Tag Archives: mediation

Dispute Despair

Absolutely nothing was done.  It all still continues.  We are either ignored or treated as perpetrators.’  ‘Jack’, London

This is Jack’s side of the story:

No action has ever been taken against my neighbours who continues a 2 year campaign of every instance of ASB imaginable against both my household and another tenant in the property of 3 flats.  We have both continually provided evidence of this woman’s ASB but are both continually ignored by our Housing Association and the police.  In fact, the Housing Association gives this woman their full support by believing without question or investigation of any kind every lie and false allegation she continually makes about my neighbour and I.

Jack has been threatened with an Injunction for something he didn’t do which he said was without any investigation and purely based on the other party’s complaint.

The list of behaviour Jack has suffered is long and horrible:

  • racial abuse
  • damage to their car
  • brick through their window
  • dog poisoned
  • hundreds of live maggots thrown onto their steps and flat door area several nights in a row
  • verbal abuse
  • accusations of drug dealing
  • stealing their post
  • filming them 24/7
  • taking photos of them

Jack has been told that the Housing Association is aware of the neighbour’s behaviour, attributable to mental health.  However, it doesn’t make sense as why they would threaten Jack with an injunction.

Neighbour Dispute

To ASB practitioners, this may sound all too familiar.  The complexities of a neighbour dispute – who to believe and who is doing what.  How can someone contacting us as a victim be seen by the Housing Association as a perpetrator?  Hear Jack’s cry:

Yesterday my neighbour and I received a letter from the Housing Association warning us of OUR ASB and highlighting how WE could be breaching our tenancy agreements  This letter has been generated by more lies from this woman and yet again, without question or any investigation have been believed and taken as truth by the Housing Association.  Where is the help for people like us who have someone like this woman using and totally abusing the system to wreak havoc, cause misery and distress and invoke fear into innocent people?

What is really going on?

Our Comments

When we hear a story like this our initial reaction is deep concern at the way Jack is being treated.  Yet, we are also well aware that there are always two sides to the story.

The agencies acknowledge that there are complications in acting due to mental health.  Yet they then give warnings of injunctions without investigation to Jack. This seems incompletely inconsistent.  This is clearly some missing information on what is happening but there are some important factors to highlight from this story.

  1.  We would recommend to Jack that he activate the Community Trigger.  This would mean that all agencies, including the Housing Association, the local Council and the police, can come together to review Jack’s case.  Jack should request a clear response from that review of where mistakes have been made (perhaps insufficient investigation, lack of mental health support) and what else can be done to resolve the problems.  (Activating the Community Trigger can sometime give the support you need to get a house move as part of resolving the problem.)

2.  This case is a classic example of a Neighbour Dispute and ultimately it has been left to deteriorate into a tangled mess.  This is why it is so important for agencies to take early action and investigate early complaints – see this Housing Association example: http://asbhelp.co.uk/can-read-write/.  We wonder whether mediation was ever offered and how responsive the Housing Association really was when Jack first expressed his concern.



Let’s Talk

The kids continue to run until way after 11 at night.  Since they moved in my daughter struggles to fall asleep and wakes up scared when the loud “bangs” sound so late.”  ‘Sam’

Anti-social behaviour takes so many different forms.  We all have different levels of tolerance to it – since it is defined as causing harassment, alarm or distress, we will all define different behaviour as anti-social.

This case study shows a situation where a 2 year old girl is experiencing alarm and distress which in turn is distressing to her parents.  However, it strikes us that it is also a clear situation where mediation needs to be the way forward to solve the problem.  Finding a way to talk through the issues is key.

The neighbour in the flat above has two children who run up and down the house “all day long”.  Sam feels he is already making compromises by sacrificing his daughter’s nap, knowing he can’t expect them to be quiet in the middle of the day, but after 9pm the noise becomes a problem.

He says he has spoken to them repeatedly as well as leaving a polite note.  His daughter “struggles to fall asleep and wakes up scared when the loud ‘bangs’ sound so late“.

Meanwhile, the neighbours accuse Sam of being intolerant, saying: “they complain too much and should move to a country house if they need their daughter to sleep“.

Let’s Talk

We recently looked at the value of considering mediation in situations of anti-social behaviour.   Mediation brings the two parties that are in conflict together with an independent person present to hear both sides of the story.

Everyone will have a different take on the situation when reading this story.  Many will empathise with Sam’s struggle to get his daughter to sleep and it is certainly concerning that she is waking alarmed with the noise.  Others will feel it is too intolerant and that noise is a natural result of living in a ground floor flat.

The fact of the matter is that both Sam and his neighbours live there, and want to enjoy their homes.  In situations like these the opportunity to talk together, with someone independent to help ensure both parties can fully explain their perspective, holds huge value.  Tension and frustration is damaging to our health but in a situation involving noise like this, that is unlikely to be classified as a statutory nuisance, there is very little available to agencies to resolve the situation.  This is a place for mediation to try and figure out how to live well together for the benefit of everyone.

Is Mediation Right for You?

