Talk to your neighbours about issues
Towing an offending vehicle or starting legal action is not the best way to resolve disputes with your neighbours, Erin Reilly says.
I’ve been living at my current address for almost a year. Seasons have come and gone, but so too has an entire corner of my shared driveway thanks to my neighbour’s obnoxiously oversized 4x4.
My complaint isn’t an anomaly. As more and more houses are squeezed onto smaller plots of land, more and more people are becoming subject to the phenomenon of the ‘‘Shared Driveway’’.
Generally speaking, we don’t give our driveways a second thought. But as our living proximities become closer, it’s important to consider those who use your driveway, especially when it comes to accessing property.
Everyone has the right to access their home unobstructed – it really is that black and white. But how other people use your shared driveway, and how their use impacts yours, can become a bit grey. If you live down a shared driveway or in a subdivision where many properties share the same access lot, the Property Law Act 2007 gives you some implied and legal rights, particularly around access. That means if your neighbour parks their car in a way that impedes your access, they may be in breach.
So what should you do if you have issues with your shared driveway? First things first: talk to your neighbour and try to work the problem out amicably. Remember, you might be able to tow a car, but you can’t get rid of a neighbour (or negative aftershocks) as easily. Always try to approach your neighbour personally, outline your problems, suggest some solutions, and be prepared for a rebuttal from the other side of the argument – because you might not actually be right.
Speaking of which, towing might seem like an easy fix but it could actually cause more harm than good. If a car is parked on council land but is blocking your driveway, you can ask the council to tow it. However, if a car is parked on your shared driveway, towing it will not only exacerbate the situation, your neighbour could also make a claim against you for trespassing on their property.
If you’re a tenant and you’d rather not deal with the problem yourself, ask your landlord or property manager for help. Likewise, if you live in an apartment complex, complain to the body corporate. If civil negotiations go pear-shaped and you need more support, try mediation or seek legal advice. Both options cost money so you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons, but mediation can help neighbours resolve disputes amicably. Taking the issue further will probably cost a lot and ruin any friendly relations you might still have with your neighbour.
Shared driveway issues usually turn out to be non-events if neighbours are comfortable talking to each other in the first place. The ability to have friendly and open conversations means that should an issue crop up, you don’t instantly respond defensively. If you haven’t met your neighbours yet, pluck up the courage and stop them next time you see them over the fence or start a conversation with them on Neighbourly .
First things first: talk to your neighbour and try to work the problem out amicably and don’t get angry.