Neigbourood Disputes - How Mediation can help
15 / FEB / 2018
I found this article on Stuff and there is one vital message that stands out to me - the real problem is communication. Mediation can help with early interventions to stop the situation getting out of hand. In the below scenarios money is lost, time is wasted and relationships are broken beyond repair. The disagreements were dragged out over years but this could have been prevented with Mediation.
For most of us, our neighbours are like family - you don't get to choose them.
Disputes over boundaries, or a neighbour's taste in music, can turn menial disagreements into long and costly court sagas.
And Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of NZ executive director Deborah Hart says neighbourly disputes are on the rise.
Everybody needs good neighbours. "Often the dispute that is the face of the issue is not actually the issue," a mediator says.
"We are definitely seeing a lot more than we used to," she said.
"We live much more isolated lives, and that social distance can create problems if you need to find a resolution."
"If you don’t have a good relationship with neighbours, when there is some cause of friction you don't have any capital to fall back on," mediator Deborah Hart says.
THE REAL PROBLEM
Hart said mediators saw a fair few disputes between neighbours over issues like fences and boundary lines.
"Often the dispute that is the face of the issue is not actually the issue," Hart said.
"The dispute that is in front of you could be over a fence but what the neighbour is really upset about is the noise from other neighbour's kids playing in the backyard very early in the mornings," she said.
The real problem is communication - or the lack of it, she said.
Money can't buy you friends
The Beckers loaned money to their neighbours, the Andersons, believing they were their best friends. They were left destitute after the loan was not repaid, and a lengthy legal battle only added to their debt
The couple said they felt compelled to lend the Andersons $280,000 because their neighbours were bankrupt with nowhere to live.
After only receiving interest payments for six years, the Beckers pressed the Andersons to repay the money and they received $24,000.
The neighbours' relationship turned sour when it looked unlikely the Beckers would get their money back.
A Deed of Acknowledgment of Debt was signed, which meant the Beckers were to be paid $80,000 immediately and the rest in a lump sum within the next five years, and interest paid monthly.
A year later, the Andersons defaulted, then bankrupted, and the outstanding sum was never paid.
The soothing sounds of Radio New Zealand Concert turned into a bittersweet symphony for a West Coast couple who had noise control called on them.
Janice Lee and Edgar Rochwalksi of Greymouth are now appealing the $500 fine, arguing their radio was not that loud and they turned down the volume after Grey District Council issued a written notice.
But brassed-off neighbour Katrina Stewart said the din was affecting her quality of life and she first called noise control two years ago to lay a complaint.
"It's not party level, but it's constant and I can't cope with it. It is disrupting and affecting my life and my family."
WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET INTO A STOUSH
Hart recommends the best defence is to become a good neighbour.
"If you've already got a relationship with them, it's a lot easier to pop your head over the fence to mention their tree roots are growing into your drain," she said.
But mediation is the best form of settlement resolution if troubles have gone beyond that point.
"Family disputes over children the most heartfelt disputes you can imagine, and 87 per cent of family disputes that go to mediation, settle in part or in whole," Hart said.
"That's how good the process is, there is no reason to believe neighbourhood disputes, would have any other kind of outcome."
Independent mediation was used for Christchurch homeowners at the Earthquake Commission, also with very high rates of settlement.
"Mediation helps fix the issue, but it also has an educative role and can give people tools to problem solve in the future," Hart said.
"So if you see the moving trucks next door you can't be quick enough to nip over with those scones."