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Mediation Services

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.

Board of Mediators

The purpose of the Board is to provide neutral mediation services. The Board 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 Rental Housing Mediation Board Website (RHMB) for more information on the Board and how to become a member.

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.

Advantages

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
  • Confidentiality
  • 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


Mediation Arbitration Litigation
Participants Parties, Mediator/s Parties, Attorneys, Arbitrator Parties, Attorneys, Judge
Decision Maker Parties Arbitrator Judge
Process Least formal, most flexible Formal, flexible Most Formal, least flexible
Timing Can occur anytime After significant preparation Set by Court
Cost Economical Expensive Most expensive
Focus Present and future Past Past
Issues Parties can negotiate any issues they choose Issues may be limited unless parties otherwise agree Issues that can be decided are limited
Confidentiality 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
Decision Basis Interest of parties, collaborative Facts and evidence Facts and evidence
Binding Results? Process is voluntary, settlement can be binding Binding and often non-appealable Binding and appealable
Enforceability Settlement Agreement enforceable if the parties agree Award can be entered as a judgement for enforcement Judgement enforceable
Client Satisfaction High client satisfaction. Mutuality of result Possible satisfaction and sense of fairness Low satisfaction, even for the "winner"

Information on Landlord-Tenant Rights & 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

The services of the Rental Housing Mediation Program are offered free of charge to the residents within the program’s contracted jurisdictional areas of service.  The services are not provided to residents who are not part of a contracted area of service. It is important to note that various contracted areas may be provided with different services. See below:

  • Residents of the City of Santa Barbara are provided with Face-to-Face Mediations, Telephone Mediations, Information on Rights and Responsibilities, and Staff Consultations;
  • Residents of the City of Goleta and City of Carpinteria are provided with Telephone Mediations, Information on Rights and Responsibilities, and Staff Consultations; and
  • Residents of the Unincorporated Areas of Santa Barbara County are provided with Information on Rights and Responsibilities and Staff Consultations.

Geographic Areas of Service

The Rental Housing Mediation Board provides its services to residents of the City of Santa Barbara, City of Carpinteria, City of Goleta and the Unincorporated Areas of Santa Barbara County. If you reside, or the address which you are calling to reference is outside of our contracted service area, then please refer to our resources page (Note: the resources page is routinely updated. Please continue to check for updates). Click here for Resources.

Last Updated: Feb 1, 2016