Mediation involves assistance from an impartial third person, called a mediator, who helps the tenant and landlord reach a voluntary agreement on how to settle the dispute. The mediator normally does not make a binding decision in the case.
Arbitration involves referral of the dispute to an impartial third person, called an arbitrator, who decides the case. If the landlord and tenant agree to submit their dispute to arbitration, they will be bound by the decision of the arbitrator, unless they agree to nonbinding arbitration.
Tenants and landlords should always consider resolving their disputes by mediation or arbitration instead of a lawsuit. Mediation is almost always faster, cheaper, and less stressful than going to court. While arbitration is more formal than mediation, arbitration can be faster, and is usually less stressful and burdensome, than a court action.
Mediation services are listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book under Mediation Services. To obtain a county-by-county listing of dispute resolution services, go online to www.dca.ca.gov/consumer/mediation_programs.shtml.