Perhaps, two of the most common causes of disputes between neighbours are trees and dividing fences. And what makes these kinds of disputes more challenging to resolve is because every situation is different from the others, and should be dealt with accordingly.
The thing about trees and why they commonly cause conflict between neighbours is because they can potentially cause injury, damage to property and inconvenience especially when falling leaves scatter all around, blocking gutters or dropping into other people’s pools.
On the other hand, disputes regarding dividing fences are usually due to its construction and maintenance. This includes the cost, the type and the height of the fence.
But before you start dealing with disputes, first you need to know your rights and responsibilities as a tree-keeper.
Rules About Trees
As the property owner, everything within your property is your responsibility – and that includes trees. This makes you responsible for the entire tree, including its roots. Being a tree-keeper, here are some things you need to be aware of:
- If the tree is on the boundary line but most of its parts are on your land, then it is your tree and you are its keeper.
- If the tree was originally situated on your land but somehow managed to damage your neighbour’s property, you, the tree-keeper, are liable for the damages the tree has caused.
- If the tree sits on the boundary line between multiple properties, then each property owner would have equal liabilities and responsibilities.
Rules About Dividing Fences
In situations wherein a dividing fence is situated on the common boundary line, adjoining neighbours have equal ownership and responsibilities. It is not uncommon that conflicts arise because of this so it is crucial that you make conscious efforts in ensuring disputes are avoided.
Here are a few tips to avoid disputes:
- Maintain an amicable relationship with your neighbour so you can resolve issues quicker.
- Before deciding to do any alteration or construction on the fence, make sure that you consult your neighbour about it.
- Be aware of your legal responsibilities over a dividing fence
- Should disputes arise, be sure to act quickly and seek help for resolution.
Here are the steps in finding a quick and stress-free resolution with your neighbours:
Talk to your neighbour
Oftentimes, you don’t really need to be confrontational when dealing with issues. Especially when the other party is not aware of a problem, it’s best you let them know about it. You’d be amazed with what a discussion can do to fix it.
Never try to resolve the issue with notes and letters as they often lead to misunderstandings. Set up an appointment and find a place where you can talk it out and agree on a best solution. Be ready with what you want to say and clearly state what the problem is and how you feel about it.
When you and your neighbour have agreed on a solution to your problem, make sure that it gets documented. If need be, agree to meet up again in the future to discuss the progress and ensure that you follow it up.
Ask for Legal Advice
If you need further information regarding the laws that apply to tree or fence disputes, you may need to seek legal advice as they can provide you specific information as well as options to help resolve the dispute. You can get legal advice from either a private lawyer or your local community legal centre.
Compared to actually going to court, mediation is a quicker, easier and more affordable alternative in settling disputes. There are various Dispute Resolution Centres in Brisbane that have trained mediators that can stand as a neutral third party and guide you through a structure mediation process.
Resolving via QCAT
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) decisions about disputes over trees and fences on residential land are legally binding. It is cheaper to resolve disputes through QCAT than going to court. They can help resolve disputes through mediation and there would not be a need for a lawyer to represent you in a tribunal hearing.