(A)   Designated service provider. The Town Manager shall contract with or designate a designated service provider to provide mediation services. The guidelines may include a description of minimum qualifications for the designated service provider and its mediators.
   (B)   Mediation requests.
      (1)   Any tenant or landlord eligible for mediation under § 5.55.040 may request mediation services from the designated service provider.
      (2)   Each landlord and/or tenant requesting mediation services must complete and sign a form under penalty of perjury that demonstrates eligibility for mediation under this chapter and includes other information as may be specified in the guidelines.
      (3)   Separate requests for mediation services that involve one or more of the same parties may be consolidated with the consent of the landlord and the other tenant(s), but consolidation is not required and shall not affect individuals’ ability to be separately represented or to bring a separate legal action.
      (4)   If an eligible tenant has requested mediation as a result of receiving one or more notices in accordance with Cal. Civil Code § 827 that individually or cumulatively increase rent more than five percent within any 12-month period, unless the parties otherwise agree in writing, such noticed rent increase will not be effective until the mediation concludes.
   (C)   Two-step mediation process. The designated service provider shall assign a mediator within ten calendar days of receiving a complete request for mediation services. The assigned mediator shall offer a two-step mediation process as follows:
      (1)   Within two business days of receiving a mediation assignment from the designated service provider, the mediator shall provide notice of the mediation to the landlord and tenant. The mediation notice shall, at a minimum, inform each party of their obligation to appear at the mediation and participate in the mediation in good faith. The mediator shall make reasonable efforts to schedule mediation sessions at times that are mutually convenient for the landlord and the tenant, which may include times that are outside of business hours. The mediation process shall commence upon notification of the landlord and tenant by the mediator.
         (a)   A mediator may notify the landlord and/or tenant of the mediation process via telephone, email, or any other form of communication, but at a minimum, the mediator must notify each party in writing via first-class mail, postage prepaid to each parties’ address of record.
         (b)   Following the mediator sending such notification, both the landlord and the tenant have an affirmative obligation to participate in the mediation in good faith until the mediation concludes.
      (2)   The mediation process shall conclude upon the earlier of: (a) the execution of a legally enforceable, written mediation agreement signed by all parties to the mediation service under § 5.55.050(E); (b) the mediator’s determination that no further progress is likely to result from continued mediation; or (C) all of the parties to the mediation indicate in writing that the mediation has concluded to their satisfaction. In no event shall a mediation process last longer than 30 calendar days from when the parties are notified unless the parties agree in writing to extend the mediation term. If no legally enforceable, written mediation agreement is reached, the mediator shall prepare and distribute a nonbinding mediation statement under § 5.55.050(F). The mediator shall send the mediation statement to each party’s address of record via first-class mail, postage prepaid.
   (D)   Mandatory participation. Every party to a mediation is affirmatively obligated to participate in such mediation in good faith until the mediator determines the mediation has concluded.
      (1)   Definition. For purposes of this section, GOOD FAITH PARTICIPATION includes by reference the definition described in § 5.55.030 and also means the mutual obligation of the landlord and tenant to meet on each occasion when notified of mediation proceedings, provide relevant information, exchange proposals, timely consider and respond to proposals by opposite parties, and engage in meaningful discussion on the subject of proposed rent increases and issues related to the rent increase.
      (2)   Failure to participate in good faith.
         (a)   No rent increase will be effective unless or until the landlord of the dwelling unit complies with the provisions of this chapter by participating in good faith as described in §§ 5.55.030 and 5.55.050 throughout the entirety of a mediation process.
         (b)   If a tenant fails to participate in good faith, the mediator at his or her discretion may determine that the tenant has withdrawn their request for mediation service and conclude the mediation process, allowing any rent increase to be implemented in accordance with the notice requirements identified in Cal. Civil Code § 827.
      (3)   Finding of a failure to participate in good faith.
         (a)   A mediator or party to the mediation process may request that the Town Manager investigate a claim of failure to participate in good faith by another party. The Town Manager shall be responsible for investigating allegations of a lack of good faith participation by any party.
         (b)   Any determination that a party has failed to participate in good faith in a proceeding under this chapter shall only be made after a fair hearing by a hearing officer appointed by the Town Manager and the rendition of factual findings supported by the record. All parties to such hearing must receive written notice of the hearing at least five business days prior to the hearing date. Following such a hearing, the Town Manager shall give prompt notice of the determination by first-class mail, postage prepaid, to the affected party. Additional hearing procedures, including procedures for appeals (if any), may be specified in the guidelines.
   (E)   Mediation agreements.
      (1)   Any agreement reached by the parties in mediation must:
         (a)   Be made in writing and signed by the parties;
         (b)   State the specific terms of the mediation agreement including the duration and conditions of the agreement;
         (c)   State the effective date of any agreed-upon rent increase and stipulate to the adequacy of notice for any rent increase in accordance with Cal. Civil Code § 827;
         (d)   Be legally enforceable against the parties to the agreement;
         (e)   Provide that the agreement may be enforced via civil action by any party; and
         (f)   Provide that any agent or representative signing a mediation agreement on behalf of other persons shall be responsible for promptly providing a copy of the agreement to the parties they represent.
      (2)   A tenant bound by a mediation agreement may not request further mediation concerning any rent increase covering the same time period included in the mediation agreement but may request mediation concerning an additional rent increase that is first noticed or occurs after the mediation agreement is signed by both parties.
   (F)   Mediation statements. If a mediation service does not result in a mediation agreement, then the designated mediator shall produce a nonbinding mediation statement. The guidelines shall include form mediation agreements and mediation statements that include, without limitation, the following information:
      (1)   The name of each party that appeared for and participated in good faith in the mediation service; and
      (2)   A concise summary of the dispute including the perspectives of each party that appeared for and participated in good faith in the mediation service.
(Ord. 830, passed 5-1-2019)