Written by LaDawn Whiteside, Chandler Rowling, and Temple McLean
February 1, 2021
Certified Mediators are available in all parts of Montana by videoconference and in person. Montana Mediation Association (MtMA) was established in 1998 to promote and facilitate mediation as a viable alternative to litigation. Founded upon principles of education, networking, best practices, and professional ethics, MtMA helps shape policy and legislation while promoting the value and relevance of mediation throughout Montana. MtMA is a professional, non-profit association comprised of certified mediators and other neutrals and individuals dedicated to the principals of informed, consensual resolution of interpersonal conflicts.
MtMA’s purposes and functions are to:
- Promote mediation and other voluntary collaborative methods of conflict resolution in Montana.
- Increase understanding and acceptance of mediation, and other appropriate processes for conflict resolution, by presenting meaningful information to the public, the courts, the legislature, and other interested professionals.
- Define standards of competency, qualifications, and ethics for professional mediators in Montana.
- Support the professional growth and development of mediation and mediation programs.
Special Training for Landlord Tenant Disputes
To use the title Certified Mediator in Montana, the individual is required to complete a rigorous training which includes a fundamentals of mediation course followed by observation, co-mediation, and independent mediation. Fifteen hours of continuing education per year is required to maintain the credential. Mediators who have specialized in landlord/tenant disputes typically attend training in collections, communication, and advanced mediation. Some mediators participate in local court cases and may have advanced knowledge of the judicial system. Some mediators interact with for-profit and not-for-profit organizations providing housing support. Some mediators are attorneys. Some mediators are not attorneys. If you are interested in retaining a mediator, review the directory at mtmediation.org and interview some of the mediators to find the right one that is suited to your situation and personality.
Current Social Problem
For some renters in Montana, pre-COVID-19 wages earned did not cover the cost of rent in many of the larger communities. Because of COVID-19, some wage earners have not been able to earn income consistent with pre-COVID-19 status.
Some renters are at higher risk of COVID-19 due to chronic and acute medical problems. This results in an inability to be in the same work environment thus unable to earn adequate wages to pay the rental amount agreed upon.
Landlords/property managers depend on the rent from income property to pay mortgages, taxes, repairs, and other associated expenses. Rental income also pays for property management salaries which in turn result in a loss of income by property managers. The effect of COVID-19 is broader than paying for rent.
In Yellowstone County, Montana, the Billings Mediation Center (Conflict Resilience Project) and MtMA have partnered with Judges Carter & Walker to use the judicial system to help landlords and tenants work out issues. The program was piloted in 2020. Yellowstone County Justice Court has set aside one day a week for landlord/tenant issues. In this program all self-represented litigants with landlord/tenant disputes are assigned to the Billings Mediation Center volunteers. The court schedules both the mediation and the hearing.
Volunteer mediators use the mediation process to resolve portions or all of the dispute before the hearing. If the dispute is not resolved in its entirety, the case is sent to the judge at the scheduled time and date. If the dispute is resolved, the judge reads the agreement into the record, assuring the parties’ understanding of the enforceability while freeing up the judge’s time.
In 2020, Good Samaritan Ministries took on a pilot program for a Housing Navigation program to serve the workforce housing community members in the Lewis and Clark county. This program connects and engages community members, landlords, property managers, and housing partners to housing services and resources. During COVID 19, Good Samaritan has also successfully offered financial assistance with eviction prevention, rental assistance, and mortgage assistance. Good Samaritan continues to serve the most vulnerable and homeless population through our Assistance Ministry, Our Place Drop-in Center, and Street Outreach Coordinator.
MtMA President, LaDawn Whiteside, Certified Mediator, is in contact with various housing organizations across the State of Montana providing collaboration and training with Income Property Managers, the Montana Landlords Association local chapters and Montana Legal Services Association. Judge Carter and Certified Mediator Temple McLean, Executive Director of the Billings Mediation Center have worked with the Yellowstone County landlords and property management associations.
Residential Homes/Facilities, Housing Projects, a Special Need
Certified Mediators with an interest in seniors have special training and experience working with seniors and people who need housing because of a disability. These mediators have a special designation for family and eldercare. These mediators with family and eldercare designations are defined on the MtMA directory at mtmediation.org.
Cost of Mediation
Each mediator sets an individual rate for mediation. Some mediators charge per case. Some mediators charge by the hour. Some mediators charge sliding scale based on income of parties.
Those mediations conducted in a court are the most formal and binding. Most mediators require a written agreement to mediate and a written agreement with binding requirements for both parties. However, on occasion parties may choose to dispense with a written agreement. In this case, the mediator facilitates the conversation and the specifications of the agreement. If either party defaults on the written or information agreement, the parties can utilize mediation again, or the case may be filed in the appropriate court.