Lord Justice Ward expressed the opinion that “Not all neighbours are from hell. They may simply occupy the land of bigotry. There may be no escape from hell but the boundaries of bigotry can with tact be changed by the cutting edge of reasonableness skilfully applied by a trained mediator. Give and take is often better than all or nothing.”
Neighbour disputes are nearly always worth mediating. They are ideally suited to mediation, not least due to the level of hostility often involved and the tendency for substantial legal costs to be incurred on both sides. The issues involved can be all-consuming and quickly escalate but parties often do not realise that these disputes have to be disclosed to any potential purchaser of their property.
In the many mediations which we have conducted for our clients with neighbour disputes, we are almost always able to help the parties save costs, resolve the situation finally, and sooner than by going to court, and helped the parties agree solutions which a court may not have been able to impose.
The courts have recognised this: “Suing and being sued by neighbours is a stressful and unpleasant experience. Bad feelings all round do not finish with the final judgment. The lawsuit could have unwanted long-term consequences that a sensible compromise might have avoided. One side ‘wins’ at trial, and/or on appeal, but, in the long run, both sides lose if, for instance, litigation blight has damaged the prospects of selling up and moving elsewhere”, an extract from the case of Cameron v Boggiano. In that case, the parties spent a lot of money, time and energy quarrelling about the ownership of a thin strip of land in a corner of a courtyard. It went to the Court of Appeal. Lord Justice Mummery commented that "the only certainty in this kind of a case is that the financial outlay is almost always more than the disputed property is worth".
And in another Court of Appeal case, neighbours spent over £140,000 in costs between them in a dispute about noise caused by timber flooring to one flat which had no underlay or carpet. In this case, the presiding judge Lord Justice Jackson suggested that a moderate degree of carpeting might have reduced noise penetrating into the neighbouring flat but still enabled enjoyment of the timber floor. This was not something a court could order but the parties could have agreed this with the help of a skilled mediator and retained control of the outcome.
Now, following the noteworthy case of Bradley v Heslin in 2014, parties involved in neighbour disputes can expect to be ordered to attempt to use mediation before they continue with their litigation. We help parties to litigation who have found themselves subject to court orders like this.
"Not all neighbours are from hell. They may simply occupy the land of bigotry. There may be no escape from hell but the boundaries of bigotry can, with tact, be changed by the cutting edge of reasonableness skilfully applied by a trained mediator. Give and take is often better than all or nothing."