Rental Housing Mediation
Task Force Program
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Objectives of the Program
- Provide information on the California Rules and Regulations pertaining to Landlord/Tenant rights and responsibilities to parties in a residential rental housing situation.
- Offer mediation services to Landlords, Tenants, Roommates and Neighbors regarding disputes pertaining to residential rental housing.
Who We Are
The City of Santa Barbara through the Community Development Department, Housing and Redevelopment Division operates the Rental Housing Mediation Task Force Program (RHMTF). The purpose of the program is to resolve rental housing disputes by offering mediation services, and information on residential Landlord-Tenant rights and responsibilities. Our contracted areas of service are: City of Santa Barbara, City of Goleta, City of Carpinteria, and the Unincorporated Areas of Santa Barbara County.
What We Do
The services provided by the RHMTF are:
- Information on Landlord/Tenant rights and responsibilities
- Referrals to social service agencies
- Outreach and education
Disputes are mediated between any combination of parties:
- Property Manager-Tenant
Clients include, Spanish-speaking residents, seniors, disabled persons, single parents, students etc.
- The RHMTF services are delivered in the following manner:
- Mediations, by telephone, with consenting parties to resolve rental housing disputes, conducted by staff
- Mediations, with consenting parties to resolve rental housing disputes, conducted by staff, two mediators and a mediator trainee
- Dissemination of information and printed materials relating to rental housing disputes and mediation
- Referrals to Social Service Agencies. Collaborative interaction with social service agencies for the prevention of homelessness
- Public speaking, outreach and education on mediation as an alternative to costly legal resolutions to rental housing disputes
The Rental Housing Mediation Task Force (RHMTF) was established in 1976 out of a "Grass Roots" effort to resolve Landlord/Tenant disputes. The RHMTF is composed of Staff and a Task Force of fifteen trained community volunteers who are appointed by the Santa Barbara City Council. Click here for more information about the Task Force. The RHMTF program is dedicated to resolving rental housing disputes by offering mediation services and information on Landlord-Tenant rights and responsibilities. The Program, therefore, establishes an effective and efficient alternative to formal court proceedings for the resolution of rental housing disputes. Consequently, the direct effect is the reduction of civil cases that would normally be processed by the county court system.
What is mediation
Mediation is a process in which a neutral person or persons facilitate communication between parties to assist them in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.
The mediator is trained in specific ways of looking at disputes, uncovering what interests are driving the dispute, helping parties to understand each other's needs, and using communication techniques to de-escalate conflict.
The mediator helps the parties to communicate, assists them in generating options, and helps them analyze any proposed settlement to make sure the proposed solution is an informed and realistic one that will provide a long-term solution.
Participation in the mediation process is voluntary. The parties are not coerced to enter dispute resolution. The role of the mediators and staff is neutral, with no conflict of interest in the dispute. All participants are treated equally without any special benefit or consideration. The parties, ultimately, make the final decision as to how they want to resolve their dispute. Upon the consent of the parties, an agreement resolving the dispute will be written by staff setting out a settlement of the issues involved in the dispute and the future responsibilities of each party.
Why it Works
- CLIENT-DRIVEN SOLUTIONS. Mediation works because the parties themselves have complete control of the process. The mediator does not impose a settlement on them. Parties are able to state their positions fully, without regard to whether their facts are legally "relevant", which allows them to feel that thy are being heard by the other party. After discussion, the parties ultimately determine their resolution and how to implement it.
- CONFIDENTIALITY. Mediation is confidential under the California Evidence Code, so it is very low risk to the parties. Since none of the communications or documents prepared in mediation can be disclosed to any third party or court without the parties' consent, the process allows them to explore possible settlements without prejudice. Moreover, mediation avoids public disclosure of private problems.
- LONG TERM COMPLIANCE. Studies have verified that parties who work out their own solution are generally more pleased with that resolution than with a settlement that is made on the courthouse steps prior to trials, or one that is imposed upon them by a court. As a result, mediated settlements have a higher compliance rate than other forms of settlement.
The direct effects of the program services are:
- Quick and effective resolution of Landlord-Tenant disputes
- Avoids the often-costly legal fees associated with lawsuits
- Reduction of homelessness
- Creates a Win/Win situation for the parties
- Creates harmony in the community by opening up communication between Landlords and Tenants
- Distinctions Between Mediation, Arbitration And Litigation
Parties, Attorneys, Arbitrator
Parties, Attorneys, Judge
Least formal, most flexible
Most Formal, least flexible
Can occur anytime
After significant preparation
Set by Court
Present and future
Parties can negotiate any issues they choose
Issues may be limited unless parties otherwise agree
Issues that can be decided are limited
Private. All conversations, notes, and documents confidential
Private. No access to records except through other litigation
Public notice of lawsuit and access to filed records
Interest of parties, collaborative
Facts and evidence
Facts and evidence
Process is voluntary, settlement can be binding
Binding and often non-appealable
Binding and appealable
Settlement Agreement enforceable if the parties agree
Award can be entered as a judgement for enforcement
High client satisfaction. Mutuality of result
Possible satisfaction and sense of fairness
Low satisfaction, even for the "winner"
Task Force of Mediators
The purpose of the Task Force is to provide neutral mediation services. The Task Force is comprised of fifteen trained community volunteers: five Landlord, five Tenants and five Homeowners who are appointed by the Santa Barbara City Council and serve four year terms. See the city clerks website for more information on the Task Force and how to become a member.
Information on Landlord-Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
Rental housing disputes generally concern:
- Security deposits
- Termination of tenancies (3-day/30-day)
- Habitability and repair
- Invasion of privacy
- Rent increases
- Forcible evictions (utility shut-off, lock-outs, removal of doors or windows and removal of Tenant's property)
- General information, including but not limited to: lease termination, retaliatory eviction, rent withholding, repair & deduct, abandonment, last month's rent, change in terms of tenancy, late fee, co-Tenants, sub-Tenants, lodgers, and guests
Charges for Services
Telephone mediations and information services of the RHMTF are available free of charge for rental properties located within the City of Santa Barbara, City of Carpinteria, and City of Goleta. Staff consultation and information services are available free of charge for rental properties located in the Unincorporated Areas of Santa Barbara County. For City of Carpinteria and City of Goleta residents, the RHMTF may charge a fee for arranging and conducting mediations in the office with all parties to the dispute present based on a sliding scale reflecting the client's income and ability to pay. In no case shall the total fee exceed $75.00.
Geographic Areas of Service
The RHMTF provides its services to residents of the City of Santa Barbara, City of Carpinteria, and the Unincorporated Areas of Santa Barbara County.
If you reside or the address about which you are calling is outside of our service area, click here for Resources. (Note: the resources page is in the process of being updated in order to bring you the best list of suggested resources. Please keep checking in for updates.)