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Mediation in Practice

mediation housing associations

This week we have delivered two training sessions to two new mediation clients and whilst providing the training we wanted to take away as much information as possible regarding what’s going on right now for housing associations and the challenges associated with the rise in disputes during lockdown.

We can then link this to mediation so that other housing associations can prepare ahead of time before too many situations escalate too far. We wanted to know what experience the new clients had with mediation, what their main challenges are with tenants at the moment, how Covid-19 has changed things, and what they took away from their first training session that will help them respond better to situations that arise in the future.

The training

The initial training we provided covered:

  • An overview of the mediation process
  • Mediation and tenants – this looks at how mediation best suits an organisation
  • Working together and referring tenants for mediation
  • How to encourage tenants to engage in mediation

You can contact us if you want to find out more about these initial sessions.

Let’s now look at our discoveries from the training to help show you how other housing associations are faring at the moment and how you can use mediation in your organisation to handle and prevent tenant disputes.

Previous experiences of mediation

The two new clients have had problems deploying mediation effectively in the past. They hadn’t used it recently despite the impact of Covid-19 or used it enough in the past.

There were common reasons for this which we hear from new clients often such as a lack of understanding of how it would work, negative past experiences, and the difficulty of getting tenants to agree to mediation.

It’s because of these kind of experiences that our initial training focuses on overcoming these issues straight away. Effective communication and knowledge transfer is key across all parties for the mediation process to get results, so we make sure that we get this right and get the necessary foundations in place from the beginning.

Main challenges with tenants

The clients reported that a lot of the nuisance reports they receive don’t amount to antisocial behaviour; therefore they’re not able to take legal action. They need to use mediation instead to resolve these cases at an early stage to prevent unnecessary escalations.

Managing tenant expectations has also proved challenging when dealing with reported disputes. A lot of tenants expect the housing association to resolve the problems rather than taking responsibility for it between themselves, putting avoidable strain on the association. Mediation will help to reframe tenants’ mindset and equip them with the skills to deal with their own issues, saving the housing associations time and money.

Changes during COVID-19

As we’ve mentioned before in previous blogs it comes as no surprise that Covid has led to more neighbourly disputes.

There’s an increase in noise cases due to people being at home more. There’s more lifestyle clashes – people working from home, people on furlough, people working nights, children being at home all the time, and people trying to juggle too many things.

People’s mental health has been more of a problem this lockdown which makes it easier for disputes to escalate quickly. In general it’s been harder for people this time around. This could be for many reasons – the weather? Dark nights? Uncertainty over when it will end? Did we think that it would be over by now?

All these things coming together creates the perfect storm for arguments between neighbours and problems arising. There’s also a bigger need than normal to deal with cases swiftly which is where mediation comes into its own.

What did the clients get from the session and what will they do differently?

So, following the sessions what did our two new clients take away? What did they learn and what will they do differently now that they’re working with us?

Mediation for housing associations is a powerful tool, especially if introduced early, and better still if you put a mediation process in place before it’s needed.

Here’s a brief look at how these clients will change their approach:

  • Mention mediation at an earlier stage and prepare tenants for the possibility of it being used to resolve their dispute
  • Mediation will now be in their antisocial behaviour toolbox to stop cases escalating
  • Refer tenants to mediation at an earlier stage – again, early intervention is key
  • Communicate differently to tenants to encourage referrals to mediation

They also pointed out that improving their use of mediation will save their officers time and stress on lower level cases therefore freeing up their time and attention for the more serious cases.

All in all then these are very positive first steps and we look forward to continuing to help these clients get the most out of mediation and to improve their results when managing tenant disputes.

Do you need a mediation service for your housing association?

Hopefully this has given you more of an insight into how we approach mediation from the outset and what our service could achieve for you. To find out more simply contact us today, we’re here to help.

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