BUENOS AIRES — City living often means getting to know your neighbors well, though not necessarily by choice. Whether its late-night partying or that leak from their floor through your ceiling, apartment dwellers often find themselves face-to-face with very tangible conflicts with their fellow citizens. Buenos Aires, a city where people increasingly live in tight quarters, wants to help its residents to avoid winding up in court — or coming to blows.

Alejandro Amor, the city ombudsman, has launched a new Buenos Aires guide that explains the various mediation services available in the Argentine capital. "Arguments [...] are very frequent in big cities, and more so if we don't know our neighbors and only have distant relations with them," says Amor.

The Basic Guide to Rights: Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration is being distributed on street corners and in kiosks, with information for people about how to talk to neighbors, approach a mediator, as well as broader questions such as consumer rights and complaints about city services.

Buenos Aires reports that the most frequent problems in residential buildings are actually administrative (more than 40% of cases), then leaks (30%), followed by disputes among neighbors (7.9%) and noise (5.1%). The ombudsman office recounts some of the more memorable conflicts resolved by city mediators: the man who took an axe to a neighbor's Honda that was blocking his garage, the family cut off from their bathroom because a neighbor had somehow broken in and "annexed" it into his own flat, or the family forced to build a coop for their cockerel to help it sleep a little longer so others in the building could too.

Viva the peacemakers!

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