Family Forum: Over the fence

A neighbour upset about all the things that end up in their yard.

QUESTION:

I need some advice on how to deal with the constant barrage of objects coming over the fence into my property from the neighbours. Balls of all shapes and sizes, frisbees, soft toys, foam bullets, water balloons, drink bottles, shoes, you name it.

You would not believe the sheer volume of material I have to contend with. I am the victim, but I am seen as the villain if I do not return the items to them. I erected a mesh fence, as high as the council would allow and at considerable cost, but still the stuff comes over.

When my daughter came to stay with her dog, they would throw over plastic lunch bags filled with water. Imagine if the dog swallowed them?

I don’t want to go the legal way as it would be costly and also, the problem would escalate.

ANSWER:

Unfortunately, we cannot choose our neighbours and these relationships can continue for a long time.

The panel agrees that legal action is not preferable due to the financial and emotional cost and the risk of escalating the problem. The panel is mindful that such matters are best resolved when dealt with calmly. An informal direct approach is recommended as the most constructive way initially to try to deal with this problem without causing a hostile relationship.

The panel suggests that you write to your neighbour explaining your concerns and invite him/her to discuss the problem. While you may not be confident there will be a favourable response, you never know. A letter may help demonstrate your desire to resolve the issues and provide a record that you have acted reasonably if you need to do so.

Take some photos of items thrown over the fence. Keep a diary recording the dates when items are thrown over, particularly things that could injure someone or cause damage. If your neighbour has not responded constructively to your letter, your local council may be able to provide you with some information and advice to assist.

If this is not successful, it is worth considering mediation or neighbour-dispute resolution as a next step. You could access this either through the council if they offer the service, or perhaps Community Legal Centres SA (clcsa.org.au).

If the problem remains, contact the police on 131 444, especially if you have concerns about your welfare. Explain the problem and the evidence you have. Focus on items that could cause injury or damage. If practical, contact the police when items thrown over are there to be seen.

Legal or police action may be an option of last resort and involves much worry and time. You need to be prepared to persist. Seeking support from a counsellor or conflict coach may also be helpful in this case.

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