Unhappy with your neighbours?

Even if you don’t necessarily want to socialise with your neighbours, it is nonetheless important to have a good relationship with them, because if you don’t, things can get pretty ugly and unpleasant pretty quickly.

This is particularly true if you own your own home, as you can’t just move away from a bad neighbour at the drop of a hat, as you have the option of doing when you’re renting once your lease is up.

But what if you end up being stuck with an unpleasant neighbour who seems to get annoyed and complain about the slightest little things ad nauseam, or is noisy, rude or disruptive?

#1 Be nice! 

If you find yourself confronted with a rude or aggressive neighbour, the worst thing that you can do is arc up as well, as it will only serve to escalate the situation and make matters a whole lot worse. Always strive to stay calm and measured, and give your neighbour the opportunity to vent if they have something they want to get off their chest, before you respond.

When it is time for you to have your say, try to do so in a gentle and friendly manner that acknowledges your neighbour’s concerns and take steps to reach a peaceful resolution, or if it is you who has an issue with something that your neighbour is doing, tell them your concerns and let them know how their actions are negatively impacting you but always do so in a friendly and conciliatory manner. You will always be more likely to win people over with kindness and understanding than with anger.

#2 Stick to the facts

Let your neighbour know why their actions or behaviours are causing you difficulties but don’t get personal, make judgements on their behaviour or lifestyle, or resort to abuse, as it will likely get you nowhere and only serve to deepen the divide.

#3 Proceed with caution

If you feel that your neighbour is unstable and volatile and could potentially become overly aggressive or even violent towards you, do not approach them with your grievances. Instead, speak with your committee or manager to make them aware of the situation, and raise the matter with the appropriate local authority if need be.

#4 Understand your by-laws and rules 

By making yourself aware of your building’s by-laws and rules, not only will you know what you can and cannot do within your building, you will also know when any of your neighbours have fallen foul of these requirements so that action can be taken against them, if required.

If you feel that a new by-law needs to be created – or an existing one needs to be strengthened – in order to address a particular problem, this can be done, so ask that a motion be put on the agenda for the next committee meeting so you can discuss your initiative with the committee.

#5 If all else fails…

Depending on the issue you can also contact Council rangers (e.g. for noise or dangerous animals) or the police (if you think the law is being breached).

Another avenue for dealing with problem neighbours is the court system, but given that this can be time consuming, costly, and is likely to cause irreparable damage to your relationship with your neighbour, it should only be viewed as a last resort.

Before doing so, consider engaging the services of a professional mediator to help you resolve your differences and restore harmony before getting the lawyers involved.