Contrary to what a certain Australian TV soap would have us believe, not everybody has good neighbours.
Among nosiness, noisiness and downright nastiness, some of us would far rather serve the folks next door with an eviction notice than with a cuppa.
But if you’re suffering with nightmare neighbours, perhaps it’s time to break down the wall – or the fence – between you.
We’ve put together a guide to tackling the most common neighbourly disputes.
Does your neighbour constantly park in your spot? Are you always finding yourself blocked into your driveway? Tired of having to perform an elaborate 673-point turn every time you need to leave the house?
Your first step is to find official documentation that confirms your entitlement to the spot in question, be it deeds or a tenancy agreement.
The rules get a little greyer when it comes to parking on the street. Unwritten social rules dictate that we’d all prefer to park in front of our own properties, but while the Highway Code prohibits parking directly in front of a property, unfortunately there’s no automatic right to stretches of street outside your house.
The best solution is to arrange a time convenient for the both of you to have a direct, mature conversation about your problem, perhaps even compromising with a rota so you both get fair use of the space in question. Oh, and try and avoid passive-aggressive notes stuck to the windscreen.
We’re a nation of animal lovers, with an estimated 46% of households having pets. But sometimes one home’s furry friend can be another’s fury-inducing fiend.
If you’re experiencing a pet issue that’s far from petty, the first instance is to try and talk face-to-face with your neighbours. If that doesn’t work, problems such as dog fouling and all-night barking should be reported to your local council, as they may be breaching environmental health laws.
If you suspect your neighbours may be neglecting an animal, do not hesitate to contact the RSPCA.
Loud music and all-night parties aren’t just annoying, they may also be illegal.
The Noise Act outlines permitted levels of noise for different situations, and local authorities have specialist measuring equipment to ensure these levels aren’t being exceeded.
Under the Noise Act, local councils must take reasonable steps to investigate complaints of disruptions between 11pm and 7am, as causing excessive noise at night can be a form of anti-social behaviour.
If authorities agree with your complaint, they can issue an abatement notice, ordering those responsible to either stop the noise altogether or lower it to a more acceptable level. Multi-thousand pound fines can be imposed for breaches of the notice.
On the other side of the coin, if you’re planning something you know may make a racket for neighbours such as a party or a DIY project, the most important thing is to let them know in advance. The more you know about their lifestyle, the better, so you can try and work around them.
Of course, we have no say about what happens behind closed doors, but there are laws in place to deal with overgrown, unruly gardens.
The exact legislation all depends on what sort of issue you’re having. Weeds, brambles and rubbish that’s been left to pile up, risking rat infestation, are all covered under the Environmental Health Act.
If your neighbour’s aversion to keeping on top of vital maintenance work is causing an eyesore, The Housing Act and The Town and Country Planning Act may be able to help. If a direct conversation with the culprit themselves doesn’t do the trick, it’s also worth contacting their landlord.
As of yet, there’s no Mind Your Own Business Act, so, with no laws in place to protect you, handling a nosy neighbour is all about tackling the problem head-on.
You can try planting bushes or making sure your curtains are closed to put off prying eyes, but, in the long run, it’ll be far better to talk it out.
Tact is key – you don’t want to risk alienating them. Politely explain that you value your privacy and, while you’re happy to be friends, there are some personal questions you’d rather not answer.
You may find their over-interest in your life stems from loneliness, so take the time to chat to them and you may be surprised by the friendship that forms.
If things cross over into more threatening territory – going through your mail or rubbish and sneaking around your back garden – there are trespass laws in place and police should be contacted.
With most neighbour-on-neighbour disputes, legal action is possible, but this should be treated as a last resort.
There are several other options to consider first, from simply going straight to the source for a mature discussion to trying out mediation services.
Have you had a brush with a nightmare neighbour? Share your story in the Comments.
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