A Free Tool to Help You Resolve Disputes with Your Landlord

One of the areas covered by SB 586, the Landlord/ Tenant Coalition Bill that was passed by the State Legislature in 2019 and went into effect on January 1, 2020, involves mediation. With the passage of this new legislation, if a landlord or tenant requests mediation over a dispute involving the park or marina, the other party must agree to at least one session in good faith. What does this mean and what does it not mean? We attempt to clarify questions that have been raised involving this new statutory provision.

Who can initiate mediation?

The landlord or the resident can require mediation for most types of disputes involving park or marina issues or landlord/tenant law. For tenant disputes with other tenants, only the landlord can demand mediation. A tenant cannot compel another tenant to mediate.

What types of disputes cannot be mediated?

The following issues cannot be mediated:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Park or marina closures or sales
  • Rent increases that are permissible by statute (a rent increase that exceeds the new statutory maximum under SB608 would be subject to man- datory mediation)
  • Disputes involving domestic violence
  • Terminations for outrageous conduct (24-hour notice)
  • Unauthorized person in possession
  • Disputes after the tenancy has been terminated
  • The same three lease violations within a twelve month period

What if one party refuses the other’s demand to litigate?

As long as the dispute is not exempt from mediation per the list above, if either the landlord or the resident refuses to participate, fails to appear, or does not cooperate with the mediator and/or harasses the other party during the mediation, the other party is entitled to one month’s rent and can use that as a defense to a future claim involving the dispute.

What happens once one party demands mediation?

The parties have 30 days to schedule mediation. Until mediation has been completed nei- ther party can file an action against the other in- volving the dispute. In addition, any applicable statute of limitations related to the dispute is sus- pended during this time period. The resident must continue to pay rent while mediation is pending.

What happens once one party demands mediation?

How does the process work? There are three ways to schedule mediation:

  1. Manufactured and Marina Communities Resource Center (MMCRC)
  2. A local Community Dispute Resolution Center
  3. A mutually agreed upon, qualified mediator

Who can the parties bring to the mediation? The owner can designate a representative to participate in mediation on his/ her behalf. The resident can do the same. In either case, the designated representative must have the authority to bind that person to any resolution reached during mediation. The information shared in mediation is strictly confidential and cannot be used in any further legal proceedings.

What if mediation fails to resolve the dispute?

While the parties are required to participate in one mediation session, they are not required to reach an agreement. Either party may pursue legal proceedings once mediation has been completed.

Does this cost anything?

No. It is free. Mediation is paid for by the $10 annual assessment park residents already pay and by an increase in the annual fee that park owners pay.  Even though marina owners and residents are not required to pay into this fund until 2022, marina residents can absolutely use this Mandatory Mediation program now and it is free of charge for them as well.

What if mandatory mediation is not in my rental agreement?

The new law requires mediation regardless of what the rental agreement contains. In addition, the new law requires a landlord to unilaterally amend the rental agreement to include a provision on mandatory mediation.

This new legislation helps address the power and financial imbalance between residents and landlords who have a disagreement. Hopefully, as residents take advantage of this opportunity, we will see fewer problems in parks.

NOTE: This information is accurate as of the date of this post (October 2020). It is important to realize that changes may occur in this area of law. This information is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem, and it is not intended to replace the work of an attorney.

(This post was reprinted from the OSTA Review, Spring 2020 edition, Volume 41 – Number 2, and written by Laurie Hauber, attorney at law.)