All too often disputes between landlords and tenants lead to litigation rather than the parties considering alternative ways of seeking resolution.
To be fair, until now there hasn’t been any easy way to access alternatives.
To help remedy this I set up a Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC) pilot mediation scheme to investigate how mediation might help within the sector.
The two-year pilot ended last July and we learned a lot about the process and its potential benefits. Participants told us that mediation achieved better outcomes and resolved issues more quickly than litigation would have. It also saved the parties involved thousands of pounds in potential legal costs.
Mediation uses an impartial third person to help parties find a solution to problems that are sometimes caused by behaviours and poor relationships that can go back generations. It works because both parties are heavily engaged in the process and take responsibility for trying to resolve their dispute.
The solutions arrived at invariably involve flexibility and creative thinking on both sides.
It is also flexible and voluntary, so either party can walk away if, at any point in the mediation process, they feel an outcome cannot be reached.
Contrary to popular belief, mediation is not a soft option. There’s always tough talking and uncompromising bargaining, but we have found that negotiations can become respectful and constructive with professional mediation.
Mediation builds upon the approach I take towards TFC inquiries, and in the hope that it will become a more popular means to resolve disputes.
The new scheme has a TFC gateway, to ensure parties are suitable and ready for mediation and to enable access to our support and reassurance, if it’s needed.
The scheme also provides access to an approved panel of experienced mediators and we will cover one third of the total cost of the mediation process, up to a maximum of £1,000.
I hope this will provide an incentive for anyone in the tenant farming sector who is involved in a dispute – whether landlord, agent or tenant – to give mediation a try.
If you would like to see how mediation actually works in practice, have a look at the recording of our recent online mock mediation event which can be found on the Land Commission’s website.
Meanwhile, the amnesty continues to occupy minds.
Well done to those who got amnesties agreed and signed before the deadline; it will stand you in good stead for future negotiations.
For those who issued amnesty notices, the process continues and I have issued some guidance on the next steps.
If a landlord doesn’t object to the amnesty notice, the tenant doesn’t need to do anything further other than make sure they keep a copy of the notice and proof of delivery safe.
If a landlord objects to some but not every item and the tenant decides to accept the position, nothing further needs to be done, other than keeping a copy of the objection notice safely with the amnesty notice.
If the tenant and landlord reach agreement within two months of the landlord’s objection they still must apply to the Land Court for approval of the list of agreed improvements.
If agreement can’t be reached, the tenant can contest the position by applying to the Land Court.
- Bob McIntosh is Tenant Farming Commissioner.