Disputes happen. Sometimes it’s over relatively small things (your yard is not your neighbor’s personal digging hole), however other times there are larger issues at stake (think dividing fences and overhanging trees).
Disagreements between neighbours are particularly stressful as they can affect your enjoyment of your own home.
We usually can’t avoid our neighbours, so it’s a good idea to try and resolve issues quickly by reaching an agreement before a dispute escalates. Many disputes can be avoided with effective communication. Where these disputes can’t be resolved it can be helpful to obtain legal advice so you properly understand your rights and responsibilities, and those of your neighbour.
Below you will find a few common instances where neighbours might disagree or where disputes can occur and a few points to keep in mind if this might become an issue for you and your neighbour:
Generally neighbours must share the cost of a dividing fence. The type of fence required will depend on the use of the property and whether there is any existing fencing on the property. If one neighbour wants extra features, or a fence that is more than ‘sufficient’, they are generally required to pay the extra cost. When neighbours can’t agree on the type of fence, it is necessary to have a conversation around the options available. This is most helpful when outlined in a “fencing notice”. A Fencing Notice sets out basic information about the proposed fence, including the estimated cost and the proposal for how the expenses will be paid (i.e. how the costs will be split).
The owner of a property is responsible for ensuring that the trees on their property don’t have overhanging branches or roots that could pose a danger to people or cause damage to a property. Generally, you can cut back branches or roots that enter your own property however you should never enter a neighbour’s property without permission to prune a tree.
Noisy neighbours can make life very difficult. Local councils often have rules that restrict noise in some circumstances, such as from barking dogs. When noise is extreme or happens late at night the police may be able to give you additional direction on noise abatement rules.
How to resolve disputes:
The following steps can be used as a guide toward dispute resolution:
1. Talk to your neighbour if you feel comfortable doing so;
2. Document any communications in writing;
3. If you can’t resolve the issue consider using a solicitor to negotiate on your behalf or attend mediation;
4. If the matter can’t be resolved by the above methods, you may need to take the matter to the Local Court.
Mediation can be arranged with the Community Justice Centre (1800990777) or a private mediator. Having the assistance of an unbiased third-party can be extremely helpful in situations where both parties are amenable to discussion. If you are able to reach an agreement, the mediator or your solicitor can help you document the terms of the agreement to provide clarity and certainty to both parties.
Going to Court
You should always consider mediation before making an application to the courts. It is likely that you will be referred to mediation before the court will hear your matter if you haven’t already attended mediation. You should always seek legal advice from an experienced solicitor before you consider taking your matter to court as court matters can be long, drawn out processes. You will also save yourself time, headache, and money if you can resolve your dispute in mediation.
If you Feel Unsafe
If a dispute escalates and you are concerned about your safety, you may consider an application for a Apprehended Violence Order. The police may make the application on your behalf where it’s appropriate to do so or alternatively you can make an application through the Local Court.
If you’d like to book an appointment to discuss a dispute you are having with a neighbour, contact us today!