Sacro Edinburgh Community Mediation

Sarah and Jenny have been neighbours for three years. Sarah lives on the top floor above Jenny in a four high apartment block. Jenny is a young professional holding down a demanding job with various shift patterns. On Jenny’s days off she likes to socialise and often returns to the flat late. Sarah is married with two young sons. Sarah’s husband also works long shifts and is often out of the house.

Problems between the neighbours began when Sarah’s son began to crawl. Jenny started to complain to Sarah about the noise she was experiencing and told her this was wakening her from sleep and preventing her from working from home. At first the complaints were polite however these escalated quickly. Sarah felt Jenny had become more aggressive in her complaints, often there would be banging on the ceiling which frightened her son and soon Jenny started banging on Sarah’s door shouting at her.

Communication completely broke down between Sarah and Jenny. Sarah would leave the house for most of the day to stop any noise and this started to have an impact on her relationship with her husband. Jenny started to look at moving houses but couldn’t afford the costs associated.

Case Progression

Both parties were initially reluctant to meet with mediators. Sarah did not feel that there was anything she could do to change the situation. Jenny felt as though she could not give up any time to meet with the mediators and dismissed the service. Lengthy phone calls to each party resulted in an agreement to talk to the mediators and discuss what could be done in mediation.

Mediation Meeting

To begin, both parties were met individually. Both parties were invited to and then attended a mediation meeting. The meeting had a shaky start. It was clear that the main issue was a clash of lifestyles between the parties. Jenny, who has no children, found it difficult to understand why Sarah could not just keep her children quiet. Sarah became very upset by Jenny’s attitude towards her, viewing this as an insult to her parenting skills.

The mediators encouraged both parties to give as much information as possible about the exact nature of the problem- what times, which rooms, what kind of noise was being heard, any times that were quiet etc. This allowed both parties to build up a full picture of the problem and gain a full understanding of the other parties lifestyle and movements to enable them to work together to establish if anything could be done to make the situation better for both of them. By sharing information in a structured, dedicated meeting , a lot of new information that came to light. Assumptions were challenged and broken down. Everyone had a clearer understanding of what was happening in a calmer, rational way.

Outcomes

  • Both parties were able to acknowledge that soundproofing in the building was poor and that little could be done about this.
  • By comparing schedules, peak noise times were able to be identified and each party made suggestions about how this could be improved. Sarah agreed to take measures to reduce noise in the early morning. Jenny accepted that around teatime to bedtime would be noisy and decided to avoid her house during these times.
  • Simply by talking, both parties were able to gain a fuller understanding of each other’s situations. Although Jenny acknowledged that she would still be affected by noise, she advised she felt much better just knowing that Sarah was not just sitting around drinking tea all day and letting the kids run wild.
  • Both parties were able to talk together about the noise improving once Sarah’s children began nursery and school. It helped both parties to acknowledge that this problem had a limited time frame and should get better.
  • Jenny agreed to make an effort to reduce her noise in the late night. Not opening and closing her wardrobe doors would make a massive difference to Sarah who was often awakened by this.
  • Both parties agreed to communicate in future by approaching each other’s doors. Barriers had been broken down in the meeting that meant that they felt comfortable doing this.

Signposting

Sarah was very badly affected by this situation and the impact it had on her caring for her children and putting a strain on her relationship with her husband. Sarah was referred to a post natal depression counselling service.