Neighbours are an important part of the social community in which most of us live. Whether your home is a flat, a terraced house or a detached residence, there are bound to be other people living in the vicinity.
And while not everyone wants to be best buddies with their neighbours, maintaining cordial relations has countless advantages that can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying your home.
In fact, it may be naïve to assume that you needn’t make the effort to be friendly with your neighbours.
The payback is undeniable when you consider the alternatives. We’ve all heard stories of noisy, inconsiderate neighbours making life a misery for those living nearby. You really don’t want that to be you.
In this article, let’s take a look at three common scenarios where getting on well with next door is the key to a peaceful and harmonious existence for everyone concerned.
1. Home improvements and building work
If you are planning to get the builders in to improve your property, it is a good idea to let your neighbours know. Surely, you would reasonably expect the same treatment if the boot was on the other foot.
A friendly chat over a cup of tea to share your plans and timescales may be all that’s needed to apologise for any inconvenience and disruption, to minimise the risk of misunderstandings and upset further down the lane and, if nothing else, as a common courtesy.
Should you require planning permission for your project, your immediate neighbours will be given the opportunity by the local planning authority to voice their opinion.
Any objections will be taken into account when the council make the decision to grant or refuse consent. Consulting with your neighbours beforehand and making adjustments to your plans where necessary can help to avoid delays and other problems with your application.
If you have adjoining neighbours in a flat, terraced or semi-detached house, you may also need to comply with the Party Wall Act 1996 and serve notice at least 2 months before your proposed start date.
This applies for loft conversions, basement excavations, building extensions and any work that may affect a shared wall or structure. An agreement with all the affected neighbours must be in place before you can start the building project.
2. Natural or man-made garden boundaries
Shared boundaries can quickly become a source of contention between adjoining neighbours. A wall, fence, hedge or even tree growing on the boundary often means shared ownership and maintenance responsibility, though this is not always the case.
For specific information, you should refer back to the Property Deeds if you are the freehold owner, or the Lease if you own the leasehold.
When it comes to upkeep or alterations to a shared boundary, communication is absolutely critical. Stories of neighbourly disputes abound about the insensitive pruning of garden hedges or trimming of overhanging branches that protrude into the neighbour’s garden.
Maintaining structures can also be tricky – who is responsible for fixing the fence or rendering the wall?
Friendly negotiation and compromise is always the desirable outcome, though sadly not always achievable. If no agreement can be reached despite your most tactful and diplomatic endeavours, check to see if you have good reason to make an official complaint to the council, for instance about high hedges blocking your view or light.
3. Antisocial behaviour
Everyone is different, and while one household will revel in the buzz of constant comings and goings, next door may prefer the quiet life. Some of the most common disputes between neighbours arise because of loud parties, children crying, dogs barking, and the noise of machinery (gardening, DIY, etc).
As so often, the best and easiest way to deal with the situation is to have a friendly word with your ‘misbehaving’ neighbour to try and make them see sense.
They may not have realised that their pet pooch is causing a nuisance by barking constantly or that an active social life at home may be too noisy for other residents.
Should this strategy fail to lead to a peaceful resolution, there are other options you can consider. If you live in a leasehold property, the Lease may stipulate certain rules and regulations such as no pets, no antisocial behaviour and general noise restrictions, and the management agent should be able to enforce these.
Noise problems such as late-night parties or constant dog barking can also be reported to your local authority as a statutory nuisance.