Resolving legal disputes for landlords and tenants
Authored by ARAG Claims Operations Manager Heather Wilmot
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) faced some significant challenges during the pandemic. As mediation and other forms of ADR recover some of the lost ground, ARAG’s Claims Operations Manager Heather Wilmot explains how a new process that the company developed in response to the Coronavirus Act, is proving every bit as helpful in the difficult circumstances created by the cost-of-living crisis.
ADR has been on something of a rollercoaster ride. Use of mediation was accelerating rapidly until the Covid-19 outbreak, but the pandemic saw mediation numbers drop by over a third during the first six months of lockdown, despite the rapid adoption of online meetings.
The wider deployment of remote technologies should certainly deliver further long-term benefits, enabling more streamlined processes and cutting travel time. However, it’s the underlying goals of cutting court costs and backlogs that have increased the appetite for alternatives to court and tribunal proceedings.
While most people think about formal mediation meetings, when asked about ADR, various processes have been developed over the years, to meet the needs of different legal actions.
For example, an Employment Tribunal claim, must usually be referred to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) before it can reach an actual tribunal hearing, and anyone trying to bring an action in the Family Court will generally need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
Covid-19 created a unique set of problems for landlords and tenants that inspired ARAG to develop its own, alternative process for resolving tenancy disputes. But the benefits of this new approach have survived the pandemic and the solution has been enhanced to offer a less adversarial mechanism for helping both our landlord policyholders and their tenants to reach better and more amicable outcomes.
The approach is proving just as important to landlords and tenants who find themselves facing similar dilemmas to those created during the pandemic, as a consequence of the cost-of-living crisis.
ADR is typically much less formal than a court hearing, but a fundamental element in the success of ARAG’s new process has been recognising that a single approach will not be suitable in every case.
As well as the raft of information and resources that our Landlord Legal Solutions policyholders can access, we provide them with customisable digital correspondence and documents that they can use to initiate discussions with a tenant in a measured, structured and, above all, legally sound manner.
If necessary, a landlord can even draft a Deed of Variation online, to spell out any alterations in the terms of a rental agreement that might be agreed with the tenant. This array of tools is supported by ARAG’s industry-leading legal advice helpline which handles thousands of calls from landlords and tenants, each year.
In those cases where it isn’t possible for the parties to come to a mutually satisfactory solution without professional help, solicitors are available to negotiate a legal agreement between the parties.
While the Coronavirus Act may no longer be in force, evicting tenants can still be legally and morally challenging, especially given the current economic situation. However, there are some tenants who may need to bring an end to their tenancy if, for example, they may be relocating or have alternative accommodation to move into. In such circumstances, it can often be possible to negotiate a Deed of Surrender between the two parties, to bring the tenancy to an end on terms agreed between them.
Feedback ARAG has received from both brokers and policyholders shows that the steps we took to create a workable and equitable new process provided a lifeline in the impossible circumstances of the pandemic, and has proved extremely useful ever since.
ARAG has long been a strong advocate of ADR, in whatever form and wherever it can help parties to resolve a legal dispute. It is almost always quicker, less costly and typically less adversarial than going to court.
As backlogs in all areas of the court and tribunal service continue to grow, the value and benefits of ADR are only likely to increase.
ARAG UK is a specialist legal insurance provider and is part of the internationally recognised ARAG Group which serves 14 countries worldwide.
Providing several emergency assistance insurance products and an innovative range of Before-the-Event and After-the-Event legal insurance products and services, ARAG UK prides itself on its client-focused approach. This has been recognised by the industry following the results of the Insurance 360 Legal Expenses Insurers Study in which ARAG UK was voted 'best legal insurance provider'. youTalk-insurance sharing ARAG UK insurance news.