‘Bad Neighbours’ might make for some comical B-grade Hollywood entertainment, but there is nothing funny about a real-life bad neighbour. Living next door to the neighbours from hell is a home owner’s worst nightmare. They can range from abusive, lazy, criminal, party-animals, or just grumpy retirees who don’t like you parking near their driveway. It’s stressful, frustrating, and at times, frightening. So what can you do? Here are our tips for getting the upper-hand and surviving bad neighbours.
Don’t underestimate your neighbour’s ability or willingness to communicate. With the right approach, talking it out can avoid an on-going feud and escalating nasty behaviour. The key is to communicate effectively. Be clear and specific. Be factual, and be polite. Tell your neighbour exactly what is bothering you; ‘your dog barks when you’re not home’, ‘you mow your lawn too early on Saturday mornings’. Making broad generalisations is not effective in solving specific problems.
Choose your battles
Nobody is perfect. In fact, in all likelihood, you may be doing something that irritates your neighbour too. It’s important to ask yourself, ‘how much is this behaviour really inconveniencing me?’ Depending on what it is, of course. Some behaviours are much more unneighbourly than others, and you shouldn’t have to put up with dangerous or criminal activity. However, be aware that bad neighbours have the potential to cause years of headaches for you and can devalue your property if you decide to sell. Some conflicts just aren’t worth the hassle.
And I don’t mean Maxwell Smart. Approach the issue intelligently rather than emotionally, which can be hard to do when your anger levels are high. Firstly, you should be diplomatic with your neighbour, but you don’t need to be apologetic for raising the issue. Mentally prepare yourself before you confront them, or if they’re being a total jerk, prepare yourself for the possible ramifications if you introduce third party mediation (discussed further down). Get to know your local laws and document everything. This will come in handy if the situation gets ugly down the track.
Reconsider calling the police
Unless there is some sort of crime being committed, you might want to refrain from involving the police. You need to understand the police are limited in what they can do, and they can’t necessarily solve your problem. They are not mediators. Their job is to investigate complaints if someone is breaking the law, and to make arrests if necessary. Save the petty dispute matters for a mediator.
If you’ve tried talking with your neighbour and you’re getting nowhere, consider getting a mediator.The idea of mediation is not to determine who is at fault, but to reach a mutual agreement where both parties are satisfied with the outcome. Government-run mediation services are free, and trained professionals will work to identify and address the issues causing conflict and document all sessions. However, mediation is informal and voluntary, meaning both parties must agree to the session. Therefore, adhering to the resolution agreement is also voluntary.
Sometimes, when communication fails, mediation is unsuccessful, and a meteorite didn’t flatten your neighbours house, legal action may be required. Depending on the nature of the dispute, you can file a complaint with police, or contact your local council if the issue is non-threatening and not involving criminal activity. Proceeding with legal action is often a point of no return and could permanently damage your relationship with your neighbour. If you do feel that it is your only option, make sure you keep notes of all interactions, documenting the date, time and events that occurred. This will help back up your claims and give you more credibility when you officially make your complaint.
You may be struck with the misfortune of living next to bad neighbours, but that doesn’t mean you have to become one too. While being a good neighbour may not necessarily defuse the situation, it certainly can’t make it worse. Surviving bad neighbours doesn’t mean tolerating disrespectful, disruptive behaviour, it means taking proactive steps towards being smarter and winning the battle.