Angelo had always taken great care of his backyard and was very proud of how neat it was, whereas Danielle and Michelle preferred a more natural bush aesthetic.
Things were ok for several months, before issues started to develop between them. Angelo was upset that Danielle and Michelle’s trees were dropping foliage all over his yard, and branches were ending up in his water feature. Angelo also noted that there were roots coming from the trees into his property, and he was concerned that these would damage the paving. The previous owner of Danielle and Michelle’s place had maintained the trees themselves, and Angelo was disappointed that Danielle and Michelle didn’t seem to want to do the same.
When Angelo went to discuss the issue with the neighbours, the conversation didn’t go well. Danielle and Michelle were confused that Angelo seemed to expect that they would maintain their trees, as in their previous place they had never needed to do so. Angelo was frustrated that Danielle and Michelle didn’t appear to be listening to his concerns.
Angelo called the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) the next day to ask what he could do. He spoke to a Dispute Assessment Officer (DAO) who explained some common techniques for dealing with trees and gave advice for resolving the issue. The DAO also suggested that the DSCV contact Danielle and Michelle to see if they were willing to mediate, which Angelo decided was a good idea.
Danielle and Michelle were initially surprised to receive the mediation invitation from Angelo, but after talking to the DSCV they decided that it might be a good idea to participate.
The mediation provided an opportunity for each of the parties to put forward their point of view in a structured setting, with the mediators guiding the process. The parties brought several quotes from licensed contractors for different options, and talked about their experiences in their previous homes and how this was affecting their expectations.
The parties were able to understand each other's point of view and came to an agreement about how to deal with tree problems in the short and long-term.
The parties decided to write down their agreement, which the mediators helped them draft. The agreement stated that Angelo would be responsible for cutting back the branches on the trees day-to-day, but that the trees would be maintained once per year by a professional, which the parties would split costs for. They also agreed to install root barriers on the boundary to prevent the roots from damaging Angelo’s property. Importantly, they also formed an understanding of how the parties would communicate in the future if further issues arose between them.
All parties left the mediation satisfied that they had the chance to discuss their concerns and come to a practical agreement about how they could go about their lives once they got home.
*Case is based on an amalgam of actual DSCV file material. Names and details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.