The Isla Vista Community Services District (I.V. CSD) launched its new landlord tenant mediation program on Tuesday which will provide renters and landlords in I.V. with legal assistance in resolving tenant-landlord disputes.
The tenant-landlord mediation services will foster better relationships between tenants and landlords in I.V. and work out resolutions for disputes, according to Jonathan Abboud, I.V. CSD general manager.
The program will cost approximately $33,000 which covers the launch date through the end of December 2018, according to Abboud.
Funding for this program will come from the $200,000 grant awarded to the I.V. CSD from UC Santa Barbara each year. The cost of the project includes payment of the mediator, bilingual assistant, project management, office supplies and insurance.
The program will operate in the I.V. Community Room on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. During these hours, landlords or tenants can set mediation appointments through an online form found on the I.V. CSD’s website.
Once a form is submitted, Abboud will contact both parties to schedule an appointment. Mediation is voluntary for both parties, so the scheduling of an appointment would be contingent on the motivation of each party to resolve their conflict.
During the appointment, a mediator will discuss tenancy issues and help both parties work toward a resolution. The mediator will introduce the rules and conditions of the mediation and act as a neutral party between the landlord and tenant.
Any discussion during the session is confidential, according to Sayre Macneil, mediator for the CSD.
After the session, users will complete an evaluation form that the CSD will use to monitor the helpfulness of the program.
Community members can drop in for counsel on tenancy issues if they cannot schedule an appointment, according to Abboud.
The program is available for all community members in I.V. This service will not be available for students living in UC Santa Barbara housing, including the Santa Catalina Residence Hall, San Joaquin Villages, Santa Ynez, San Clemente Villages and Storke Family Housing.
The CSD held a forum Monday to introduce the program and its mediator to the public. Macneil spoke about his experience in mediation and his preference for mediation over court action in resolving conflict.
Macneil says mediation is a more humane avenue of settling disputes as opposed to using the court system, which can often be time consuming and expensive.
Macneil has been a practicing attorney since 1984 and received a certificate in Mediation and Dispute Resolution at the UC Santa Barbara Extension program.
He said he has worked on several mediation cases involving landlord and tenant relationships and has identified systemic problems throughout these relationships that repeat themselves in individual cases, such as loss of security deposit, maintenance needs and communication issues.
He said that solving disputes is often a matter of providing a space for people to express and acknowledge grievances as well as to hear the other party in a non-threatening way.
“When they can understand that the other side has some legitimacy to their point of view, a resolution is 20 minutes away,” Macneil said.
The program also includes a bilingual translator to assist mediation with Spanish speaking residents.
Undocumented families living within I.V. might have more challenges in resolving tenancy issues and enforcing their rights due to their vulnerability as undocumented immigrants/citizens, Macneil said.
“There are things that make these circumstances such that people need some education in the process about what their rights are,” Macneil said.