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Housing Mediation Service

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What is Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process in which people with a disagreement meet together with a trained, impartial mediator. The mediator listens to both sides and guides the parties in clarifying and discussing the issues, identifying areas of agreement, developing possible solutions, and writing their own mutually satisfying agreement.

What is the Housing Mediation Service?

Housing Mediation Service began as a joint project of Tenant Resource Center and the Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin and is designed to provide low-cost mediation services for the resolution of rental housing-related disputes. The service provides a quick, inexpensive alternative to small claims court.

For non-eviction cases, the cost is typically $25 per party. This is a donation to help cover the costs of providing this service. For low-income individuals or families there is a sliding scale.

Why mediate?

  • It's voluntary. No one is obligated to take part in mediation.
  • It's inexpensive. Mediation is $25 per party, much less than small claims court. For low-income individuals or families there is a sliding scale. If an eviction case is already pending, the fees are waived. You get quick results. A meeting can be set up within about a week of the request, depending on the availability and willingness of both parties to mediate. In small claims court, you may wait weeks to have your case heard.
  • It's confidential. The mediation files and written agreements are kept strictly confidential.

What disputes might mediation resolve?

  • Tenant-Landlord: Eviction, noise, security deposits, nonpayment of rent, nonrenewal of lease.
  • Roommate-Roommate: Noise, guests, privacy, common areas, household duties.
  • Neighbor-Neighbor: Pets, noise, communication problems.

What if we're already going to eviction court?

The Housing Mediation Service also provides eviction mediation services before and during small claims eviction court hearings in Dane County.

A court-enforceable agreement (or "stipulation") can be reached through mediation and filed with the court. These agreements are typically either payment plans that allow the tenant to remain in the apartment or move-out dates that enable the tenant to secure alternate housing. If the terms of the agreement are met, the tenant will not have an eviction on his or her court record. Mediated agreements have the same enforceability as those written by the court commissioner.

Mediations can be scheduled prior to the court hearing, or even in the place of a court hearing. The process to set up eviction mediation is the same as for other disputes: call (608) 257-2799.

Not in Dane County? Try the Wisconsin Association of Mediators website.

About the mediators

Housing Mediation Service volunteer mediators have received professional mediation training and the basics of tenant-landlord law.

The mediator's role is to facilitate communication between the parties and exploration of the options and possible solutions. Mediators cannot guarantee that the problem will be solved, provide legal advice, or take sides. The ultimate resolution is up to the parties in dispute.

What is the mediation process?

  • The first step: Call the Housing Mediation Service at (608) 257- 2799 and leave your name and phone number.
  • Gathering Information: We will ask you for information about the dispute and how to contact the person with whom you are in conflict.
  • Scheduling a mediation: If our services can help, we will contact the other party in the dispute by letter and/or phone. We will discuss the merits of participating in mediation. If the other party agrees to mediate, we will schedule a meeting time when our mediators are available. The entire process is completely voluntary.
  • At the mediation: At the mediation session, a trained volunteer mediator will listen to both parties and guide them in clarifying the issues, identifying areas of agreement, developing possible solutions, and writing their own agreement. The sessions for non-eviction cases usually take 1-2 hours. The mediator does not take sides, nor decide who is "right" or "wrong," but simply helps facilitate open and constructive discussion of the issues involved in the dispute and guide the parties toward resolution.
  • Reaching an agreement: When an understanding is reached, the terms are written down by the mediator. All parties sign the agreement as an acknowledgment of their commitment to abide by the terms of their mutual agreement.

History and sponsors

The Housing Mediation Service began in 1995 as a joint project of Tenant Resource Center and the Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin but is now implemented only the Tenant Resource Center, with funding from Dane County and the City of Madison.

Release of Information

Tenants who receive mediation services at eviction court will be asked for personal information that will be entered into the Wisconsin Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). This is voluntary, and client confidentiality is carefully protected. Please review the HMIS Consumer Notice for more information.

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