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Notas finales

Gary Allen

This section is about using mediation when you want to resolve a problem with your landlord. 

What is mediation?

The purpose of mediation is to arrive at an agreement that is agreeable to both sides. It is available in Housing Court and a number of District Courts. Community groups also offer mediation services which you can use even before you get to court.

A mediator helps landlords and tenants through a focused discussion about how to resolve problems. It is a voluntary process. A mediator is not supposed to take sides. A mediator will not be able to tell you if the agreement is good or bad. The mediator's job is to help people reach an agreement, but not to make recommendations on the substance of the agreement

Some mediators are trained in landlord-tenant law, others are not. Unlike a judge, a mediator is not required to know the law. While it may be acceptable to minimize the legal issues in your search for a fair agreement, you should do so only after you thoroughly understand what these issues are. You do not want to find yourself in the position of giving up something because you are unaware of what your rights are. Remember, the mediator is not there to give advice or protect your rights.

A successful mediation will result in a written agreement between the parties. Before you sign an agreement, read it very carefully. Be sure that you can meet its terms. For example, do not agree to a payment plan for back rent that is more than you can afford. If you have no other place to live, do not agree to move. Make sure that you understand every word of the agreement. If you do not, ask the mediator to rewrite the agreement using clearer terms that you understand.

If you are unable to resolve your dispute through mediation and your case is in court, you still have the right to use the court system. Everything said in court-connected mediation is confidential and cannot be used in court.1 If information from the court’s mediation is used in court, be sure to object to its use by asking the judge to disregard it.

Who does mediation?

Many courthouses provide mediators. Housing Courts have mediators on staff to mediate landlord-tenant cases. The mediators are called “Housing Specialists.” District courts may also have mediators available, and you can ask the court clerk to find out how to schedule mediation in your case.

There are also independent neighborhood agencies that provide mediation for a small fee or for free. You can use these services before something goes to court. See the list of Mediation Services in the Directory. You can take a friend to mediation if you need help negotiating or want support.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

There are several advantages to using mediation instead of going to court.

  • You can create an agreement that is tailored to the exact needs of the parties instead of asking a judge to decide. Taking your case to the judge means you give up control about the outcome.
  • Mediation often provides a faster and much cheaper resolution to problems.
  • It can also provide an opportunity to repair the often very personal relationships between landlords and tenants.

There are also disadvantages to using mediation.

  • If you do not feel on equal footing with your landlord, it may be challenging to negotiate a good agreement for yourself.
  • If you are unable to maintain your position in the face of a stronger personality, mediation may not result in a fair outcome.
Notas finales


1 . See Massachusetts Guide to Evidence, § 408(a)(2) (2016); Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:18: Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution. See specifically Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution 6(f)(iii) and 9.


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