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Mandatory Mediation

What Is "Mandatory Mediation"?

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party facilitates the negotiation of a mutually acceptable resolution to a dispute between parties. In order to address rapidly rising rental prices, communities throughout California have been adopting "Mandatory Mediation" policies. With “Mandatory” Mediation, if a triggering event occurs (e.g. rent is increased above a certain percentage), then the tenant is able to request mediation services. It is then mandatory that the landlord participates in the mediation process, but the parties cannot be compelled to reach a resolution. Instead, the goal of these programs is to facilitate constructive conversations in a neutral and accountable environment.

Background

The City of San Rafael’s Rental Housing Dispute (i.e. “Mandatory Mediation”) Program went into effect on July 17, 2019. The City Council discussed this policy on February 4, 2019 (Staff Report | Council Meeting), May 6, 2019 (Staff Report | Council Meeting), and June 3, 2019 (Staff Report | Council Meeting). A copy of the final Ordinance is available here.

Watch This Brief Video to Learn about the Mandatory Mediation Program in San Rafael

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. Are there detailed implementation guidelines for this law?

Yes, you can find them here.

2. What rental units in San Rafael are covered by this law?

This law applies to all ALL rental units in San Rafael (single family homes, duplexes, multi-family apartment buildings, etc.).

The following units are exempted: any Dwelling Unit that is owned or operated by any government agency; any Dwelling Unit where the Rent is directly subsidized by a government agency (e.g. Section 8  vouchers); any Dwelling Unit in a development that is restricted for affordable housing; any Dwelling Unit occupied by a Tenant employed by the Landlord for the purpose of managing the property; or any Dwelling Unit occupied in whole or in part by the property owner or the property owner’s family members, including parents, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, and/or nephews.

3. What triggers a Mediation?

A Tenant or Landlord can request a mediation for rent increases greater than 5% during a 12-month period.

4. How does a Tenant or Landlord request a Mediation?

A tenant or landlord seeking to utilize dispute resolution services should complete the Mediation Service Request Form (versión en español) and submit it to:

Consumer Protection Unit—Mediation
Hall of Justice, Room 145
3501 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6495

Landlords can request this service at any time in anticipation of a rent increase. Tenants must submit their request for mediation within 10 calendar days of receiving notice of the rent increase. If a request for mandatory dispute resolution services is deemed eligible, the tenant and landlord will be contacted by a mediator assigned by the Consumer Protection Unit.

5. If I have questions about the mediation process (e.g. timing, scheduling, translation, how to prepare), who should I contact?

Please reach out to the District Attorney's Office for any questions about the mediation process:

Consumer Protection Unit—Mediation
Hall of Justice, Room 145
3501 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6495

6. The ordinance requires Landlords and Tenants to participate in “Good Faith.” What does that mean?

"Good faith participation" requires each party or their authorized representative to personally participate in the dispute resolution program. A representative of a party authorized to participate in lieu of the landlord or tenant must possess decision-making authority regarding the subject of mediation.

To participate in good faith, landlords are prohibited from harassing the tenant and from engaging in behavior prohibited by Federal and State laws.Tenants are required to continue to pay all rent legally due to the landlord and to comply with the terms of their rental agreement throughout the dispute resolution process.

7. Is there a cost to Landlords or Tenants for participating in mediation?

No. For the first year of the program (July 2019 through the end of June 2020), the City of San Rafael is covering the cost of this program.

8. The ordinance requires Landlords to provide a “Notice of Tenant Rights.” What is that?

Landlords are required to provide a Notice of Tenant Rights (versión en español) to tenants when entering into a new rental agreement, when renewing a rental agreement, and when providing notice of a rent increase.

A notice of rent increase must be accompanied by a Notice of Tenant Rights (versión en español) to be considered valid. A landlord’s failure to furnish a tenant with a Notice of Tenant Rights could invalidate the rent increase or housing service reduction.

An approved version of the Notice of Tenant Rights can be found here (versión en español).

9. If I don't qualify for Mandatory Mediation, can I still use the County's mediation services?

The District Attorney's Office offers a voluntary mediation program through its Consumer Protection Unit. The program provides free dispute resolution services to tenants and landlords  to help address repairs, security deposits, and evictions / lease terminations. These services are available to residents throughout the County.

11. Is Mandatory Mediation rent control? Does it restrict what a Landlord can charge for rent?

No. The ordinance requires only that for certain rent increases a landlord or tenant could, upon request of either party, be required to engage in a sincere, facilitated conversation about that rent increase. Any agreements resulting from the mediation will be voluntarily undertaken.

12. As a Tenant, are there legal resources available to help with the mediation process?

Yes, you can contact organizations like Legal Aid of Marin (1401 Los Gamos Dr #101, San Rafael, CA 94903 | (415) 492-0230 ext 102) or Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California (1314 Lincoln Ave Ste. A, San Rafael, CA 94901 | (415) 457-5025).

 

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