Guideline for
neighbour problems

This treatment guideline provides recommendations that can be applied in neighbour dispute resolution processes. They are aimed towards good outcomes for parties involved in disputes. The interventions are drawn from a range of interventions available in international literature.

Guidelines are developed according to the Guideline Method. Find out more by clicking on the button below. 

11 recommendations

Directed to front-line neighbour justice practitioners

Aimed at reaching good outcomes for people dealing with noise complaints, border conflicts and other neighbour conflicts

Designed to empower users

Recommendations according to The Treatment Guideline method

This treatment guideline shows a set of recommended interventions that are actionable. They can be applied in employment disputes, such as non-payment of wages. We have drawn interventions that are beneficial for the wellbeing of disputing parties from international literature in the field of justice. 

The recommendations on this page will be reviewed by external experts. Similar to recommendations in the medical sector, they will be updated accordingly.

HiiL’s prof. dr. Maurits Barendrecht, Tim Verheij, Isabella Banks and Manasi Nikam have developed the methodology for different justice issues.

More research where interventions are systematically compared and evaluated is needed. Combining research with experiences from justice practitioners make more solid recommendations, which are tailored to the local context.

To Whom Is This Guideline Addressed?

A broad range of neighbour justice practitioners can use this guideline. Mediators, community workers, judges and family members for example. We have designed the recommendations to be actionable and applicable to the different roles that these people take.

  • Providing information and advice to set norms or contain the dispute are important first steps of a resolution process. Often, family members and friends take this role. Community workers provide parties in a dispute with this service as well.
  • Mediators, social workers and therapists are there to have parties convene and communicate with each other. They support both parties at the same time.
  • In resolving the dispute, lawyers, paralegals and judges often play a role as well. Solutions are being shaped and where needed decisions are made. 
  • After agreements are concluded, they might need improvement over time. People’s needs change. Practitioners feel the need to keep overview and ensure that people got the outcomes they need.
  • Throughout the entire process, from preventing, communicating to resolving and aftercare, practitioners need recommendations to support them in their work. 

We have developed 11 recommendations so far. They can be applied by justice workers dealing with neighbour disputes to give people fair and effective solutions. Neighbours who try to resolve disputes themselves can benefit from these recommendations as well.

The recommendations are linked to 8 building blocks or types of interventions that can prevent or resolve neighbour justice problems.

Combining research and shared practices help people reach fair solutions

Building blocks

These are the building blocks for neighbour justice issues. Find out more about the building blocks here.

Recommendations

Together, these recommendations form a guideline. Find out more about the guideline method here.

Preventing (1)
People can prevent problems with their neighbours by proactively setting rules on acceptable noise exposure.
Preventing (1)
The level of annoyance of people as a result of noise depends on several factors. Neighbours’ tolerance to noise is lower in the master bedroom compared to other rooms in the house. Rules on acceptable noise exposure that are categorized, measurable and objective can prevent disputes.
Preventing (2)
Norms and rules of behaviour that are recognised and respected by the community may take the form of laws or social norms. They can be created and enforced by justice system actors as well as authority figures in schools, workplaces, or religious and other communities. Norms may also be generated bottom-up, as a function of what people do in practice.
Preventing (2)
Good neighbour agreements aim to promote positive behaviour in communities and extend the range of tools to address anti-social behaviour that is already in place. They can be made between neighbours and between tenants and landlords. Good neighbour agreements set standards, clarifying acceptable behaviour and highlighting the consequences of unacceptable behaviour.

