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, if you proceed with the goal of resolving the conflict and know your rights and obligations, it's possible to reach an acceptable compromise in nearly every neighborhood dispute.
Life is difficult for homeowners when there is trouble with the neighbors
Buying your own home holds the promise of freedom: If you own your house or apartment instead of renting, you can make your own rules as you see fit – within the boundaries established by law, of course. A person's home is their castle: A dream come true. That is, until there is a dispute with the neighbors. A dispute 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 a dispute. 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 point of contention with your neighbor
The first step should always be a 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 resolved in that forum.
2. Engage a neutral third party
The next step is to engage a neutral third party as a mediator in the dispute, 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. Get the help of a professional mediator
If the neighbors have thus far been unable to find a solution to their problem, the next possible step they can take is mediation. During mediation, the disputing parties negotiate to reach a mutually agreeable solution under the guidance of a professional mediator. 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.
Mediators 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.
Mediators are particularly in demand in the context of condominium ownership. They have the necessary skills to deal with the different points of view of the disputing parties in a constructive manner. It's particularly useful if a mediator has expertise relating to dispute resolution in social, economic, and legal matters. However, there are situations in which it can be beneficial for such an expert to be somewhat removed from the subject matter.
Follow this link to learn more about mediation: www.mediation-ch.org (available only in German, French, and Italian).
4. Take legal action against neighbors
If every attempt and effort to resolve the conflict has failed, the only remaining option is to go to court. Under certain circumstances, an official body may also intervene. However, before you take legal action, you should seek advice from an attorney. 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 a last resort when no other solution 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.