Recently I successfully mediated a neighbour dispute involving two adjacent tenants. The mediation was instigated by their landlord, a small, publicly funded Housing Association. In essence one party had made significant allegations of noise nuisance made by one party against the other. Matters had been dragging on for two years. The person who had instigated the complaints felt nothing was being done by the Association. The alleged wrongdoer alleged innocence and also claimed that partly because the association had done nothing, the complaining neighbour had been unjustifiably lodging complaints and was effectively guilty of harassment.
During the process that followed both parties acquitted themselves very well and both were very disappointed that mediation had not been suggested to them earlier. After the process was finished, I had a brief word with the housing officer who had made the arrangements and we discussed the cost benefits for his association. At that point he said that the tenant who had instigated the complaints had been doing so on a fortnightly basis for the past two years and that a number of the Association’s senior managers, an MP and a local councillor had all been contacted. Not surprisingly all of these officials wrote to the officer requesting explanations and detailed time-consuming responses were provided.
We estimated that the officer/team responsible for the area in which the parties resided had probably been spending around four hours a fortnight which over two years amounts to about 100 hours. In terms of cost whilst the officer did not have precise figures to hand, we assumed a nominal hourly rate the housing association of £50. Therefore, we concluded that this dispute had cost the Association something in the region of £5000. The officer confirmed that in as much as he was diverted from doing other work some of which involved ensuring all-important rent payments were both made and properly accounted for, there was a further, significant cost element.
Even though the officer did not have the precise figures to hand in order to make an exact calculation he was of the opinion that this additional cost figure was very significant. The officer had not been criticised but his senior managers agreed that time spent on this particular dispute meant that from an accounting/costs management point of view there was a significant loss of productivity which would ultimately have a negative impact on the Association’s finances.
My charge as ASM PLUS director for undertaking the mediation was £225 for four hours work which includes the extra time I spent liaising with the housing officer to make the necessary arrangements. The housing officer estimated that it took him around two hours to speak to the parties and make the necessary arrangements for the mediation to go ahead. We therefore agreed that the actual “cost” of the mediation was approximately £350.
We also agreed that although our figures were a little less than precise, in pure arithmetical terms the aforementioned dispute the “cost” the housing association around £5350 of which only £350 was attributed to mediation. I should add that the mediation was successful and the agreement that the parties reached has been adhered to. The officer also agreed that a case for mediation had been made and that the cost benefits that were demonstrated by this case could be replicated in other instances including internal workplace/ employment disputes, disrepair claims, disagreements about service charges, and compliance by tenants with the terms of their tenancy agreements.
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.