Not the normal way to start a mediation meeting, however having worked as a community mediator for over 15 years I’ve become used to expecting the unexpected.
We’d received a referral from an Anti-Social Behaviour Manager at a local authority following an enquiry from a resident about a dispute they had with a neighbour.
We were told that Jenny and Mark’s properties adjoin at the rear of their gardens and the dispute arose when Jenny started to carry out some maintenance on her garden and took down the rear garden fence that divided the two gardens. The police were called and they advised Jenny to stop all work until her and Mark could find a way to agree where the boundary should be. Jenny contacted her local authority and a referral for mediation was made.
Within a few days of receiving the referral we were able to visit the parties and hear their perspective about what had been going on in their private individual sessions.
Jenny told us that she had lived in her home for a couple of years and had started of renovating the house, which took a while and now she was moving onto the final phase in the garden. She had recently had plans drawn up by her landscape gardener and was now able to start work. The first task was replacing the boundary fences which were very old and falling down in places. This hadn’t been a problem for the other neighbours on either side of her.
Jenny hadn’t spoken to Mark about her plans, as the deeds to her property clearly showed the rear fence was her responsibility to maintain / replace. Her deeds also showed that original fence that was up had been incorrectly positioned and she felt this was the right time to remedy this. This meant she would gain about 6 inches of land.
Mark explained that he and his partner had lived in their home for about 12 years and there had never been any problems. The fence at the rear of the garden had always been there, maybe it was bit run down but it was a shared boundary and Jenny shouldn’t have removed it without asking them.
He’d seen Jenny a couple of times over the last few months, but they had never spoken. He arrived home from work, after a really bad day. He’d had to make two members of his team redundant and felt awful about it; all he wanted to do was come home and de-stress. He got home, walked into the kitchen which was at the rear of the house to make himself a drink and that’s when he saw it – the fence at the back had been ripped down and the rubbish thrown into his garden. He couldn’t believe it and went outside to investigate. That’s when he saw the builder who was digging on his side of the garden, so he decided he needed to have a word.
The builder went to get Jenny, who came out to speak with Mark. Mark said Jenny was moving the boundary line and this would mean he would lose some of his garden as a result. Mark was really angry and not able to speak calmly about the situation, he started shouting and became abusive. Jenny was really upset by this and knew it must have been bad because one of the other neighbours had called the police.
Mark tried to remain calm when Jenny came out and started asking her questions, but she just didn’t respond. This made him really cross. His partner had decided to call the police because they felt what Jenny was doing was illegal, she couldn’t just decide on a whim to move the boundary and steal their land!
Rather than go through the courts, Jenny and Mark decided to use the mediation process to resolve their disagreement and came together in a joint session to find a mutually acceptable way forward. This saved them unnecessary stress, time and money, not to mention their neighbourly relationship.
For more information on how mediation may be able to help you resolve your dispute, get in touch.