Neighbourhood disputes can be stressful, bitter, and interfere with your ability to feel safe and happy in your own home and neighbourhood. When things get tough, people sometimes don’t know where to turn for help. This can be frustrating when the people we seek help from are not able to provide it. As an agent, I want to see my clients happy, but there are certain laws that govern what I can and cannot do for my clients. Unfortunately, these rules are not known to many, so misdirected frustration is something that myself and other agents sometimes experience. This article will outline the best ways you can deal with neighbourhood disputes, and where you can get the help you need.

Common Types of Neighbourhood Disputes

Neighbourhood disputes can arise over just about anything, but there are some types that commonly arise. These include disputes relating to:

  • Entry, access and privacy
  • Boundaries and dividing fences
  • Noise, smells and garbage
  • Animals
  • Violence, harassment and intimidation

If you ever find yourself in a neighbourhood dispute regarding one of these or any other issue, there are certain steps you should take.

Limits on Agents

Agents, as professionals, are governed by countless rules and regulations, many of which are contained in the Residential Tenancies Agreement NSW. These rules are strictly enforced, and a failure to follow them could be very damaging for an agent’s business and reputation – not to mention the legal consequences.

An important example is Section 14 which states that landlords and their agents are not permitted to interfere with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of a tenant, and must take all reasonable steps to ensure that neighbouring tenants also do not interfere. This is a very broad rule which prevents agents from intervening in many types of disputes affecting landlords and tenants. So, while you can always speak to your agent about any problems you may have and ask for their advice, you will often need to take alternative steps to get your problem solved.

Steps to Resolve Disputes

  1. Emergencies

First of all, if there is an emergency and you require immediate assistance, the first thing you should do is dial 000. This will be the fastest way for you to contact either the police, ambulance or fire department.

  1. Where Communication is Possible

For any other non-emergency, the first step should always be communication. Discuss the problem with your neighbour from each of your perspectives, and discuss how you would like to solve it. If you can compromise and come to an agreement, fantastic! This is the most stress-free and cheapest way to resolve any dispute. Keep a record of all the contact you have regarding the problem in case there is a dispute later. Where communication or mutual agreement are not possible, you may need to take a different approach.

  1. Mediation

Mediation is an excellent alternative to legal action where there has been a failure to reach a mutual agreement. Mediation gives you the opportunity to meet with your neighbour on mutual grounds to discuss the issue in the presence of a trained mediator. Any agreement reached is not a court order but it can sometimes be made into one if the parties wish.

Mediation is available across NSW through Community Justice Centres. It is free and confidential – so it can save you a lot of expense and delay, not to mention stress, that’s involved with taking the matter to court.

  1. Legal Action

Your last and final resort should be legal action. Taking your matter to court has certain advantages, but there are also significant risks. The advantages include that it gives an impartial decision maker the responsibility of solving your problem, and also, the outcome has the full force and authority of the law.

A few of the many disadvantages include:

  • You cannot control the outcome, and you might not like it.
  • Stress, delay and high costs
  • Complex procedures – you may require a lawyer
  • Risk of costs against you

Conclusion

Neighbourhood disputes are a common problem across NSW. Agents may be able to provide advice regarding some issues, however, they are often restricted by the laws which govern the profession. So make sure you are aware of the steps you should take to sort out your matter in the most effective and least burdensome way possible.

Nicole Ciantar
Vogue Real Estate

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