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Love thy neighbour?

Driving around Sydney recently I saw a large sign on a Nursery that said ‘Problems with your neighbours? Buy hedge plants today – they are quick growing and will screen out your neighbours in no time at all!’

If only it was as simple as that!

In our busy society today, the number of people who know their neighbours or are on friendly terms with their neighbours has sadly declined. If you are on good terms with your neighbours there is no need for you to read on, but if you aren’t on good terms with your neighbours or you know someone who has problems with their neighbours, read on.

The decline in good relationships between neighbours has led to an increase in disputes, some of which can be extremely emotionally distressing, time consuming and costly to deal with. This decline seems to apply whether you live in a freestanding home, duplex or unit block.

In the past, issues could be discussed and dealt with when talking with each other while doing the gardening or while enjoying a cup of tea on the front fence, today we seem to have less time and life seems to be more difficult and complex.

The increase in neighbour disputes seems to cover the following;

1. Your neighbour and their workmen carry out building works on their property which leads to damage or cracking to your property.

2. Water discharges from your neighbour’s property onto your property causing subsidence to your property.

3. Neighbours trees cause damage to your property either by limbs falling onto your property or roots invading your much loved paved area.

4. Your neighbour builds a structure on part of your property without your consent.

5. Your neighbour puts up a gate on your right of way which affects you accessing your own property.

6. You are in your home with a lovely outlook and your neighbour plants a tree or carries out building works which impede your view.

Dealing with neighbour disputes can be as simple as speaking to your neighbour if the relationship can still be salvaged. Sometimes a compromise can be reached even when the other person has done the wrong thing. However if the relationship seems to be beyond repair or there does not seem to be any compromise that can be reached or you are interested to know what the legal position is – it is always good to be able to chat to a trusted lawyer who can advise you as to:

your rights;

what steps you need to take to try and resolve the dispute;

the time and costs that you need to invest to try and resolve the dispute.
The steps may involve:

advising you and assisting you with drafting up a letter to your neighbour setting out clearly the legal position and the consequences if they do not do something;

assisting you in a negotiation or mediation with your neighbour;

court action.
For further information, please contact the Commercial Litigation Team.

Sonja Daly

Sonja Daly joined Watkins Tapsell as a Solicitor in 1994. She became a Partner of the firm in 1998 and brings her expertise to the commercial litigation practice advising on contract and building disputes as well as interpretation and breach of agreements