Mediation is the fastest and smoothest way of resolving a disagreement. Over 75% of cases which go to mediation at the Rent Disputes Tribunal (HTU) are settled. If no settlement is forthcoming, cases are decided by the HTU at no extra cost. Mediation is a service which is offered to the parties. The parties can withdraw from mediation right up until the time settlement is reached.
Does mediation work?
Quite often the parties involved do not think that mediation will help, because perhaps they have tried to reach agreement without being successful. However, with the help of one of the HTU's professional conflict mediators most parties do in fact reach agreement. Most mediation attempts result in the rapid, cheap and flexible resolution of cases. The parties therefore avoid having to devote more time, energy and money to an actual dispute.
The HTU's mediators
All of the HTU's mediators are lawyers who are qualified to engage in mediation. A mediator shall be neutral and unbiased, and help the parties in their attempts to reach a settlement. For example, they might ask questions in order to help the parties to talk about the contents of a case. A mediator is not permitted to provide legal advice or to say who is right. If the parties fail to reach agreement such that the case in question proceeds to the decision-making stage, the mediator is not involved in making decisions and cannot influence them.
The purpose of mediation
The purpose of mediation is not to argue about a case, but to try to talk together and reach agreement about a solution. It is therefore important that the parties involved attend such meetings in person.
It is difficult to reach agreement about a settlement if one or both parties sends an authorised representative to a meeting. However, if an authorised representative attends a meeting instead of the party concerned, then the authorised representative must have written authorisation to confirm that he/she can enter into a settlement on behalf of that party. Lawyers only need to present authorisation if the Case Manager decides that there are grounds for requesting such, cf. Section 3-4 of the Norwegian Civil Procedures Act.
If one of the parties wants to be accompanied by an assistant, then he must notify the HTU at least one week before any meetings. This is so that the other party can also have the opportunity to be accompanied by someone.
Mediation meetings commence with a "joint meeting" attended by the mediator, the parties and any assistants The mediator will provide some general information. The parties will be given the opportunity to ask questions.
Normally the mediator will hold "separate meetings" alone with the parties. The parties can then talk to the mediator about any offers they would like to make to the other party without the other party needing to hear what they have to say. Once a party has decided on an offer, the mediator can then present it to the other party during a separate meeting in order to see if the latter will accept it. If he does not accept, he may make a counter offer which the mediator will then present to the other party during a separate meeting.
Mediation is voluntary and the parties can withdraw from mediation right up until the time settlement is reached. The parties decide the contents of any settlements. Once the parties reach agreement, the mediator will help them to write down their settlement. A settlement becomes effective as a binding (legally enforceable) judgement and provides a basis for enforcing the contents of agreements (basis for enforcement). Unlike decisions, settlements cannot normally be appealed against to the Court of Appeal with a one-month deadline.