Mediation Bridges The Dividing Wall


A recently mediated case involved a dispute between two householders concerning a boundary wall/ fence.


A’s house was at a much lower level than B’s and built about 100 years earlier.  The two houses were, at one time, separated by a 1.8m high brick wall which was probably erected when A’s house was first built judging by the type of bricks used in the house and the wall.


Prior to their purchase of the respective properties, the brick wall had collapsed in part and one or other (or possibly both) of the then owners erected a concrete post and panel fence 1.8m high in place of the brick wall.  The previous owner of B’s house had then systematically backfilled soil against the fence which, initially at least, held back the weight of soil.


Subsequently, both properties were sold and over time the concrete post and panel fence began to lean towards A’s house since a fence of this nature is not designed to retain soil.  Over the months/years the relationship between A and B deteriorated, together with the condition of the fence, until eventually A instructed solicitors.


A mediation was arranged.  A wanted the damaged fence replacing with a properly designed retaining wall at a cost of some £16,000.  B advised that they simply did not have the money to pay for such a construction, or even half of it.


In the ensuing discussions it became clear that the deeds to B’s house referred to their responsibility to provide a 1.4m high timber post and rail fence in this location and that the land in this location must have previously sloped towards A, quite steeply.


It was also revealed that A had spent some £3,500 to date in legal and engineering fees.

Because of B’s financial position, they wanted to settle the dispute as cheaply as possible and eventually a settlement was reached whereby B undertook to take down the damaged fence and the soil behind it to re-form the old sloping embankment, also providing a timber post and rail fence at the base of the slope. Much of the labour for this work was to be supplied by B themselves.

In return, A undertook to stand their legal costs to date, to allow B access across their land for excavator and dumper movement (access across B’s land being almost impossible due to the variation in height and existing gardens) and to allow B to tip surplus spoil in selected areas on their land, thus avoiding the cost of disposal.


Both parties were satisfied with the outcome and B subsequently wrote to advise “Since the mediation took place.........I have spoken to my neighbours more in the last few days than in the preceding nine years.  ...............  My wife and I would like to thank you for all your finding a mutually agreeable outcome."  


We can only speculate as to the outcome if the case had gone to court but no doubt the two parties would have polarised by then, the legal costs would have increased dramatically way beyond the value of the dispute and a solution that perhaps one or both parties did not want would have been imposed.


Mediation allowed both parties to win, to have control over the outcome at a reasonable cost, to resolve the dispute quickly and the relationship between the neighbours was restored, as shown above.


This article (which is a simplified account of a real mediation) has been prepared by Michael Dawson FRICS, MCIOB, ACII, FCILA, Accredited Mediator.



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