Fence-off in a street
The initial problem
A fence addition caused friction between neighbours.
Mediation resulted in both a compromise on the fence and a better ongoing relationship for the neighbours.
The full story
Rick had lived in a street in Melbourne for many years. Todd and Liz had recently moved in next door, and the neighbours had initially been friendly.
Todd and Liz extended the dividing fence between their properties. They added 60 cm to the height of the fence, which Rick said blocked light to his garden and hindered his view of the street.
Rick tried to talk to his neighbours about the fence but both Todd and Liz became hostile and refused to speak to him about it.
Feeling that there was no way to directly resolve the dispute with his neighbours, Rick called the Dispute Settlement Centre and asked them what could be done.
The mediation process
The Dispute Settlement Centre wrote to Todd and Liz, inviting them to a mediation session with Rick. Todd and Liz were reluctant to attend because they believed Rick had been spreading rumours and malicious gossip about them.
A Dispute Assessment Officer explained to Todd over the phone that mediation was voluntary and that he and his wife didn’t have to attend if they didn’t want to. But he suggested mediation would provide a safe environment for them to raise uncomfortable issues that were clearly causing them distress.
The Dispute Assessment Officer explained that the mediators would control the discussion to make sure everyone had a chance to put forward their point of view and that both sides listened to each other. The mediators would also keep a positive focus in the discussions, which would help the neighbours reach an agreement over the problems they had been having. Liz and Todd decided to take part and a mediation date was set.
During the meeting, Rick was shocked to hear some of the things his neighbours believed he had said about them. But he was also glad to have an opportunity to put across his point of view and to apologise for any distress he had caused.
When it came to the fence, Todd was reluctant to pull down the extension, which had cost him a lot of money. Rick offered to reimburse him for the materials and help install a trellis instead. In the end, Todd agreed to take down the extension, and the neighbours agreed to share the cost of a trellis. Todd was even able to give Rick the wood from the old fence so he could reuse it to fix his shed.