Online dispute resolution company CODR, founded by Michael Heron QC, has scored a major win with the newly announced $40 million fund to assist tenants facing rent relief issues in the wake of the pandemic.
CODR was founded by Michael Heron, the former Solicitor General, to provide an efficient and inexpensive way to resolve disputes without resorting to the often forbiddingly expensive court system.
The government contract announced this week by the Ministry of Justice is available for six months from September 25, 2020 to the end of March 2021.
Arbitration services will be subsidised up to $6000 (including GST) per dispute. Participants need to fund any remaining costs of the service up to a maximum of $2000.
CODR is one of three companies chosen, the other two being Fairway Resolution and Immediation NZ. The services receive the subsidy and tenants and landlords apply for the services by contacting one of the three dispute resolution services.
Immediation was founded by another barrister, Melbourne-based Laura Keily, who specialises in complex commercial litigation,l who said with Immediation NZ the whole resolution process could be done online, including information exchange, document signing and arbitration hearings.
Keily launched the Immediation platform a year ago, saying the platform had been given a tailwind by COVID. It had been used by the Australian judiciary in the Federal Court of Australia and by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Victoria.
This subsidised service is voluntary so big landlords cannot be forced into either mediation or arbitration.
To be eligible for the subsidised mediation or arbitration service the parties cannot have already come to an agreement about rent relief for the weeks of the alert level 4 and 3 lockdowns when most businesses could not trade.
Tenants eligible for the subsidy service have to have had a significant decline in revenue during the lockdowns or have received the wage subsidy or an extension to the wage subsidy.
In addition, at least one party needs to be New Zealand based and have 20 or fewer full-time equivalent staff per lease site, according to the rules.
Michael Heron said as the service was free it would be crazy for it not to be used. He credited the government for ‘thinking outside the square’ with the policy.
Once one party, either the tenant or landlord, met the eligibility criteria then both were deemed to be eligible for the subsidised service. He has assembled a panel of local mediators and arbitrators to provide the service, according to a Stuff report.
“If you are a tenant and you meet the criteria then you have an eligible dispute. If you are a landlord and you meet the criteria, it doesn’t matter how big the tenant is,” Heron said.
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