County of Marin - News Releases - Rent Dispute Resolution

For Immediate Release
March 21, 2019

County Helps Renters, Landlords Come to Terms

Community Development, District Attorney’s Office collaborate on free program

San Rafael, CA – Marin County’s housing crisis has raised stress for a lot of medium- and lower-income residents who survive paycheck to paycheck. Occasionally a sudden and surprising rise in rent can place a tenant on the brink of eviction, causing tension with landlords. A relatively new mediation program offered by the County of Marin is designed to broker peace and fairness at no cost to the parties involved.

Seven staff members from the District Attorney's Office and the Community Development Agency who collaborate on the Rental Housing Dispute Resolution program.From left, Leelee Thomas (CDA), Diana Zahn (DA), Kristina Warcholski (DA), Andres Perez (DA), Maria Arroyo (DA), Ambar Chavez (DA), and Debbi La Rue (CDA) contribute to the Rental Housing Dispute Resolution program.
The Rental Housing Dispute Resolution program is a collaboration between the Marin County District Attorney’s Office and the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA). Trained mediators from the DA’s Consumer Protection Unit are available to offer advice and help solve rental housing disputes. The mediators were honored at the March 12 Marin County Board of Supervisors meeting as the County’s Team of the Quarter for fostering common ground and reaching equitable resolutions for the involved parties.

In December 2017, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance to create the program – sometimes called mandatory mediation – for occasions when a rent increase of more than 5 percent is being sought by a landlord. About 36 percent of the Marin population resides in rental housing, and the ordinance applies to more than 8,000 renter households in the unincorporated parts of Marin. Despite all the efforts to create affordable housing opportunities, the Marin rental vacancy rate is very low – less than 3 percent – and rents are some of the highest in the country.

Prior to establishment of the program, DA personnel worked with CDA’s housing division to develop a workable program that was beneficial and impartial for tenants and landlords alike. Consumer Protection Unit members, serving as consultants for CDA, underwent intensive mediation training to prepare.

“Our staff embraced the opportunity to work with their County partners at CDA to build and implement this vital program,” Deputy District Attorney Andres Perez, who leads the Consumer Protection Unit.

Debbi La Rue of CDA’s Housing Division said the rental dispute program has attracted the attention of elected officials and staff from other neighboring municipalities, increasing odds that the County’s program will be a template for others.

“The mediators have skillfully guided contending parties to work through tough and sometimes personal situations, which is not easy,” La Rue said. “Overall, we see this as an invaluable alliance between our departments and we’re really thankful for the generosity and expertise from the mediators and our tech specialists in Information Services to provide this important public service.”

For more than 40 years, staff from the Consumer Protection Unit has been dedicated to protecting consumers from all manners of fraudulent and unfair business practices as well as providing community outreach to educate consumers on their rights. The unit handles consumer-vendor dispute mediation to help parties from going to court, and it is active in public education about trends in consumer fraud and how to combat them.

Landlords and renters can contact the Consumer Protection Unit at 415-473-6495 or via email to schedule an appointment. The Mandatory Mediation Service Request form is online.


Andres Perez
Deputy District Attorney
County of Marin

Marin County Civic Center
3501 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-3072


Email: Andres Perez