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Rent Stabilization Board
Rent Stabilization Board

Mediation: Frequently Asked Questions


Q. What is mediation?

Mediation is a process in which a mediator - a neutral third party - tries to help two parties fashion their own resolution of a dispute.  The mediator does not impose a solution or make decisions for the parties.

 


 Q. Who can use the Rent Board's mediation services?

 

Landlords and tenants in rental units fully covered by Berkeley’s Rent Ordinance. These are units where the rent control, good cause for eviction, and security deposit interest sections of Berkeley’s Rent Ordinance apply. 

Landlords and Tenants of units partially covered by Berkeley’s Rent Ordinance and registered under Measure MM can also use the Rent Board’s mediation services. Partially covered units are those that are covered by the good cause for eviction and security deposit interest sections of the Rent Ordinance, but the Rent Board does not control the rent. Most (but not all) single family homes, condominiums, and new construction units must register under Measure MM. 


Q. How do I start the process? 

The mediation process begins when one party submits a "Request for Mediation" form to the Rent Board.  The form asks for the parties' general information and a brief description of the dispute.  A mediation session can be scheduled within 2-4 weeks from the request, provided the other party agrees.


Q. How does it differ from the petition process?   

The Rent Board petition process is only available to landlords and tenants in fully covered units. Landlords and tenants in units registered under Measure MM cannot use the Rent Board’s petition process because the only remedy a Rent Board hearings examiner can impose is a rent adjustment, but the Rent Board has no jurisdiction over the rent of Measure MM units.

The petition process is more formal and takes longer than mediation. After a petition is filed, the other side has 20 days to object and, in most cases, a hearing is then scheduled. At the hearing, the hearing examiner focuses on gathering the facts through testimony and documents. The hearing examiner issues a decision which is limited to determining whether a rent ceiling reduction or other relief is warranted under the Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance. Parties should attend and participate in the hearing to protect their rights.

Mediation is voluntary and happens only if both parties agree. The mediator seeks to facilitate effective communication between the parties and focus on the desired outcomes of each party. The mediation can cover other tenancy issues in addition to rights under the Rent Ordinance; for instance, the landlord's right of entry. If an agreement is reached, the mediator will write it up as soon as possible - at the mediation, if practicable, but within a day or two in any case. 


Q. What are the advantages of mediation? 

Mediation is faster than the petition process and can cover a broader range of disputes.  An agreement results only when both parties agree, so mediation tends to be a more satisfying experience.  The spirit of cooperation required for mediation usually means more positive dealings between the parties in the future.


Q. Who will mediate? 

A trained Rent Board staff member who is well-versed in the Rent Ordinance and the regulations will conduct the mediation. The mediator will not give legal advice. They can give parties information about their rights and responsibilities under the Rent Ordinance or state law, but cannot advise parties on the best course of action.


Q. How should I prepare for mediation? 

You should think about what you want to discuss and what's important to you.  Use these questions to help you prepare:

  • What are the most important points for me to have in an agreement? 
  • Why are they important to me? 
  • What is the best result I could hope for? 
  • What is the worst result that could happen? 
  • What would be a sensible, realistic and fair solution? 

Q. What will happen in the mediation? 

The parties will be asked to read and sign an "Agreement to Mediate." The mediators will give each party a chance to describe the dispute as they see it, and to state how they would like to see it resolved. The mediators will seek to understand what is important to each party and encourage a settlement that is satisfactory to both. Where the parties have an ongoing relationship (for instance, the tenant still lives in the landlord's property), the mediators will strive to help the parties communicate better, so as to avoid future disputes.


Q. What if we come to an agreement, but the other party doesn't abide by it? 

Mediated agreements have a high rate of compliance because the parties have worked out their own solution. If a party reneges on the agreement concerning a fully covered unit, the parties can seek Rent Board remedies, if appropriate, or to enforce that agreement in court. Landlords and tenants in Measure MM units can only enforce the agreement in court.


Q. What happens if we don't agree on anything, or agree just on some things? 

The parties may pursue other avenues for issues that are not resolved through the mediation, such as the Rent Board petition process (for fully covered units only) or court. Statements or offers made in mediation will not be admissible in a Rent Board or civil court proceeding. If a Rent Board hearing examiner conducts a mediation that does not result in an agreement, and one of the parties later files a petition concerning matters raised in that mediation, that hearing examiner will not be assigned to hear the case, unless the parties agree.


Have a question?  Email us at rent@cityofberkeley.info

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