Neighbours from Hell? Dealing with Problems Next Door
The popular Small Faces ditty Lazy Sunday famously asked, “wouldn’t it be nice to get on with my neighbours?” Life is certainly easier if we’re on harmonious terms with those that live in proximity to our homes. We don’t need to be the best of friends. Basic courtesy and civility go a long way though, especially if you find yourself lacking a cup of sugar or need to borrow an additional parking space.
Sadly, it’s not always possible to live in perfect step with others. Everybody has a different threshold for what is considered difficult behaviour. What you deem unacceptable may be commonplace for another resident. Going to battle with neighbours is never advisable, though. You’ll create a hostile environment that ultimately leaves you feeling uncomfortable in your own home. Instead, try to find a way to reach agreeable compromise. You’ll all be happier for it.
Common Neighbour Disputes
It’s a rare and harmonious utopia that never sees neighbours annoy each other. Some people choose to keep this simmering rage to themselves, preferring to seethe in silence. Others will immediately make their displeasure known. Most disputes between neighbour’s fall into one of three categories.
The single biggest issue that often causes inter-neighbor conflict is noise. Whether your neighbor is a heavy metal enthusiast that blasts Metallica until the small hours, a lead-footed stomper in the apartment above or a dog that is left alone all day and barks the house down, unreasonable levels of noise will always cause consternation.
You have to measure whether your neighbour is truly noisy, or you are just used to more peace and quiet. If a single 90-year-old moves out of the house next door and a family of five move in, there will always be a discrepancy in volume. Before starting to rage, ensure that you are being reasonable in your expectations.
Neighbouring homes often have to share grounds and facilities. That can lead to boundary disputes. Shared driveways, for example, can lead to ill feeling if one neighbour is believed to be hogging the space. Equally, overhanging trees and plants can encroach into another home.
Deciding what is an appropriate boundary is all important for harmonious neighbouring relations. Building an extension that overlooks another home, for example, is just bad manners. Fair and equitable division of shared territory must be respected between residents.
Sometimes, a neighbor may damage your property – whether by accident or design. Children may accidentally kick a football through your window. The paint of your car may be scratched by a wayward open door. In an apartment block, a leak from one flat may seep into another.
Damage is a touchy subject, because it always leads to a secondary conversation – that of financial responsibility. Nothing makes human beings fall out faster than a dispute over money, so tread carefully around this topic.
Managing Neighbourhood Disputes
Eventually, you are going to need to do something about your problem neighbors. Simply ignoring the issue and hoping it goes away solves nothing. You’ll just make yourself increasingly miserable and grow ever more resentful toward your neighbors. Take a deep breath, steady yourself, and prepare to improve the situation.
You may be surprised at how effective a simple conversation can be. Do not go in all guns blazing, pointing fingers and raising your voice. Take a moment to compose yourself and think about what you are going to say. Express your concerns firmly but politely and test the waters of your reaction.
It’s quite likely that a neighbour will be mortified that they are causing such issues. They may not realize that their music is loud, that their plants and trees are overhanging, or that their children are misbehaving. Anybody of a reasonable mindset, who is approached in a similarly fair-minded manner, will meet you halfway to resolve the issue.
Just remember, compromise may be essential. You have your preferences, but your neighbour’s also have theirs. If you do not enjoy their music taste, for example, you do not have the right to demand they never play it. Instead, settle on a time where the volume will be reduced.
Report the Problem
If polite conversation yields no results, start to keep a diary of your issues. If the neighbours are noisy, write down when and how they are making an inappropriate din. If they are destructive, ensure this is jotted down and take photographs of the evidence.
The point of all this is to file a complaint with the relevant authority. If you both share the same landlord, you have your first port of call. If the behavior is illegal, the police will obviously want to be involved. If the issue is one of boundaries, the local council may be able to help.
Whoever you turn to, evidence and data will be essential. Do not just call with a laundry list of irritations and ailments. This will be dismissed as a personality clash to be resolved among yourselves. If you can prove that your quality of life is being diminished, however, you stand a better chance of seeing results.
Sometimes, we just need to choose a hill that we’re prepared to die on. If you honestly feel that you cannot reconcile with your neighbors, consider moving on. Life is too short for a war of attrition with the Jones’ next door.
This is obviously easier if you’re renting. Give notice to your landlord, explaining your reasons. It will benefit the landlord to know about these issues, as it must be factored into future placements. If it was just a unique personality clash between you and your neighbours, that’s one thing. If the problem is likely to arise again with new tenants, a landlord may need to reconsider their options.
If you are a homeowner, selling up and moving on is considerably more difficult. The process takes time – and if your neighbors are particularly anti-social, they may deter potential buyers! Bide your time and explain the situation to an estate agent. Such professionals are skilled at spinning scenarios and will find a way to arrange viewings when your neighbors are out of the picture.