Online dispute resolution is the latest high-tech tool to help resolve disputes between hostile tenants, their neighbours and landlords.
Groundbreaking new computer software developed by Victoria University (VU) will soon be used to tackle the rising number of serious neighbourhood disputes in major cities.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the number of people living in high-rise apartments has grown rapidly in the past 30 years, with condominiums now making up about a third of all dwellings in Melbourne.
An increase in the number of disputes arising from noise complaints, maintenance and rent payment is placing extra pressure on police, local government and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Developer of the new software, VU Professor John Zeleznikow, said research showed neighbourhood arguments were one of the most pervasive forms of dispute, damaging individuals and the local community.
Professor Zeleznikow said his computer program would help resolve disputes via the Internet, easing neighbourhood tensions by allowing each party to come to agreement in the comfort of their own home.
"It is often not possible for people to move away from each other after a major neighbourhood dispute, especially if you're living in close proximity within an apartment building,'' Professor Zeleznikow said.
"This new software is about using information technology to help people live better together. The way you resolve the dispute is often more important than the actual resolution.''
Professor Zeleznikow said the software, based on game theory techniques developed by Nobel Laureate John Nash, asks each complainant to prioritise their demands, assigning each a numeric value so that the sum is 100.
"Through a series of trade-offs and compensation strategies, disputants can often achieve 70-80 per cent of what they require, rather than the traditional 50-50 approach to resolving disputes. And all this can happen without the need to meet face-to-face.''
Professor Zeleznikow, whose book Enhanced Dispute Resolution Through the Use of Information Technology was recently published by Cambridge University Press, said research indicates that neighbourhood disputes are not always well managed by third party interveners such as police or local government.
"Current legal remedies are widely seen as inadequate because of their expense, delay and inflexibility when needing to be tailored to a particular dispute,'' he said. "No one is arguing that using this technology will be the norm and that we will now never see our neighbours. We are saying that in a certain percentage of cases it could be useful, particularly in difficult cases.''
Professor Zeleznikow's software is also being developed for use by Relationships Australia to help soothe the stress of divorce settlements.
For interview: Professor John Zeleznikow, Victoria University, 9505 3323 or 0432 154 217
Daniel Clarke, Media Officer
Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University
Ph: 9919 9491 or 0407 771 072. Email: [email protected]