Resolving neighborhood disputes. The right way to deal with conflict.
Regardless of whether the people next-door are throwing a loud party or causing other nuisances, conflicts between neighbors cannot always be avoided despite what the neighbor law provisions say. Yet, those who proceed with the goal of resolving the conflict can reach an acceptable compromise in nearly every neighborhood dispute.
Life is difficult for homeowners when there is trouble with the neighbors
People buy their own home in the hopes of enjoying the tremendous freedom it offers. Those who own a house or apartment instead of renting can do things in and around their home as they see fit – within the boundaries established by law, of course. A person's home is their castle: A dream come true. That is, until homeowners begin feuding with their neighbors. Conflicts can arise for any number of reasons: from noisy children and pets, through the height of a hedge in the back yard to maintaining the required distance from setback lines on the property. When there is trouble between neighbors, your dream of owning your own home can quickly dissolve into a nightmare.
Resolving neighborhood disputes with specific steps
Besides communication and mutual respect, clear rules play an important role in ensuring neighbors can coexist in peace and harmony. Not every (supposed) infraction will end in an argument. Nevertheless, not all conflicts can be avoided. For instance, a condominium owner might plant a tree in their dedicated yard but it casts shade on the neighbor's patio in the evenings. The important thing in such cases is always to proceed constructively and with the goal of finding a solution.
1. Discuss the matter with your neighbor
The first step should always be a face-to-face and cool-headed discussion. That often helps the parties find a solution quickly. In addition, condominium owners can often consult their association's rules, which may already contain clear provisions governing the point of contention. If that is not the case, the problem can also be made an official agenda item for discussion at a condominium owners' meeting and, if need be, directly addressed in that forum.
2. Engage a neutral third party
The next step is to engage a neutral third party as a mediator, provided all persons involved agree. Impartial individuals can evaluate the situation from a completely different angle and propose new solutions. For example, the feuding parties can call on neighbors who are not directly involved, outside experts, or even the administrators of their condominium building.
3. Resort to professional arbitration
If the neighbors have thus far been unable to find a solution to their problem, the next possible step they can take is arbitration. During arbitration, the disputing parties negotiate to reach a mutually agreeable solution under the guidance of a professional arbiter. This gives a new structure to a conflict that has reached an impasse. In this forum, all the parties can start over by stating all their needs and arguments.
Arbiters do not take sides or recommend solutions of their own. Instead, they guide the disputing parties by asking specific questions and steering the conversation in specific directions. The goal is for the parties themselves to reach a mutual solution for which they take responsibility and which they can all accept in the long term.
Follow this link to learn more about arbitration (available in German only): https://www.mediation-ch.org/
4. Take action through the courts
If every attempt and effort to resolve the conflict has failed, the only remaining option is to go to court. First, however, you should seek out an attorney for advice. This step needs to be considered carefully because the time and financial expense involved with litigation are immense and may rapidly exceed the possible benefit of a court decision. Taking your neighbors to court also often destroys any basis for good relations with them later. For that reason, it should always be the final alternative when no other way out can be found.
Whatever the dispute, remain calm
The important thing is to directly address the problem as soon as possible. That is because neighbors often tend to make a mountain out of a molehill. If an argument escalates into a running battle, the neighbors can forget about ever coexisting in peace and harmony. However, if they take a targeted approach and try to put themselves in their neighbor's shoes, they have a chance of reaching a successful compromise.