When to Choose Mediation
You may wish to consider talking through your differences with your neighbour with a view to coming to an amicable solution to the problem; before resorting to a legal remedy. This has the advantage of being straightforward, fast and less costly.
There are times when a complainant may not be in a position to talk directly to their neighbour though or when, you have but, relations have broken down. In such cases you may consider mediation as an alternative.
There are also times when your local enforcement agency are unable to provide you with assistance. It may be that they feel that the matter is a private issue between two parties and that the legal or alternative mechanisms they are able to implement are unlikely to offer a solution. In such cases mediation may also be a suitable option. However, they should not use it as a way of dispensing with their enforcement duties.
Mediation is used:
• As a way of avoiding court (which can be expensive and traumatic);
• As a cheap and quick alternative to civil procedures; and
• To tackle issues not covered adequately by noise or anti-social behaviour laws.
Poor sound insulation between two neighbouring private dwellings may be an example of when neighbours may need to negotiate over terms and/or responsibilities for providing a solution.
What is Mediation and How Does it Work?
Mediation is a way of resolving disputes between two or more parties where a neutral third party, the mediator, assists the parties to negotiate some form of a settlement or agreement (in other words, an amicable solution to the problem). The terms of the settlement are decided upon by the two parties themselves with a view to achieving a win/win conclusion.
If you enter into the process both parties have nothing to lose and other options remain open. Whilst it requires two willing parties to co-operate, either party can withdraw from the process at any time.
Usually there will be an initial contact by the mediator to either party. This is followed by a meeting on neutral ground facilitated by the mediation service. The mediator is a trained person who must remain completely impartial at all times. They are not present to act as a judge, decide who is in the wrong or take sides.
If necessary there can be a follow up meeting by the mediation service if continued support is needed.
Finding a Mediation Service
Access to mediation services can be patchy. Trained mediators will be available in most areas but not all services are free. Even so, mediation can produce positive or beneficial results much more cheaply and efficiently than taking legal action. A search facility for civil mediation providers in your area can be found on the Minitry of Justice website. The directory provides details of providers who are accredited by the Civil Mediation Council. Costs through this service can be as little as £50 for a one hour session. Free mediation may be available from the solicitors’ charity Law Works.
Check with your local authority, Citizens’ Advice Bureau and housing association first though, as often they subsidise or support free local mediator services. They may also provide grant funding to volunteer services. In some cases noise enforcement officers they will even set up meetings, make referrals and suggest mediation if they think it is appropriate.
More general information on mediation can be found on the web, from your local authority or from Citizens’ Advice.