CALDWELL — Canyon County hopes to launch an eviction court mediation program, where tenants and landlords will have the opportunity to work out an agreement with a mediator before the judge hears the case.
The Canyon County Trial Court Administrator department asked the Board of Canyon County Commissioners in July for the budget to add an additional position, a part-time coordinator, to help run the eviction court program. The board gave its approval, but the program has not started yet.
In a July budget hearing, Canyon County Third Judicial District Judge Susan Clark told commissioners the court program is needed because of the high volume of evictions due to COVID-19.
“We are estimating there are 40 (evictions) per month,” Clark told the board.
There are eviction court mediation programs in Ada County and Idaho Falls, Clark said. She said through the programs, tenants are sometimes able to avoid the devastating impacts of an eviction and landlords are able to collect most of the funds they seek from tenants.
After an eviction, tenants must move the same day they are evicted and will have an eviction judgment against them, making it very difficult to find another place to live, Clark said. Also landlords often don’t see the funds they are seeking from the tenant, she said. Through the mediation programs in Ada County and Idaho Falls, 85% of landlords have collected the funds from tenants, according to Clark.
Sometimes, through mediation, landlords have allowed tenants to stay in their homes if they have a large check or additional funds coming in soon, Clark said. Other times landlords have agreed to allow the tenant extra time to move out of their homes, if they agree to go without damaging anything, she said.
“The mediation program in Ada County has been awesome,” said Ali Rabe, executive director of Jesse Tree of Idaho, the eviction prevention nonprofit in Boise. “It is a solution that works for everybody and it allows our clients to avoid getting an eviction on their record, it allows the landlord and tenant to connect before going before the judge.”
She said she is hopeful that the mediation program in Canyon County can be up and running soon.
Without the mediation program, Rabe said Jesse Tree staff in the past have met with tenants and landlords in courtroom hallways to try to set up an agreement before the parties go before a judge. She said with court hearings scheduled over Zoom, due to COVID-19, setting up agreements has been impossible.
When the program is up and running, the eviction cases would all be set on Mondays in Clark’s courtroom. Without the program, eviction cases are heard every day by different judges.
Clark said Ada County has seen that most people are willing to take the mediation.
Once the tenants and landlords take up that opportunity, the mediation coordinator would send them an invitation to a Zoom session where they would participate in a mediation, Clark said. Then, the mediator would help them reach an agreement. If an agreement is reached, then they put it on paper, visit Clark’s courtroom to explain the agreement.
“The goal is to allow parties some kind of relief,” Clark said.