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Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) has been on something of a rollercoaster ride in recent years.

Use of mediation, for example, was accelerating rapidly just before the pandemic. But the immediate impact of Covid-19 saw the estimated number of mediations drop by more than a third in the first six months of lockdowns and social distancing, despite the swift switch to online meetings.


The wider adoption of remote technologies, enabling shorter, swifter processes and less time spent travelling, should certainly provide longer-term benefits for ADR. But it is the underlying drivers of reducing court costs and backlogs that have heightened the appetite for alternatives.

While formal mediation meetings come first to mind when most people think about ADR, numerous different mechanisms have been developed over the years, to suit different legal processes.

Employment Tribunal claims, for example, must usually be referred to ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) before they can progress to a tribunal hearing, and attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is generally required of anyone trying to initiate proceedings in the Family Court.

The very specific problems that Covid-19 created for landlords and their tenants inspired ARAG to create its own alternative means of resolving disputes. Far from becoming obsolete once the pandemic subsided, ARAG’s process has been refined and extended to offer a long-term, less adversarial way of helping our policyholders and their tenants to reach the best possible outcomes.

This new approach is proving every bit as important to those landlords and tenants who are facing similar dilemmas, as the cost-of-living crisis has taken hold.

ADR typically offers a much less formal and constrained format than a court hearing, and key to the success of this new claims process has been recognition that a one-size-fits-all approach will not suit every case.

Alongside a raft of information for our Landlord Legal Solutions policyholders, we provide landlords with access to customisable digital documents and correspondence, that they can create online to initiate discussions with tenants in a structured, reasonable and, above all, legal way.

Where necessary, landlords can even create a bespoke Deed of Variation, online, to reflect any changes to the terms of the rental agreement that they might decide upon with a tenant. All of these tools are supported by ARAG’s award-winning legal advice helpline which takes thousands of calls from both landlords and tenants, every year.

In cases where the two parties cannot reach a mutually agreeable solution without professional support, specialist solicitors are available to negotiate a legally binding agreement.

Even now the Coronavirus Act is no longer in force, evicting tenants can be both legally and morally difficult, especially in the current economic climate. However, some tenants may want to bring their tenancy to an end, if they are relocating or have access to alternative accommodation. In such situations, it is often possible to negotiate a Deed of Surrender, to end the tenancy on mutually agreed terms.

Feedback that we have sought from our insurance broker partners and their policyholders shows that the action ARAG took during the pandemic to create a workable and equitable process, not only provided a lifeline in the impossible circumstances at that time, but has continued to prove incredibly valuable ever since.

While this alternative path to resolving disputes between landlords and their tenants was developed as an urgent response to Covid-19, it provides an excellent example of how different forms of ADR can be applied to help overcome the longer-term difficulties associated with long delays in our civil courts.

For any of ARAG’s Landlord Legal Solutions policyholders who think they may have such a problem with a tenant, the first port of call is always our legal advice helpline. We can provide the assistance and access to resources to help landlords and guide them into this form of dispute resolution, if necessary.


Disclaimer - all information in this article was correct at time of publishing.


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