How to handle a neighbours' dispute

Whether you're an owner or a tenant, there is one regrettable fact of life: neighbourly discord can arise anywhere.

Should discord escalate to dispute, keeping a cool head is advisable. Even if provoked – indeed, especially then. Not losing respect for the other party always pays off. It also ups the chances of mediation despite differing viewpoints.

Here is a helpful check-list so you won't miss any important steps in the heat of the moment.

  • Before taking any other action, seek dialogue with the "troublemaker". Wait until initial anger subsides. Stay matter-of-fact and friendly. It might also help to invite your neighbour into your home so they can experience for themselves the degree of nuisance: barbecue smoke, for example, or noise carrying across from their home.
  • Although calling the police may resolve an acute disturbance, this also tends to escalate tensions and put a lasting tarnish on neighbourly relations.
  • Depending on the type of nuisance, pinning up a note may help – firmly worded, yet not unfriendly.
  • If neither verbal nor written hints bring about a solution, then is the time to call in a third-party mediator or arbitrator. If the problem is between tenants, then this could be the landlord or building management. The latter can also be appropriate in the case of condominium owners; failing that, a professional mediator might be the solution.
  • A landlord may give notice of eviction to a tenant who repeatedly and seriously disturbs the peace despite warnings. Building management may issue a warning to a difficult resident and demand that they refrain from causing future disturbances.
  • Co-owners or tenants who don't play by house rules may become an agenda item at the condominium owners' meeting, the aim being to find a joint solution within the ownership community.
  • Legal action is the path of last resort. In civil proceedings it is possible to sue for restraint on the nuisance caused, as well as for damages under some circumstances. A suffering tenant may request a rent reduction from the landlord, who in turn can take recourse against the disruptor.
  • There could possibly be grounds for a criminal complaint. Yet bear in mind that criminal proceedings do not resolve a conflict, but rather cause lasting damage for neighbourly relations.

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