Living harmoniously with your neighbours can occasionally be difficult and neighbour disputes can arise which may result in a feud of epic proportions. These disputes can end up affecting everyone in the neighbourhood, not just the feuding parties. It is therefore sensible to attempt to resolve any issues quickly and as amicably as possible as everyone has the right to live in a peaceful neighbourhood. Legal intervention can be expensive and can take a long time. It can also damage your relationship with your neighbour. If you and your neighbour can’t reach agreement, dispute resolution may be an easier, quicker and cheaper way to resolve matters.

There are some options to try before seeking mediation, however:

1. Communication. Sometimes a neighbour may not even realise there is a problem. Try discussing the issue with them in a non-confrontational way, listening to their side and opinion after voicing your concerns. Discuss the practical aspects of the problem, how it is affecting you both and what needs to be done to solve it. Be sure to treat your neighbour with courtesy and respect. Keep a record of all contact you have regarding the problem.

2. Work out, concretely, what you need for the problem to go away. The solution may be smaller or simpler than you think and sometimes, minor adjustments can have a major impact on improving the situation. Where you come to some agreement with your neighbour, it may be appropriate to make an action checklist together or put the agreement in writing so that each of you understands what is expected of the other and by what date it is expected. Make sure each of you has a copy and if you run into difficulties with what you have committed to, let your neighbour know. Always keep the communication channels open.

3. Be prepared to compromise. Whether a problem is solved through talking or through legal action, the end result often involves compromise. So it can be to your advantage if you consider the issues carefully at the outset and work out which bits you can live with … and which bits you can’t.

If you are unable to reach any type of agreement attending mediation is an excellent alternative to legal action for many types of dispute and is well-suited to neighbour disputes. It is especially useful where you are finding it difficult to talk directly to your neighbour or have been slow to make progress, where conflict has become entrenched or the problem is escalating.

Mediation gives you the opportunity to meet with your neighbour on neutral ground and discuss the matter in the presence of a trained mediator to work out a solution together that suits both your needs. An agreement reached through mediation is not a court order, although in some instances it can be made into one if the parties wish. Seeking mediation is a much cheaper alternative to court and agreements made during mediation are much more likely to be kept for the longer term.

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