering number of individuals suffered reduced or lost income as a consequence of layoffs, reduced hours, contracting the virus, or caring for loved ones who had.

Unable to afford their monthly rent, tens of millions of Americans have found themselves at risk of eviction. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and Centers for Disease Control instituted moratoriums on eviction, though each had some gaps. (The CDC moratorium has been vacated by a federal ruling. As of the writing of this blog post, that decision is being appealed and the moratorium remains in place for now).

Along with these federal protections, many states and localities enacted their own, generally more comprehensive, moratoriums. Approximately one-third of states still have an eviction moratorium on the books. However, for other jurisdictions, eviction proceedings not precluded by federal moratorium have resumed, and courts in jurisdictions where there are state or local moratoriums are expecting a significant surge of cases when those are lifted.

To address this uptick in cases, many courts are turning to mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Subscribers to our monthly newsletter, The Court ADR Connection, are no doubt aware of various programs that have arisen in recent months. We have been diligently trying to capture and report on these efforts in an attempt to provide our core audience of court ADR professionals with information about how others are navigating this unprecedented situation.

To that end, we are excited to announce our new eviction ADR resource sharing project. Thanks to the generous funding of the American Arbitration Association-International Centre for Dispute Resolution Foundation, RSI will be able to share resources, guidance and our expertise with a national audience. In the coming weeks and months, we will be rolling out a series of resources we hope will help inform and mobilize the field to more effectively serve disputants and hopefully assist landlords and tenants in avoiding eviction.

These resources include our Eviction Mediation Special Topic, which will share program development insights; house sample documents like court rules, surveys and mediation notices; and even include a living database in which we have been collecting data on known eviction ADR programs nationwide. We also will be publishing a monthly blog series on our experiences developing a new mediation program based in Kane County, Illinois and collaborating with others across the country on eviction ADR. Finally, we will also conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the Kane County program’s first year, and publish it on our site, alongside smaller reports about the program’s implementation and quarterly progress, to contribute to the existing body of knowledge regarding ADR’s efficacy in resolving these disputes.

The Covid-19 crisis was unexpected, but now many courts are expecting or already experiencing eviction crises. To help court ADR programs meet these challenges, RSI is providing a robust mix of expertise, data, analysis and research, as well as sample forms, rules, videos and websites.We are grateful to the AAA-ICDR Foundation for enabling us to do this work. 

To stay up to date with all these efforts, and the other work RSI is doing, please make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter. We also welcome our court ADR colleagues to reach out to us with information about your eviction ADR programs.