Ev­ery­body needs good neigh­bours

Liv­ing next door doesn’t mean you’ll al­ways be the best of bud­dies, but no­body wants a stress­ful fall-out, says LUKE RIXSTANDIN­G

Gloucestershire Echo - - HOME ADVICE -

NEIGH­BOURS of­ten rank up there with the in-laws on the list of peo­ple it’s re­ally use­ful to get on with. You live lit­er­ally side-by­side - but just as with the in­laws, that doesn’t mean you au­to­mat­i­cally get on. So what are neigh­bours battling over, and how should you han­dle a dis­pute with a tricky neigh­bour? We talked to Dr Mike Tal­bot, CEO of con­flict res­o­lu­tion ex­perts UK Me­di­a­tion, for his thoughts on the mat­ter...

CAUSES OF CON­CERN

NOISE com­plaints fre­quently rank among the most com­mon cause of neigh­bour ir­ri­ta­tion, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing sum­mer with chil­dren off school, out­door DIY projects, siz­zling bar­be­cues, and long evenings out on the pa­tio all tak­ing place. Boundary is­sues in­volv­ing shared spa­ces or fences also com­monly cause con­ster­na­tion. “Plants come up quite a lot,” says Mike. “If my neigh­bour’s plant is grow­ing through my fence, and I cut it off or lay down weed­killer, in their eyes I might have killed their plant.” The hard­est is­sues to re­solve in­volve life­style – fun­da­men­tal be­hav­iours that res­i­dents are un­will­ing to change. “Cook­ing smells can be con­tentious,” says Mike. “Plus late-night par­ties, drink­ing or smok­ing cannabis in the gar­den – es­pe­cially when the neigh­bours are of a more con­ser­va­tive dis­po­si­tion.” If re­quired, re­mem­ber that your lo­cal coun­cil has a duty to in­ves­ti­gate so-called ‘statu­tory nui­sances’ – any dis­tur­bances that could be dam­ag­ing to a cit­i­zen’s health.

BUILD A RE­LA­TION­SHIP

“WE’RE less in­clined to know our neigh­bours these days,” says Mike, “so some­times your first con­ver­sa­tion with your neigh­bour is when you’ve got a dis­pute.” Even an oc­ca­sional ‘hello’ in the drive­way helps build some sort of rap­port, which can give you in­valu­able credit when you need to raise an is­sue. Not know­ing your neigh­bour also means you’re less likely to pipe up when you first have a prob­lem, which al­lows re­sent­ment to build and fes­ter. Mike says it’s the num­ber one prob­lem he en­coun­ters: “If you wait ‘til you’re re­ally an­noyed, you can’t dis­guise your anger. The other per­son will then feel at­tacked and lash back, and that’s when things can go to a re­ally bad place.”

MIND YOUR MAN­NERS

WHEN you do need to go knock­ing, pick an ap­pro­pri­ate time, and, with­out mean­ing to pa­tro­n­ise, play nice. “Don’t go round at 10 o’clock when you’ve had a can of some­thing,” says Mike, “and be pre­pared to take a con­cil­ia­tory ap­proach.” If you’re re­ally ner­vous, you could write your neigh­bour a note, or where ap­pro­pri­ate go through their land­lord – but it’s gen­er­ally best to at least start with face-to­face. “I al­ways say lis­ten first,” con­tin­ues Mike. “Speak to your neigh­bour and see what their take is – there’s of­ten a good rea­son and you want to let them know you’re tak­ing that into ac­count be­fore putting across your per­spec­tive. Col­lab­o­rate with your neigh­bour to take on the prob­lem, rather than tak­ing on your neigh­bour ‘as’ the prob­lem.” Be par­tic­u­larly cau­tious when dis­cussing the be­hav­iour of un­ruly chil­dren, as even an im­plied slight on some­one’s par­ent­ing will gen­er­ally go down like a pint of warm beer. You’re try­ing to come to a con­sen­sus, so how­ever stuckup/ ir­re­spon­si­ble you con­sider your neigh­bour to be, try to keep value judge­ments to your­self.

THE LET­TER OF THE LAW

WE were go­ing to run through the le­gal specs you might need for dif­fer­ent si­t­u­a­tions, but it’s com­plex, sce­nario-spe­cific, and not some­thing you want to get in­volved in if you can help it. It also might not work. While in­for­mal meth­ods like me­di­a­tion em­pha­sise com­pro­mise, in law there’s of­ten a win­ner and a loser, and for­mal set­tle­ments will show on the deeds.

Bang­ing on a wall and shout­ing is not the best way to con­tact your neigh­bour about noise

Noise com­plaints are the big­gest prob­lem

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