In more severe conflicts, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders can be applied. An ASBO is a written order from the court for an individual to behave, or refrain from behaving, in a particular manner, rather than an agreement between parties based on trust. The order can also contain explicit instructions that restrict an individual from being in a particular area or neighbourhood.
Preventing (3)
De-escalation involves the use of verbal and nonverbal skills to gradually resolve potentially aggressive situations by redirecting the party to a neighbor dispute to a calmer personal space. It is often recognized as an important part of aggression management in mental health settings, particularly with regards to decreasing the use of seclusion and restraints.
Preventing (3)
An important de-escalation technique that can be applied when setting limits is authentic engagement, where the third party is able to stay sincerely connected to the party in the dispute. According to this style, the third party (or other helper) elicits the person's story and actively tries to understand the situation. Authentic engagement requires strong interpersonal skills and acknowledging feelings of others.
Convening (1)
Neighbourhood conflicts are usually about one party, the complainant, wanting the other party, the respondent, to change in some way. Conflicts with such a structure are likely to reflect asymmetrical conflict perceptions. Asymmetrical conflicts are less likely to lead to a meeting than symmetrical conflicts.
Convening (1)
In order for the parties to come together, conflict parties first have to acknowledge that a problematic situation exists which needs to be solved. A neutral third party can invite the passive party to conduct an intake, according to a predetermined format.
Convening (2)
Judges, mediators, facilitators, and innovators know how difficult it is to bring together people who are in a conflict. Competing interests, interpersonal hostility, or indifference about the problem create barriers to communication that practitioners and the parties themselves struggle to overcome.
Convening (2)
An 'engagement style', of approaching disputes includes directness with an emotionally expressive demeanor. This style is comfortable with more emotionally intense dialogue. This style aims to approach the other party in a constructive way and find a solution that is acceptable to both parties. Behavioral interactions in a problem-solving style include approaching the other party by saying: “Together with you, I would like to [shared beneficial outcome]”.
Communicating (1)
When, in the course of conflict or negotiation, one’s positive self-image and deeply held beliefs feel threatened, there is a tendency to react defensively. Active listening sharply contrasts with defensiveness, as it requires that parties to conflict devote considerable energy towards trying to respect the point of view of the other.
Communicating (1)
An active listener, (1) Non-verbally communicates their involvement in the conversation by giving the speaker their unconditional attention;
(2) Paraphrases the speaker’s message (the content and the feelings associated with it) by restating, without judgement and in their own words, what they think the speaker is trying to say, and;
(3) Asks questions to encourage the speaker to elaborate on their beliefs or feelings.
Communicating (2)
Interpersonal conflicts can be understood in terms of parties’ positions, and parties’ underlying needs and interests. A broader understanding of these needs and interests is important.
Communicating (2)
Reframing the conflict in terms of underlying concerns, needs, and interests rather than positions can be characterized as a cooperative, constructive or nonviolent approach to conflict. Such approach aims to satisfy the priority needs of each party to the conflict.
Communicating (3)
The degree to which parties speak out and stand up for their own interests in a neighbour conflict, can be represented on a spectrum that includes both appropriate and excessive (or aggressive) levels of assertiveness. Both behaviors involve the expression of one’s needs and rights, to increase understanding between the parties.
Communicating (3)
An appropriately assertive, message should be narrow, descriptive, and direct: the message does not achieve its purpose if it is too aggressive, with the intention of blaming the other, or conversely, expressed in a very shy and passive way.
Resolving (1)
Where parties in a neighbour dispute are not able to solve their conflict together, the involvement of a mediator might be necessary. In asymmetric conflicts, it is important for mediators to aks the right questions.
Resolving (1)
In order for parties to focus on outcomes, a mediator tends to steer the process through posing solution-focused questions. He or she encourages the clients to look ahead to their desired future situation and how they can achieve this outcome. It revolves around the outcome that the clients want to achieve. Solution-focused mediators will ask “What would you prefer instead of the conflict?”, defined in positive, realistic and concrete terms.
Resolving (2)
Parties that are locked together in conflict may find it difficult to agree on a resolution. When parties to conflict get stuck, or when one party’s rights have been violated, a neutral adjudicator who is familiar with the type of problem they are facing is needed to make a decision and move the process forward.
Resolving (2)
Many people mistakenly believe that going to court is the only option available to them to get what they want. For parties to a neighbour dispute who need the support of a third party to make a decision, entering mediation (at least as a first step) is more conducive to well-being than initiating such adversarial process.
Aftercare
It is important to understand what outcomes people in a dispute need, to understand if their problems have been resolved or identify where further improvement is needed.
Aftercare
Outcomes in neighbour disputes can be measured on the level of an individual, through surveys or other means. Rather than measuring general outcomes of programmes and interventions, these outcomes are tailored to individuals’ needs. People involved in neighbour disputes or looking to prevent them in the future could, for example, seek to achieve the following specific outcomes: (1) Respectful communication, (2) Less nuisance, (3) Repairing relationships, (4) Repair or compensation, and (5) Solutions to border issues
Justice Dashboard

Justice Dashboard