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When buying a new house we focus on our future, visions and dreams.  Even more with changes in stamp duty making these possible.  Making sure the dream does not turn into a nightmare depends partly on developing and maintaining good neighbourly relationships.  This means ensuring any neighbour disputes or disagreements or disputes with your neighbour do not escalate.  These practical steps can help you maintain neighbourly relations even when you disagree.

be aware of “triggers” for neighbour disputes

Disagreements between neighbours are common and normal.  We all want to protect our home and lifestyle.  Being aware of what triggers these disputes equips us to nip them in the bud.  These can include

  • Noise ranging from music to uninsulated floorboards
  • Movement of hedges, fences etc,
  • Trespass i.e. building onto someone’s land
  • Disagreements about building works and planning permission

Often these issues arise because we can’t or don’t want to talk to our neighbour about something we are planning to do, for example:

  • We are not clear about where the boundary lies and plant a hedge assuming it doesn’t make much difference
  • We might not let them know that we are planning a party because we are embarrassed that we are not inviting them
  • We may go ahead and apply for planning permission without talking to them for fear they may not want us to build

Build a working neighbourly relationship

Love thy neighbour may be a step too far for many of us.  So it is helpful to take some time to think about what kind of relationship we want with our neighbour.  The best way to do this is:

  • Treat your neighbour in a way that you want to be treated
  • Understand that they may want to be treated differently.  For example, you may be friends and they may want to have an arms-length relationship.  In either case, stay polite and remain sensitive without being too intrusive
  • Don’t force the relationship, let it evolve slowly
  • Accept that they may have different boundaries to you and don’t take it personally
  • Be clear but gentle about your boundaries
  • Understand that for many our homes are our safe havens and any perceived threat can create extreme reactions

Be prepared to have difficult conversations

Most disagreements between neighbours arise out of an initial outburst or misunderstanding that is in reaction to something that has happened and matters escalate from there.  To avoid this happening, you can:

  • Think about what you want from your neighbour e.g. for them to ensure that their builders do not block your path when making deliveries, before you talk to them about it
  • Try to anticipate how they might respond to that and what they might want and need from you
  • Be clear about what you could let go of
  • Ask them when a good time to have a conversation might be
  • Get clear on the facts e.g. where the boundary actually lies
  • Listen attentively to them
  • Take time to respond

allow for mistakes

Sometimes we over react to issues relating to our property because we feel unsafe.  Our neighbours may do that to.  If we can forgive ourselves and others for these reactive behaviours, we stand a better chance of moving forward from this.  This can be a tall order.  However, beware that the most serious neighbour disputes are those where neighbours are not able to let go of the past and look to the future.

GET professional help

When we have disputes with neighbours, it can be difficult to ask for help.  We feel that we can handle it on our own or it is too small to “make a big deal about”.  But, professionals have experience in resolving these matters quickly and may have solutions that may not have seemed possible.

Surveyors can help define boundaries and clarify practicalities associated with boundaries.  Introducing mediators at an early stage can help to clarify and focus the issues as well as rebuild functional, working neighbourly relations.  The earlier a mediator is intervenes introduced, the better the chance of deescalating the situation.  Lawyers can also clarify the legal position and will be careful to emphasise the emotional and financial cost of escalating the situation.

Above all, know that in my experience, most disputes between neighbours can be resolved so don’t let it drag on, seek a solution as soon as you can.  If you want to have a confidential discussion about a negibour dispute you are experiencing, contact us to set up a conversation and see if we can help.