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Family Forum – Leaf war blows away good feeling

Family Forum provides ideas how to manage neighbourly issues, read on…

Question:

Our neighbour constantly sweeps his backyard and throws the leaves AND dirt over the fence into my fish pond, because some of the leaves have blown into his yard from our fruit tree. He is a nutter who has had the council out about us before, the council officer had no issues with my garden on “council land” (that was the complaint) and said to try and ignore him, which we do. Is there a law that says if you must return leaves it must be in a neat pile? If so I would like a copy so we can print it and put in his letterbox and if he continues we have some legal come back.

Answer:

The panel assumes that the leaves from your tree are not damaging anything on your neighbour’s land, and that tidiness is the only issue. If so, you are not legally liable for the drifting leaves, but your neighbour is probably entitled to return them to your land. Common sense suggests that he has no right to throw other leaves on to your land. He does not have to put them in a neat pile. Common sense also suggests that he is not entitled to put them in your pond. The panel doubts whether it is practical to incur legal costs over such issues.

The only practical approach is to try negotiation as conflict and judgement doesn’t often end well or resolve issues. Consider things from your neighbour’s point of view. What could be preventing him from resolving the issue? It’s likely that he too is finding the situation distressing and wanting a resolution. If you both can name the issue and recognise how that would make him feel, then you may be on the way to improving communication and solving the problem. Staying away from accusatory “you” statements can often help.

Ask yourself what you could do to address his complaint. Could you put a bin at the boundary, and invite him to tip the leaves in to that? Try talking to him on the basis that co-operation could solve the problem.

A community mediation service such as Mediation SA (phone 8350 0376 or for country callers, 1300 850 650) might be able to help, if you are reluctant to approach him.

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Family Forum is a panel of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it. The panel is appointed by Relationships Australia SA.

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