The role of a mediator is to work with both parties, on an independent basis, to reach a compromise that everyone can work with and move on from. A good mediator can be incredibly valuable in resolving property management disputes, including service charge cases, as long as all those involved are ultimately willing to participate.
Within this article, our Head of Litigation, Liz Rowen, details the processes involved with mediation, how to select the most suitable mediator, as well as how much it may cost and what the advantages of the process are.
How does mediation work?
Mediation is a voluntary, informal and confidential process that allows parties to get together and discuss their problems with an impartial mediator to help them settle their differences and reach a negotiated settlement, without the need to go to court.
The process can involve a round-table meeting with all parties, but usually, the parties will sit in separate rooms with the mediator acting as an intermediary. The mediator will hold separate discussions with each party, with the aim of reaching a negotiated settlement.
How do you find the right mediator?
You need your appointed mediator to understand the subject matter but also to be able to connect with the disputing parties and quickly gain their confidence. Impeccable listening and communication skills are vital: at the end of the day mediation is about delivering a meeting of minds.
Finding a mediator with the right skill-set and the expertise to deliver a result can be challenging if you are new to the mediation game. Your solicitors may be able to recommend a suitable mediator and you can also research independent directories such as the Legal 500, as well as looking at specialist mediation chambers.
Once you’ve drawn up a shortlist of potential mediators, review their CVs to compare relevant experience and speak to them to check their approach and potential ‘fit’ with your client and the dispute at hand.
How much does mediation cost?
Expect to pay anywhere between £500 and £5,000 per day based on the mediator’s expertise and experience. This cost is shared by both parties. As with most things, avoid the lower-cost options as you may well find they don’t have the experience, nor skill-set that you need.
Even at the higher end of the scale it is almost always cheaper to resolve a property dispute through mediation rather than at court, where legal fees can mount up very quickly. With mediation you are in control of the process and the associated costs.
What are the other advantages of mediation?
The other key advantages of mediation over litigation are speed, flexibility and relationships.
Mediation can be arranged quickly and bring about a swifter resolution. On the flexibility front, mediation gives greater freedom in determining the matters to be discussed and included in any negotiated deal.
Perhaps the most important advantage of mediation however is its ability to help preserve relationships: mediation gives the parties the opportunity to speak openly and discuss all the circumstances, this allows them to understand each other better when emotions get in the way.