One area of dealing with ASB that we haven’t covered much is that of Mediation.  This is where someone independent of both you and the person who you feel is being anti-social towards you comes to listen to both of you and seek to resolve the problem.

In anti-social behaviour, there are many clear-cut cases where there is a victim or victims and a perpetrator or perpetrators.  Someone chooses to behave in an inconsiderate way and their neighbours suffer from this behaviour, try and tolerate it and eventually report it.  The perpetrator does not care about the effects of their behaviour on others.  In a situation like this mediation would be difficult.

However, there are also many cases where the picture is less black and white.  This is perhaps more common now as we so often do not know our neighbours.  As such we do not know what their lifestyle is like, what is important to them and what causes them stress.

Mediation is an effective way to stop anti-social behaviour before it gets worse, hopefully before it starts to impact on your health.

UK Mediation has this to say about Neighbourhood Mediation:

Neighbourhood Mediation – keeping you and your neighbours on good terms

Your home is your castle. You don’t want anyone intruding into your personal space, disturbing your peace and relaxation, or preventing you from enjoying the time you spend at home or with your family.  

Most of us have neighbours, and we can get on with them most of the time. And when there are any difficulties or disagreements, most of the time we can all sort things out with a chat over the fence. Sometimes, however, communication breaks down. There are disagreements or persistent complaints which, if left unaddressed, can turn into more significant problems. 

Mediation is a quick, cost effective and private method of resolving your dispute, saving you from the stresses and costs of court of formal action. An expert mediator can get you and your neighbours talking again: clearing up misunderstandings, agreeing practical steps for how to make things better between you, and moving on from your disagreements. 

Mediation – How it Works

Mediators help people in a situation find a solution that is acceptable to all parties.  They visit everyone concerned, listen to what the problem is and what they want to see change.  They will then arrange a neutral venue for a confidential joint meeting. At that meeting ground rules are agreed, such as not interrupting and using respectful language, and then each person has the opportunity to explain the problem as they see it.

Mediators listen to all sides and then work with them to identify the issues that need to be addressed and how they are going to do that.  The mediator will not solve the problem for them, but help the people involved come to an agreement on what needs to be done going forwards to resolve the issues.  Mediators are independent and do not take sides.

Mediation – Pros and Cons

Mediation requires time and effort to make it work.  However, so does taking someone to court – a LOT more time and effort.  Even in court, if a case got that far, magistrates would want to see that all other ways to resolve the problem have been considered and mediation may be recommended anyway.  Agreeing to mediation shows you are willing to try to understand the other person’s perspective and find a compromise.

Some people who suffer ASB simply want the perpetrator to be evicted from their home.  As a charity seeking to be a voice for victims of ASB, our focus is strongly on the aim being to STOP the anti-social behaviour, not make someone homeless.  Mediation can be very effective to stop the behaviour that is causing you distress and restore neighbourhood relationships.

The disadvantage of most mediation in the UK is that it has a cost.  Some areas provide a free service but not everywhere.  You may also be able to convince your local authority to pay for the mediation – it will still cost them less than taking court action.

There is no overall organisation to represent all mediators in the country.  The College of Mediators is a membership-based organisation where you can find local mediators, but only those that have chosen to become a member will be registered.  Your best source of information is your local authority which should have information about local mediation services in the area.  You can also arrange informal mediation with someone independent in the community coming to listen to both parties – perhaps a Neighbourhood Watch member or the local vicar.

Unfortunately mediation will only work if both parties involved agree to it.  If you want to try mediation but the person whose behaviour is causing you alarm or distress does not want to try mediation, you are stuck and will have to rely on local agencies taking necessary action.

For a case study on where we would recommend mediation, see here: Let’s Talk.


Unbearable fumes and chainsawing

“It has affected our marriage but we cannot afford to move. I have contemplated suicide as feel my life is worth nothing.” ‘Lisa’ in Wiltshire

‘Lisa’ and her husband own their house but have been subject to constant, unbearable anti-social behaviour in the past 4 years that has affected their health and their marriage. The neighbours have bonfires every day from 10am, burning painted and treated wood. The fumes are unbearable so ‘Lisa’ and her husband are unable to use their garden or have any windows open.

The neighbour is almost daily chainsawing less than 3 feet from their front door which goes on from 9am until 6pm and is almost continuous. They cannot hear their TV or open a window and it sounds like an earthquake in their house. This has been going on for nearly 4 years making their lives unbearable. Nothing has been done.

‘Lisa writes’ “I spend most of my my life in earplugs and my husband even bought me a set of ear defenders. I cry constantly and we would move but cannot afford to. We go out as often as possible just to get away from the noise and fumes, my husband is on anti depressants, I am in tears most of the time and my health has deteriorated considerably. We can not use our garden or open any windows , the noise is constant and unbearable. It has also affected our marriage but we cannot afford to move. I have contemplated suicide as feel my life is worth nothing.”

They tried to talk with their neighbour but he refused to speak to them. The police offered them mediation but they refused. They reported it to the local council and kept a log for 3 years, yet nothing was done. Is it any surprise she has considered suicide? [Source: online survey]