Making an Agreement

If you have discussed the problem with your neighbour and reached agreement about what should happen, it is important to make sure you and your neighbour are both clear about the details of the agreement. It can either be verbal or in writing. Most agreements with your neighbour won’t require any formality and a simple handshake is usually enough. However, a written agreement can help to reduce misunderstandings in the future. Benefits of a written agreementIf the agreement involves payment of money, it is probably better to have it in writing. This can be as simple as giving a receipt or it may be a lengthier document setting out what is to be done for the exchange of goods or money. Even if the agreement does not involve money, there may be good reasons to put it in writing:

  • it provides a clear record of what was agreed to
  • it helps reduce misunderstandings and gives both parties something to refer back to
  • it is a helpful reminder of what you need to do when

What to include in the agreementThe agreement should include complete details of :

  • actions – set out exactly what each party has agreed to do
  • timeframe – when the agreed actions will happen
  • all relevant details – for example, type of fence, height and colour of fence, how tree branches will be removed
  • cost – who is going to pay for what, who will organise quotes

Remember that both parties should sign the agreement and each should keep a copy.How do we make sure we both keep to the agreement?The following tips will help make sure you have an effective agreement.Good faithAn agreement is only as solid as the commitment of the people who have made it. An agreement should reflect a genuine commitment by both sides to do what has been agreed and should always be entered into in good faith.TrustCreating trust is one of the best ways to ensure that you both stick to what has been agreed. Trust is created when people see that actions match words. A good way to match actions to words is to only promise what you can deliver in an agreement.Be clear about timeframesAn agreement will have more chance of success if both parties agree on what should happen when. The agreement should say what will happen if the agreed timeframe cannot be met.For example:

  • In two weeks (give date), party A will provide party B with a quote for the cost of the fence.
  • If this timeframe is not met, the parties will re-negotiate a suitable timeframe for the quote; or if this timeframe is not met, party B will obtain a quote and provide it to party A.

Review progressThe best agreements are those where the parties are clear about their interests and concerns. It is important to:

  • stay in touch after the agreement has been made to ensure that you are both happy with how the agreement is going
  • deal with any problems at an early stage

Don’t hide mistakesMistakes often happen in an agreement. A mistake or mishap can mean the agreement needs to be changed. Acknowledge mistakes and address them as quickly as possible before they escalate.Negotiation strategiesYou need to ensure that you negotiate something that is realistic for your budget and that you and your neighbour can agree to. If your neighbour provides you with a quote for a new fence and you think it is too expensive, you could:

  • offer to get another quote
  • negotiate to pay by instalments

As with any negotiation, communication is the key to arriving at a good solution.Understand your obligationsIf your neighbour wants a fence that is more expensive than a standard fence, you may not want to pay the additional cost. However, you are required to pay at least half the cost of a standard fence. A good tactic might be to negotiate that you pay half the cost of a standard fence and your neighbour pays the rest.Don't promise what you can’t payWork out what you can afford before you start negotiating and have a Plan B in case your preferred payment option isn’t successful.Look for solutionsWork co-operatively with the other person to find a mutually acceptable solution. If you are feeling under pressure to agree to something you are not comfortable with, you should seek advice.