BOISE, Idaho — Courts in Ada County now have a new and unique resource for people to resolve certain eviction claims and disputes. A new pilot program offers an online portal designed to help mediate cases without having to physically go to court.
“It doesn’t take the place of the regular process, it runs at the same time while people are waiting for a court date. It gives them an opportunity to mediate amongst themselves and negotiate the case so hopefully, they can find a resolution that’s agreeable to them before they come to court,” Ada County Magistrate Judge Adam Kimball said.
Judge Kimball explained to The 208 that the new pilot program is being tested in just Ada County to see if it’s a viable solution.
“This only addresses cases that are based on non-payment of rent," he said. "It does allow the parties to go outside of the very specific legal issues that are raised so they may find things that help them reach a resolution other than just the non-payment of rent."
Once a qualifying case is filed, a link is sent to both the plaintiff and the defendant, or the landlord and the tenant, inviting them to engage in a discussion.
“It’s a negotiation process, kind of like sending a message back and forth and then the system prompts some of the things that may need to be addressed in mediation. So you don’t need experience or expertise in the eviction process, you don’t need that experience or expertise in negotiations. It is going to prompt you through that. It is largely a discussion process,” Kimball said.
The likely expiration of the federal moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent spurred the launch of the pilot program.
“We have the end of the eviction moratorium coming up at the end of the month, that could be extended but it is unlikely and so with the end of the eviction moratorium, there could be an increase in the number of cases filed. We want to allow people a way to resolve their cases whenever its convenient to them, (in) an agreeable fashion,” Kimball said.
The program also helps people locate local resources that may help resolve disputes, including how to contact agencies that offer financial support for tenants whose ability to pay rent was affected by the pandemic.
If someone isn’t interested in the digital process they are more than welcome to handle eviction issues in a traditional setting. If they are worried about the pilot program complicating a situation, Kimball said it’s straightforward.
“This system connects you with resources, some of those resources could help you if you were in a hole but nothing that happens in the online eviction resolution is going to be used against you in a trial, if you end up going to a trial. So it’s unlikely that you could dig a deeper hole going through this. It’s really just a way to see if the case can be resolved before you come to court,” Kimball said.
If parties are able to come to an agreement through the process, a binding agreement is reviewed and ultimately approved by a judge. If sides can’t agree on something, then it’s likely that the situation will head down a traditional legal process.
“Nothing that happens in this online negotiation is going to come in, it’s not evidence that can be used at a trial and so it is an opportunity for people to discuss the case without having to worry about what they say in negotiations being used against them,” Kimball said.
Kimball outlined what success for the program looks like, saying, “success is people finding a resolution that works for both sides. If they don’t, we still have the option for them to come in for the traditional process.”
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