Effective Dispute Resolution

Many issues can arise between neighbours, such as needing a new fence, overhanging trees or barking dogs. If these issues are not dealt with effectively, it can be easy to find yourself caught up in a dispute.
Try these steps to resolve your dispute:
  • talk to your neighbour first
  • if talking doesn’t work, or communicating is difficult, ask a third party for help
  • if you still can’t resolve the issue, try using a mediation service like the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria
Taking the matter to court should always be the last resort.

 

Try talking to your neighbour first

Before starting any work that may affect your neighbour’s property, always talk to your neighbour first and discuss what you’re planning to do. They may not have been aware of the problem and talking to them may resolve the issue. It will also help maintain a positive relationship, which will make it easier to deal with other issues in the future.
Communicating effectively with your neighbour means both:

Is your neighbour a tenant or an owner?

Remember that if your neighbour is renting you may need to talk to the owner of the property as well. To find out who the owner is, either ask the tenant or contact the local Council.

Ask a third party for help

If you're having trouble sorting things out with your neighbour, ask someone else to help. The third party might be:
  • a family member
  • a friend
  • another neighbour who knows you both
Tip: It’s a good idea to make sure whoever you ask is not emotionally involved as this can make things worse.

 

Talk to the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria

If you can’t resolve the issue even with someone’s help, you can contact the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV). The DSCV has trained staff who can help resolve disputes between neighbours. This is a free, confidential service.

 

Going to court should be a last resort

There are good reasons to solve your problems yourself and stay out of court:
  • it’s cheaper, quicker and easier
  • you and your neighbour can find a solution that suits you
  • it’s better for your relationship with your neighbour – taking your neighbour to court can damage the relationship
  • it keeps the issues low-key rather than escalating them
Before making a decision about court action, it’s worth getting legal advice. The Fitzroy Legal Service’s Law Handbook Online is a good place to find free legal information on common neighbourhood issues.