Friday, October 06, 2006

Mediation of Disputes Between Neighbors

Neighbor disputes can start small but quickly escalate into long-standing feuds which can reduce the enjoyment of living in your own home. Neighbor disputes can include property line issues, encroaching trees, fences, noise and other disturbances (dogs, construction, etc.).

I have included a link to an informative article on neighbor disputes published recently in the San Francisco Chronicle. The title is: "Fences may make good neighbors, but knowing the law can make things easier. If a friendly talk can't resolve the issue, try mediation; litigation should be the last resort."

Mediation of neighbor disputes is a wise choice due to the ongoing relationships involved. Mediation can help neighbors work together to solve their current dispute and also work out some new methods of communication and working together peacefully to avoid such disputes in the future.

The participants to a recent neighbor dispute mediation in which I was involved were condominium owners living up and downstairs from each other. It seems the scope of one neighbor's remodel may not have been communicated clearly to the second neighbor who worked out of the home and had previously agreed to the remodel. The construction noise and vibrations had become unbearable as the scope of the work expanded significantly and there was no end in sight.

Through our mediation, the parties were able to put together a workable and reasonable plan to handle the ongoing construction and to include the second neighbor in some of the construction planning to be better prepared for the extra-loud days. The parties were able to start working more cooperatively together and more considerately of each other's needs and interests.

The alternatives were either litigation or arbitration and/or one of the parties was going to have to move. None of these were attractive options and the parties recognized that something needed to change in their working relationship so the parties could start working with each other instead of against each other. The result was the beginning of a renewed relationship focused on mutual courtesy and, for each individual, the enjoyment of their own home again.

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