University of Strathclyde launches housing mediation project
A new “Housing Mediation” project to be led by Carolyn Hirst has been launched by the University of Strathclyde.
Located within the university’s Mediation Clinic, the project has been funded by a £20,000 grant from SafeDeposits Scotland Trust.
Ms Hirst has considerable experience in both housing and mediation, having worked in housing since 1984 and mediation since 2006.
Clinic director Charlie Irvine said: “Carolyn brings a great deal of credibility and energy to support our ambition of founding Scotland’s first centre of excellence in housing mediation.”
The aim of the Housing Mediation Project is to provide pro bono mediation for the private rented sector, particularly in cases coming from the Sheriff Court and which may go to, or have come from the First Tier Tribunal (Housing).
The project will also provide free mediation services for landlords and tenants using a tenancy deposit scheme (for example, where a dispute about a deposit cannot be resolved by the scheme’s dispute resolution service), and for other property-related disputes such as factoring involving tenanted properties and disputes between tenants and letting agents.
The First Tier Tribunal (Housing) does not have an in-house housing mediation service. However, its Rules of Procedure (The First-tier Tribunal for Scotland Housing and Property Chamber (Procedure) Regulations 2017 say that “in cases identified by the Chamber President as suitable for mediation, the First-tier Tribunal must: (a) bring to the attention of the parties the availability of mediation at any point in the proceedings as an alternative procedure for the resolution of the dispute; (b) provide information explaining what mediation involves; and (c) if the parties consent to mediation, adjourn or postpone the hearing in accordance with rule 28 to enable the parties to access mediation”.
The tribunal website advises that in such cases, parties will be informed that mediation may be a suitable way to resolve their dispute externally, and be invited to submit their agreement to engaging with a mediation service.
The tribunal may then postpone any further consideration of the case for a period of time to allow mediation to take place.
Ms Hirst said: “These are exciting early days. We have been recruiting mediators and plan to carry out our first mediations soon. There has already been considerable interest in the service and we welcome approaches from all who are interested in using mediation to resolve private sector housing disputes. We think that our service may be of particular interest to solicitors and their clients.”
She added: “I am delighted that SafeDeposits Scotland is funding this innovative project and know that it fits in well with their objective of advancing conflict resolution through promoting the use of alternative dispute resolution processes for the more efficient resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants within the private rented housing sector.”