The Pinellas Eviction Diversion Program (“PEDP”) is a newly launched initiative of the Community Law Program designed to assist qualified tenants and landlords who have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eviction Diversion Helps Tenants
If all parties agree to mediate, a staff member of PEDP will assign the mediation to a PEDP contract mediator. A staff member or a contract mediator will then coordinate a Zoom mediation. This Zoom mediation can last up to 2 hours and is completely free of charge. The mediation is an opportunity for the parties to express their respective positions and work towards a resolution of the outstanding issues associated with the tenancy (for example, past due rent due owed to the landlord or repairs requested by the tenant). If an agreement is reached at mediation (which is entirely voluntary - the mediator has no decision-making authority and cannot make either party reach an agreement or sign a document), then the mediator will memorialize the agreement. For cases that have been filed with the Court, this Agreement can be filed with the Court and will become a Court Order. In most cases, the Agreement will end the litigation. For cases that have not been filed with the Court, this Agreement becomes a binding contract between the parties.
Numerous government assistance programs exist to help tenants pay past due rent and utilities. PEDP is here to help tenants complete and electronically submit these applications. We have trained personnel on staff to walk the tenants through the process, gather the necessary documents, and then work with the landlords to complete the application for governmental assistance. Through secure portals, PEDP is able to expedite tenant and landlord applications; therefore, relief is provided to the landlord much faster than if the tenant and landlord worked separately and submitted documents in a piecemeal fashion. For you, the tenant, this means that your landlord can see relief on the horizon and may be more willing to forgo filing an eviction action while working with our program.
Frequently Asked Questions
Saves money/saves time/minimizes stress:
- With the benefit of a rental assistance program, you may be able to remain in your home (so no need to hire a moving truck or come up with money for a new home)
- Avoid the uncertainty of when/if an eviction may be filed – agreements are much more likely to be adhered to
- Be heard and understood by a neutral third party who is specifically trained to address your concerns
- Avoid time and the stress of preparing for a court case
- Avoids the uncertainty of an outcome in front of a Judge
- Maintain confidentiality – this program is outside of the court
- Possibly avoid an eviction action on your record
- End your case with the certainty that you have an agreement in place
- You can call (727) 582- 7475 or apply through the online portal.
- A trained Intake Specialist will conduct a 15-20 minute interview with you. He/she will ask you about your residence, your tenancy (do you have lease? What is your rent? How far behind are you on your rent?), your income, if you were affected by COVID-19, and other related background questions.
- The Intake Specialist will inform you if you meet the criteria for participation.
- Our Staff will assess your case and make recommendations.
- If rental assistance is requested, we can help you complete the application for rental assistance.
- If mediation is advisable, we will schedule a remote mediation with one of our Program Mediators. This mediation can last up to 2 hours.
Our Staff may ask you for:
- Your driver’s license or other photo ID (to prove identity)
- A copy of the lease with your landlord
- A statement of what you believe you owe your landlord
- Any documents you have received from your landlord (such as notices, written warnings, or court documents)
For rental assistance, our staff may ask you for:
- Verification of your income
- Pre and post COVID paystubs or other proof of COVID impact
- Proof of past due utility bills
- Documentation of amounts owed to your landlord
Mediation is a non-adversarial process in which a certified mediator speaks with both parties, listens to their concerns, and endeavors to negotiate an agreement between them. The mediator will clarify the issues, identify areas of agreement, and help develop possible solutions. The mediator is not on anyone’s side and won’t decide who is “right” and who is “wrong.” The mediator will not make a decision on your case, as he/she is not a Judge. Rather, the mediator helps both sides understand each other, brainstorms about solutions, and tries to help the parties reach an agreement to end their dispute.
In most mediations, the landlord and tenant will be in separate “breakout rooms” on Zoom. The mediator will go back and forth between the virtual rooms endeavoring to find common ground with you and your landlord. Mediation is confidential (with certain exceptions), so this means that neither you nor your landlord are to share any communications made during mediation with third parties.
If any agreement is reached, the mediator will generate it, and you and your landlord can sign it. If the case has been filed with the Court, this can be submitted to the Court to end the case. If the case has not yet been filed with the Court, this document becomes a binding contract between you and your landlord.
You will receive a Mediate Intake Form and Agreement to Mediate to complete. Please complete these forms and return them to our office via email 24-48 hours before your mediation. These forms will ask you for a complete copy of the lease, a statement of unpaid rent, and a statement of other issues you may be experiencing with your landlord. Please think ahead about possibilities for the resolution of your contested issues. The more prepared you are in advance, the easier and faster your mediation will be!
If an agreement is not reached at mediation, either party may pursue remedies available to them under the law. It is advisable for both parties to obtain advice from an attorney as to their rights under Florida law.
We encourage active negotiation even if mediation is not successful. You can negotiate an agreement up to the point of going to court, and even after going to court. An agreement can be reached at any point and you can always end your case amicably.