Mountain Mediation Center is offering another round of Community Conversations that will focus on renting, women in Utah, and the housing crisis.

Article by Leslie Thatcher for KPCW (February 8, 2022)

For the last 20 years, the Mountain Mediation Center has provided mediation services to help resolve issues in state and small claims court. About four years ago, the center began offering community mediation programs that range from neighborhood disputes and landlord/tenant issues to divorce. The Mediation Center is located in the Christian Center and appointments are required to meet in person and through Zoom.

On Tuesday, the center begins its latest series of community conversations. The center’s Executive Director Gretchen Lee says this bilingual conversation will be held via Zoom starting at 6:30 pm.

“And particularly, throughout the pandemic, we have been doing a lot of landlord tenant work, and so we’re seeing it firsthand,” Lee said. “And so anyway, we thought we’d kick off our 2022 conversation with let’s talk about renting and the idea is to get landlords, management, tenants just people members of the community, just to get a wide variety of people talking about renting and about rental experiences from both sides.”

While it’s challenging to have bilingual conversations, Lee says the evening will include both Spanish and English.

“We start out as a big group on Zoom and then break down depending upon how many people will be there we break down into groups of about six to seven people and there will be an English speaker and a Spanish speaker in each group and we mix the groups up so it’s not English in one group and Spanish and another group — that they’re all interspersed together so they can have a more meaningful conversation.”

The conversations she says are held in a safe space. They are not recorded and are confidential.

Utah laws, she adds, favor landlords and those who read and speak English. While the center has helped with work on dispute resolution, once an eviction notice has been filed, it’s hard to recover.

“There’s nothing that really protects them under state law,” Lee explained. “And so, then their best move is that they move forward with state law, so they don’t get that eviction filing. We’ve been very successful with helping people along that process but in keeping in terms of keeping them in their homes, if the landlord has done everything under state law that they’re required to do, and they want them out, there’s really not much that can be done.”

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