CBA Record September-October 2021


the landlord within the constraints of his current financial situation. As the parties continued to talk, it became clear that the damage to the apartment, which was one of the landlord’s main frustrations, had actually been caused by the tenant’s ex-wife and not by the tenant. As the understand- ing for each other’s position deepened, the mediator was able to facilitate a conversa- tion about a compromise that would meet both parties’ needs. By the end of the mediation, the parties agreed to a seven-year payment plan, and the mediator and the landlord were care- ful to make sure that the payment plan would be viable long term. The case was dismissed, and the parties left, relieved to have resolved their situation without a trial and with their relationship strong again. One of the benefits of CCLAHD is that parties can access the time and resources they need to reach the best outcome pos- sible. After completing CCR’s mediation training program, volunteers can feel confident they have the skills to mitigate the financial and emotional damage that an eviction can bring to both landlords and tenants. ‒ Jesse Tobin, Center for Conflict Resolu- tion Chicago Volunteer Legal Services: Lessons fromtheLast Crisis toProtect Homeowners CVLS was at the front lines of the last fore- closure crisis. Shortly after the 2008 market crash, CVLS partnered with the Circuit Court, the County, the CBF, and other legal aid organizations to form the Cook County Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program (MFMP). Together, the MFMP helped thousands of homeowners negotiate work out options with their lenders and paved the way for the CCLAHD program. Now the pandemic has triggered another housing crisis. Scores of homeown- ers have fallen behind on their mortgages, with minority and low-income households hit hardest. A patchwork of moratoriums and forbearances have helped, but those protections are winding down and a flood of foreclosures loom. Once again, CVLS stands ready to help struggling homeowners through a renewed Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program

and preferences. All work is done remotely, and volunteers have access to both on- demand training resources and backup support and advice from the Legal Aid Chicago housing law experts during their volunteer shifts. No previous experience is required, and even volunteers without any litigation background or practice have been able to help tenants exercise their rights or reach agreements that can avoid or mitigate the harm of eviction and displacement. ‒ Melissa Picciola, Legal Aid Chicago Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS): Helping Small Landlords Navigate a Changing Landscape As part of the CCLAHD network, CVLS works with pro bono attorneys to help small landlords who can’t pay their bills without rent and individuals trying to col- lect on personal judgments or debts. Many small landlords and creditors have been financially devastated by the pandemic. They may not know about recent changes to landlord-tenant law or about alternatives to litigation. They need legal help, and just like their counterparts on the other side of the case, they can’t afford attorneys. Volunteers who work with CVLS will be matched with self-represented landlords or creditors and will advise them about alternatives to litigation such as rental assistance, mediation, and repayment plans. Volunteers may represent them in a mediation Zoom session, and if necessary, help prepare settlement agreements or court documents. No prior experience is necessary; a CVLS staff attorney offers all training and supervision necessary. When both landlords and tenants have access to legal representation, more outcomes become possible. For example, CVLS worked with one landlord who, although on good terms with his tenant, needed to evict him because the tenant had missed several months of rent after a pandemic-related job loss. Luckily, the landlord got legal advice and learned that he had options to resolve the situation other than paying to file an eviction case. He learned about the complications of pur- suing an eviction during the moratorium and how he and his tenant could instead jointly seek rental assistance. The landlord and tenant applied for and received finan-

cial assistance that allowed the landlord to recoup most of his lost rental income, pay down his debts, and keep his tenant housed as the pandemic continued to wage eco- nomic havoc across Cook County. When both landlords and tenants have access to legal help and resources, these win-win scenarios become much easier to achieve. ‒ Marty Cozzola & Matt Hulstein, Chi- cago Volunteer Legal Services Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR): Bringing Landlords and Tenants Together The Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR) has been using volunteers to provide medi- ation in landlord-tenant cases through the CCLAHD program. Experienced media- tors facilitate a productive conversation between both parties, allowing all sides an opportunity to discuss their housing prob- lems. Although an agreement is not always reached, the mediators help the parties to think critically about the conflict and their possible outcomes. A recent CCR success story involved a landlord and a tenant who were close enough that the tenant described the landlord as a “father figure.” The tenant had been living in an extended stay motel when he met the landlord, who then set him up in one of his rental apartments. The arrangement worked well for both of the parties until the tenant lost his job during the pandemic. Shortly after, his wife left him and their young child and moved out of state. By the time the parties approached CCR about mediation, he owed his land- lord upwards of $10,000. The landlord still cared about his well-being and wanted the best for him, but also had a mortgage to pay and was concerned about the condition of the apartment. The landlord had turned to the court system out of frustration and financial necessity. His initial starting position was payment of the full balance as soon as pos- sible. The tenant felt terrible about putting the landlord in a bad financial position, but he also felt limited as to what amends he could make given his precarious financial situation. CCR’s volunteer mediator skill- fully acknowledged the landlord’s needs for fairness and financial stability as well as the tenant’s desire to make things right with


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