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.

Tenant Resource Center has two mediation programs. The Upstream Project helps preempt evictions from going to court whereas At-Court Mediation takes place at eviction court.

At this time, our mediation services are limited to conflicts between tenants and landlords like eviction, noise complaints, security deposits, nonpayment of rent, and other lease violations.

Why Mediate?

  • It’s voluntary and everyone has a say. No one has to participate in mediation, and no one has to agree to do anything they don’t want to do. If participants are unable to come to an agreement, there aren’t any consequences.
  • It’s free. Small claims court filing fees are upwards of $94.50 with no guarantee of getting that back from the other party. There are also attorney’s fees to consider: both your own and the additional risk of paying the other party’s legal fees if you lose. If a landlord loses in small claims court, the tenant could also win double damages. On the other hand, a tenant may have to pay double the daily rent if they stayed past the lease end date. ATCP 134, Wis. Stats. 704.95 & 100.20(5).
  • It’s more inclusive. Unlike small claims court, mediation lets both sides tell their complete story and include this in the resolution.
  • It’s confidential. Unlike small claims court procedures, the mediation files are kept strictly confidential. Nothing goes on either party’s public record. Small claims court cases are public on CCAP.

Interested in signing up for mediation services? Click here to have someone contact you!

About Our Mediators

  • Our volunteers have received professional mediation training and know the basics of tenant-landlord law as it relates to eviction procedures.
  • 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.
  • Interested in volunteering to be a mediator with Tenant Resource Center? Click here!

The Upstream Project

Upstream Transparent

Tenant Resource Center’s Upstream Project mediates agreements between tenants and landlords. We use trained mediators as a neutral third-party to help facilitate an agreement before court involvement and help preempt it.

What Is the Upstream Project's Mediation Process?

Step 1

Both tenant and landlord reach out to the Tenant Resource Center at:

Best practice is that both parties (tenant and landlord) will reach out to us separately. However, in cases where either party is uncomfortable with broaching the subject with the other party, Tenant Resource Center staff might be able to help.

Step 2

Tenant Resource Center staff completes screening with the tenant and coordinates scheduling of mediation. At this time, mediations are limited to serve tenants who make under 30% of area median income (AMI). This table comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is subject to change. If a tenant is unsure whether they are income-eligible for mediation services, please contact us as described in Step 1 above! 

Household Size 1-Person 2-Person 3-Person 4-Person 5-Person 6-Person 7-Person 8-Person
30% AMI for Dane County $21,700 $24,800 $27,900 $30,950 $33,450 $35,950 $40,120 $44,660

During this screening, tenants will be asked to provide:

  • Verification of income
  • Documentation that you lack resources to “fix” the conflict (like a past due utility bill or doctor’s note)
  • An eviction notice, like a 5-day, 10-day, or 14-day notice.

Tenants will also be asked for some demographic information that will be entered into the Wisconsin Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). Tenants have a right to refuse to answer any question and client confidentiality is carefully protected. Please review the HMIS Consumer Notice for more information.

Step 3

Tenant and landlord receive a one-on-one housing counseling session so each party knows their rights and responsibilities under the law. Mediators cannot provide this information even if they know it as this would be advocating for one party and break neutrality. This can also be done prior to requesting mediation.

Step 4

Tenant and landlord participate in mediation. 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. If both parties can reach an agreement, the mediator will write it down, all parties will sign, and everyone will receive a copy.

Step 5

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.  This can be used later in court, if necessary. 

At-Court Mediation: What if We’re Already Going to Eviction Court?

The Housing Mediation Service provides free 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 a judgment of eviction on their court record about the case. Instead, the case will show up as being dismissed. Mediated agreements are just as legal and binding as those written by the court commissioner.

Presently, eviction court is being held via Zoom, so Tenant Resource Staff is attending court electronically. If you would like to work with a mediator, ask the Court Commissioner, and you will be placed in a Zoom breakout room if the other party agrees to at-court mediation. 

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

History and Sponsors

The Housing Mediation Service began in 1995 as a joint project of the Tenant Resource Center and the Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin but is now implemented solely by the Tenant Resource Center, with some pass-through funds from the City of Madison, State, and Federal government that allow us to serve people in Dane County.