When you bought your Seattle-area property, you thought you were moving into a nice, quiet neighborhood where you could eventually enjoy your upcoming retirement. Unfortunately, a dispute with your neighbor has completely deteriorated over the last year. His new fence is well over the property line, and he has refused to trim several trees that now have limbs resting directly on your roof. It is not uncommon for neighbors to have a falling out due to a property dispute, and while you might be tempted to rent a bulldozer and knock down the new fence yourself, this is not the best way to approach the problem.
In general, there are three stages to resolving a property dispute. If you follow these stages, then you may have a better chance of solving the situation without coming to blows or engaging in property destruction.
Start with diplomacy
If you are having problems with a neighbor, start by assuming that he is completely unaware of the situation. Some people do not realize the full effects their actions might have on others. Take some time to consider the problem and play out different scenarios in your head that revolve around talking reasonably with your neighbor about the issues.
Before you have the sit-down, prepare yourself for a defensive — and possibly angry — reaction. This will help you keep your cool if the response is not optimal. If you cannot resolve the problem by taking a friendly and rational approach, then it is time to move on to the next stage.
Bring in a mediator
The second stage of the dispute resolution process is to seek mediation. If you sit down with a neutral third-party to discuss the matter, you and your neighbor may be able to reach accord. The mediator will help you keep communication lines open and focused on solving the dispute. If the second stage fails to resolve the matter, you can then move to the final solution.
Go to court
The last stage to reach a resolution is to take legal action. The downside of reaching this stage is that you will leave the decision in the hands of a judge, and it could go either way,. In fact, if you go straight to this stage, the court might rule that you need to try mediation before pursuing your claim in court.
If you are having a property dispute with a neighbor, consider going through the above stages to resolve the problem. However, if the first two stages do not work, you might be able to take legal action to settle the dispute.