Forum: Mediation best way to resolve neighbour disputes

A HDB block at Toa Payoh Lorong 8, on Jan 14, 2020.
A HDB block at Toa Payoh Lorong 8, on Jan 14, 2020.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Many views have been expressed on the issue of neighbour disputes. What is clear is this - neighbour disputes are a common problem faced by many.

Indeed, as Mr Cheng Choon Fei has pointed out (Difficult to deal with noise nuisance without by-laws, Dec 18, 2019), dealing with noisy neighbours is a delicate balancing act, and his approach of reaching out directly to his neighbour - and as a result successfully resolving the issue - is something that we as mediators actively encourage.

In dealing with disputes between neighbours, community mediators generally suggest that they keep in mind the following: Fix it yourself constructively, be objective, communicate, understand the other person's concerns and then suggest solutions.

At the Community Mediation Centre where I volunteer, we mediate more than 300 cases of neighbour disputes every year, and there is a positive outcome for four in five cases.

Despite our best efforts, a small number of the parties decide to take the route of litigation. We don't recommend this as litigation often means one party succeeds at the expense of the other - this dynamic causes disputes to escalate and creates new grievances. Parties also focus on gathering evidence against each other, rather than properly understanding each other's concerns.

Mediation is still the most effective and amiable way to resolve matters and preserve relationships.

We strongly encourage neighbours who face such problems to take the first step to proactively communicate with their neighbours.

If this fails, the parties can come to the Community Mediation Centre, where trained mediators will help find mutually agreeable solutions. This is the best and most cost-effective way for parties to resolve their disputes privately.

P. Thirunal Karasu

Executive Master Mediator

Community Mediation Centre

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2020, with the headline 'Mediation best way to resolve neighbour disputes'. Print Edition | Subscribe