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Landlord-tenant mediation program launches in Blaine County

Landlord-tenant mediation program launches in Blaine County

The housing crisis is still an ongoing problem in the scenic mountain towns in Blaine County, as many workers are still struggling to find a place to live on the wages they make. Now local leaders are taking a proactive measure to make sure those who have a place to live can stay in it.

Blaine County’s population is growing. According to city staff between 2019 and 2020 alone, Ketchum’s population increased by 25%. The influx of people coming to the area has led to skyrocketing rents, leaving many living paycheck to paycheck.

“Evictions tend to fall into a few different categories. The most common is somebody has not paid their rent. They have chosen not to or can’t because of financial considerations,” said Carol Barkes founder of the NeuroMediation Group

According to city staff, the city of Ketchum has about 200 rent-burdened households, and in 2021 there were 13 eviction proceedings filed, and so far in 2022, there have been 11 filings according to the Blaine County Clerk’s Office. Barkes said according to research in Blaine County, roughly 63 percent of evictions are granted by the courts.

“So when we deal with tenants and losing housing that is very emotional and very scary for them, especially if children are involved,” Barkes said.

However, that still means landlords were unsuccessful 37 percent of the time.

“Maybe you’re not getting your rent from your tenant, and now you are throwing money into a lawsuit, the filing fees, and the service fees and you are not getting that either,” Barkes said.

To address the issue Blaine County and the City of Ketchum have launched a one-year pilot landlord-tenant mediation program with the NeuroMediation Group. The free program offers the two parties more options at their disposal, like setting up payment arrangements for past-due rent. Unlike going to court where it mostly comes down to whether or not to evict a tenant from a landlord’s property.

“I think the most interesting thing is that it takes the judge out of the equation. Each judge looks at these cases differently. Some judges really don’t like to evict tenants,” said Boise attorney Gary Neal.

Barkes said if a payment arrangement is made in mediation 93 percent of the time it is paid, but if it goes to court and a judge orders a cash award it drops down to 37 percent.

Read the complete article here.

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