x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Dubai to welcome first home-trained mediators

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is establishing staff to help to resolve property disputes.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) of Britain is about to give accreditation to the first seven dispute mediators trained in Dubai who have specialised in property issues. As Dubai moves more towards mediation as a way to amicably resolve disputes, including the thousands between investors and developers resulting from the global economic downturn, RICS and Dubai's Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) are working together to provide mediators to staff a new service.

"RERA is negotiating with RICS to set up a stand-alone dispute resolution service," said Andrew Goodman, a British lawyer and RICS trainer. "The point of the programme is to provide sufficient locally trained mediators to act as a pool, once the service comes on line." Dubai has this year already established two other mediation services, one of them run under the auspices of RERA. Then a decree in September ordered the establishment of another, the Centre for Amicable Settlement of Disputes, which will seek to provide resolution on problems including those related to the property sector, and will be run under the auspices of the Dubai court system.

Mediation at the second service will be conducted by a panel of experts led by a judge. Both services are in need of a pool of trained mediators. "Normally courts or arbitrators can only do two things: they can make an award of money or an order that a party should do something or refrain from doing something," said Mr Goodman. "A mediator can do anything as long as the parties agree: play with money, with time, with interests, trading business opportunities -"

Mr Goodman said that with mediation, parties do not need to negotiate according to the law and can save large amounts of money in legal and business costs because it is faster. He said a property dispute could be settled within three weeks through mediation, compared with between 15 and 18 months through court or arbitration. "Parties come together for a joint session where there is an exchange of position," said Mr Goodman. "They can speak frankly, in a way that they cannot do in a court. Then the parties are put into separate rooms and the mediator travels between each room as a sort of a shuttle diplomat."

Once a settlement is reached it becomes a binding, enforceable contract the same day but only if both parties sign it. "You can choose not to sign it and walk away and you have lost nothing," Mr Goodman said. Unlike court proceedings or arbitration, mediation remains confidential. "Even the existence of a dispute can be confidential." But the process is a new concept in the UAE. "In western Europe and the US, it is becoming more and more one of the best tools to have amicable settlement over a lot of disputes," said Karim Nassif, a partner in the law firm Habib Al Mulla.

"However, in this part of the world mediation has not succeeded in being an institution because until today the agreements I have seen have always been considered as a preliminary step to go to arbitration." The seven mediators RICS has just completed training will also be recognised by the UK Civil Mediation Council. "They will offer their services either as part of their company businesses or work independently as a panel or pool of RICS-accredited mediators," Mr Goodman said.