Mediation centers will assist tenants, landlords
As the state pandemic eviction moratorium "bridge" has been extended to Oct. 31, the state continues to call dispute resolution centers, like the Northwest Mediation Center, to expand services to provide Eviction Resolution Pilot Programs (ERPP) for tenants and landlords. The protections were extended because rental assistance had a slow start.
Olivia Brownlee, the center's administrative assistant since November 2020, said staff have been prepared to help since fall 2020.
Despite a moratorium on rental evictions, there was no moratorium on mortgages, creating hardship for landlords, as well as tenants, she said.
ERPP, set June 29 by Governor Inslee, provides a free mediator if a tenant opts for it. Services are provided regardless of immigration status, Olivia said.
The Northwest Mediation Center like other dispute resolution centers statewide hired and trained staff. In Spokane, there are two dispute resolution centers listed on the ERPP landlords send tenants: NW Mediation Center and the Fulcrum Institute Dispute Resolution Clinic.
"Mediation helps people with a disagreement resolve it with a facilitator," Olivia said. "It precedes court, litigation or arbitration. It can involve a lawyer or not. It is based on people being self-determining," said Olivia.
Mediators are not judges, lawyers or legal advisors. They do not advocate or take sides, but remain impartial, she said. They are not rental assistance providers, but can connect people to local rent assistance and resources.
She said mediators are facilitators who help people in a conflict work together toward a solution that works for everyone.
The ERPP was piloted in six counties in October 2020 and then was state mandated in August.
Tenants behind or late on rent will receive an ERPP notice from their landlord, recommending they resolve their dispute out of court. The notice gives a date two weeks later to respond. By then the tenant is to talk with a mediator. Once they connect, the eviction process pauses.
The facilitator schedules a phone meeting with the tenant and talks with the landlord to inform both of the conversation. The tenant can apply for rental assistance or determine a payment plan. Both parties work together on a plan. If it is not resolved by phone, they can meet on Zoom or take the case to court.
For information, call 456-0103 or visit nwmediationcenter.com.