Dealing with Neighbourhood Disputes

You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your neighbours.


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As the saying goes, you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. The same thing might be said of neighbours. You never truly know who you getting when buying or renting a place, or who might suddenly move in next to you.

And relationships vary from neighbours who keep completely to themselves, to being openly friendly, to just a cursory nod and wave from afar. So it can be awkward to know just what to do when the occasional issue arises over common neighbourhood problems like fencing, loud noises or tree branches. Especially as neighbours share responsibility for fences and trees. So forging ahead and dealing with things solo without first chatting to the neighbour can cause issues.

For people needing advice, the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria can help. The service is free and confidential and their “Reaching Agreement” website is specifically designed to help people communicate with neighbours before considering other avenues like mediation.

The site features a number of short how-to videos with tips on simple strategies to resolve disputes, presented in eight different languages as well as sign language. English transcripts of the videos are also on the site.

These videos are a great tool to encourage people to try and sort out differences by themselves first, simply by talking. That way, lines of communication stay open should future issues arise. You might be stuck with these neighbours for a long time and expensive court proceedings should always be considered as a last resort.