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New Hampshire residents have a new way to avoid evictions or resolve housing disputes outside a courtroom.

Tenants and landlords can now request to use a free mediation process, where a neutral third party can help come up with a solution to their underlying disagreements before an eviction case is filed. According to the court’s website, “if an eviction notice or a demand for rent has been issued, you may wish to request mediation as soon as possible.”

Either side of the dispute can request mediation, but it requires cooperation from both parties involved. Margaret Huang, the alternative dispute resolution coordinator with New Hampshire’s Office of Mediation and Arbitration, says she hopes landlords and tenants see this as an opportunity to work together toward solutions to their concerns in a confidential, cooperative setting.

“It’s an opportunity for you to take control of the situation, to have a conversation together with a mediator and try to find solutions and decide upon next steps,” Huang says. “We highly recommend that people at least try the program. You don’t lose anything. You can still file a court case if it doesn’t work out, but it will save you time and expense if it does.”

Huang says the mediation program will also be set up to help landlords and tenants connect to other resources, like emergency rental assistance. The mediators participating in the program include a mix of people with a background in landlord-tenant issues, as well as others with experience in mediation more broadly.

The new, statewide mediation initiative builds off of pilots launched in Concord and Claremont earlier this year.

In those locations, unlike the state’s new eviction diversion program, mediation happened after an eviction case was filed. More than 70 percent of the cases in those pilot locations resulted in an agreement between both parties, according to court officials.