As a firm we often are asked to assist people who find themselves involved in a neighbour dispute. Often by the time someone approaches us relations are to say the least strained and what appeared a small issue has now escalated.
We tell everyone from the outset that they should do everything to resolve the matter. The Courts are loath to deal with such disputes and in our experience whilst a huge amount of money (six figure sums on costs are not unheard of), time and emotional energy will be spent on dealing with the matter almost inevitably the outcome is not one which either party is 100% happy with. Often the Court will appear to almost exercise a judgement of Solomon in determining the issues.
So if you find yourself in a position where you think there may be a dispute or potential for one what should you do?
The first thing is think about talking. We find that often parties may have misunderstood the others intentions. It is always worth trying to talk and if that has become difficult you could see whether you have a mutual friend who is prepared to try and act as a go between. Remember if you find yourself in dispute as and when you come to sell your property if you are an owner occupier you will have to disclose this.
If sadly you cannot resolve things between yourselves it is worth sometimes seeing if your local authority runs or can point you to a local voluntary mediation service. Certainly today we would always recommend that parties explore the possibility of mediation or the various other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). If you cannot find a voluntary scheme you may find it useful to take some advice from a solicitor who then ought to be able to find a suitable mediator and or point both parties towards one. With regards to disputes purely relating to boundary issues the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) runs a scheme which has certain fixed fee options.
If we are approached whilst we may advice you on the merits or otherwise of your case and a way forward we may still recommend that you try and correspond with your neighbour. We advise this in some situations as we have found that the involvement of lawyers can act to entrench parties positions. This is what should be avoided at all costs.
Ultimately if you cannot agree Courts can but as we say above the outcome is uncertain and often not what either party wants. You will find you are still neighbours and it can affect your ability to sell your property. Early mediation and resolution is best and all parties should be prepared to compromise as Court actions over principles are never sensible!
If you have a problem we are always happen to discuss in confidence and explore options. As a firm we have qualified mediators available and are experienced in assisting with these cases.