Common ground

Barton hill - cyclist - june 2013 This case was referred to Bristol Mediation by a Housing Worker from one of the Neighbourhood Teams. It concerned a dispute between two council tenants (both single women in their 60s, living in house-flats, one above the other), mainly centering around alleged noise and verbal abuse on both sides. The dispute had been going on for about a year, and had been classified as an Anti-Social Behaviour case, with legal action possible if things were not resolved.

Mediators were allocated to the case and arranged to visit. When mediators visited the upstairs tenant they noticed a mobility scooter outside and a broken chair-lift attached to the stairs. The tenant complained of harassment from the woman below, so that she was frightened to move about in her flat. Present at the visit were her daughter and a friend who helped her as she was disabled.

At first she would not contemplate a meeting with her neighbor and was worried that she might hit her if she saw her, and fetched out a large baseball bat from the corner to show the mediators! Mediators had to ask her to agree not to use it during the mediation process!

Mediators then visited the downstairs tenant. . Her complaints were about excessive noise at all times of day and night, filthy language, verbal abuse, dog noise, shouting, the upstairs tenant not going to bed until 3 a.m., too many people visiting, harassment and intimidation. She believed this was intentional behaviour designed to upset her and she too was wary about meeting.

In the end both agreed to meet, but could not agree on each other’s supporters. After much to and fro, they agreed to meet if a Police Community Service Officer known to both could attend. On the first available date for all, mediators arrived at the venue to find a message that one of the tenants was ill. The meeting was rescheduled for a later date and was attended by both parties, two mediators, a Bristol Mediation observer and the PCSO – who acted as a second observer.

Both parties were able to explain their issues, and seemed to gain some benefit from this. But then the communication deteriorated into accusations both ways, so mediators called a break. During the break the mediators talked to both parties separately about making a small move forward. When the meeting reconvened both ladies seemed more prepared to do this.

They agreed to contact each other over anything that went wrong, to not be verbally abusive to each other, and also agreed to join forces to contact a local Councillor and the housing department about the lack of soundproofing. The PCSO commented that their agreement would take them off the ‘ASB list’ so that their requests would be more likely to be listened to.

So – not best friends – but no longer sworn enemies.