My neighbour and I are having a land dispute. Who can help us?

Disagreements between neighbours over property boundaries can be an unfortunate reality for some homeowners.

As with any difference in life, it is always desirable to resolve a neighbourly dispute long before it ends up in an expensive court battle. But if your polite attempts to settle the issue fail to deliver an acceptable outcome, it is vital to protect your rights as a homeowner.

If a neighbour's fence, tree or any other structure is encroaching upon your land, raising your concerns with the local council could be a positive first step towards a resolution. You may consider engaging the services of a licensed surveyor to produce an up-to-date report confirming your property’ boundaries to present to your council representative as supporting evidence. Conducting a survey will also establish precisely where a homeowner stands, allowing for better-informed decisions.

It is important to note your council does not possess the legal power to rule on disputes. However, they may assist by reviewing existing maps and regulations to provide an informed opinion on the validity of your claims.

Mediation could be the next-best option if a trip to the council fails to solve the issue.

For example, the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (https://www.disputes.vic.gov.au/) is a government agency that provides mediation services for a range of disagreements, including between neighbours. Similarly, the Queensland government provides ‘neighbourhood mediation’ (https://www.qld.gov.au/law/legal-mediation-and-justice-of-the-peace/settling-disputes-out-of-court/neighbourhood-mediation) in an attempt to keep disputes out of the court system.

Alternatively, you may consider one of several free and independent mediation centres available to parties involved in a dispute. In NSW, Community Justice Centres (http://www.cjc.justice.nsw.gov.au/), provides no-cost mediation to those hoping to avoid an expensive court case.

If none of the above solutions helped resolve your land dispute, seek the help of a qualified lawyer for advice on your next move.