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A leading housing lawyer has said housing providers and local authorities should be using mediation when tackling anti-social behaviour.
Jonathan Hulley, Partner on the Social Housing team at Birketts LLP, said housing professionals should be looking to “leave the serious stuff to the courts," adding "in many low level ASB cases, the best route to success is through mediation”.
Hulley was speaking at HQN’s ASB Week, which is focusing on all things anti-social behaviour from trends from lockdown to practical tips on how to take action.
And despite there still being “a mechanism you can use in the courts to tackle ASB”, Hulley was keen to stress mediation as a strong way forward.
He said: “I was shocked by the scope there appears to be for social landlords to offer remediation services to the rest of the sector,” citing only Moat as an organisation he had come across doing this.
Delegates complained that the current landscape made mediation difficult as they rely on local authorities, and that is “very hit and miss”.
Hulley said housing should look at mediation as a tool they should “build into ASB policies”.
He set out some reasons why, including “judges love to see you have tried other avenues first”.
One positive was a simple, but extremely powerful, aspect: cost.
“The costs of mediation compared to the cost of litigation... It's like chalk and cheese,” Hulley said.
He also explained that given the currently difficulties with accessing the courts, not to mention the backlog of cases, mediation is a way of getting cases resolved quickly and without adding to the backlog.
Citing a case study, Hulley put forward another key positive being that “reaching an agreement in mediation means that the housing officer isn't caught in the crossfire and they can focus on more severe cases which need their attention.”
There were also benefits in bringing in expertise from outside the organisation, leading to people being more willing to sit around the table.
He added: “There is a sense of security in the frank and open conversation that mediation offers. What is said in that room is said without prejudice. Both parties also have control. Having an opportunity to control the outcome is beneficial. You can’t have that in court, it isn’t possible.”
However, Hulley did tell delegates that courts are now giving “priority listings” to ASB cases and if the case warranted court action, there are now clear means to do so.
HQN’s ASB Week is running from 28th September – 2nd October, with sessions on everything ASB. There are still places to book on, take a look at the event page if you are interested.