A recent article on the Moneywise magazine website identified ten things which will affect the value of your home. And number one? Having anti-social neighbours came out top with research from the Halifax suggesting nuisance neighbours next door could knock a whopping £31,000 off the average house price. Perhaps even more shocking was the finding that nearly 1 in 5 people have encountered problems with their neighbours over the previous year. Quite apart from the potential financial impact, the stress caused by poor relations with neighbours is very damaging. As a community mediator I have seen this at first hand. So in the hope you won’t become a future customer here are my top 5 strategies to avoid getting into a fight with your neighbour.
Of course there is a Seller’s Questionnaire telling you if there are any neighbour issues, but don’t rely on that. Make your own enquiries. Maybe even knock on the door and introduce yourself to the potential neighbour. Remember you could be living next door to this person for years to come so it makes sense to do as much research as possible before committing yourself to buying the house.
As a community mediator, when I ask the question ‘when did the issues start?’ so often I hear the answer, ‘well from day one really’. First impressions are very important so make sure you get off on the right foot with your new neighbour. In one of my cases the new neighbour’s removal van was blocking a lady’s car in. She went round to ask if it could be moved and immediately an argument broke out. The relationship deteriorated from there. Try therefore to introduce yourself to neighbours when you move in. Or if new people are moving in next door to you, drop by and welcome them to the street. This simple act could mean the relationship heads in a positive direction rather than a negative one!
You don’t have to be best of pals with your neighbours but it’s good to keep the communication channels open so you can discuss any issues should they arise. Even it is just a cursory ‘morning’ when you both happen to leave the house at the same time, at least you have a relationship where you are communicating. Inevitably at some point you will need to speak to your neighbour about an issue. It may be something non contentious but it could be something that is starting to irritate you such as making excessive noise or parking inconsiderately. Don’t just ignore it and moan, or worse complain to the council, police etc. Would you want to get a visit from the police when your neighbour hadn’t even said there was an issue? Make sure you are in a calm frame of mind and go round and have a chat. Just let them know in a relaxed way what the issue is and the impact it is having on you. Nine times out of ten this will do the trick.
In the absence of full information our brains will want to ‘make sense’ of things and will try to fill in the gaps. So we make assumptions. Take this situation: a mother sees her middle aged male neighbour who lives with his elderly mother taking pictures of her children when they are playing in the garden. Her brain fills in the gaps and before long it comes to her neighbours notice that the mother is spreading rumours he is a paedophile. He is shocked because he was only taking the pictures as the police had told him to. He’d complained about the children damaging his shed and they had told him to collect evidence. When they spoke the misunderstandings were resolved. Sounds unlikely? This was a real case and is typical of the kind of damage that can be caused by making assumptions. So try to look at the issue you have with your neighbour and see it from a different perspective. Their television is turned up too loud. Are they intentionally trying to annoy you or is there a different interpretation? Perhaps their hearing is getting worse. Perhaps the neighbour was out and the children had turned it up. Perhaps they have moved the room around and the TV is closer to the dividing wall. There could be any number of explanations so rather than assume, talk to your neighbour and explain the noise seems to have increased. If you approach with curiosity rather than in an accusatory way, you are likely to get a better response.
Ultimately though you might find yourself in a situation where communication has broken down with your neighbour and the problems are causing you significant stress. What are your options? You could move but remember a bad neighbour could devalue your house. Also, we often hear, ‘why should I move when they are the one causing the problem’. You could keep complaining to the authorities – but you’ve probably already done this and it hasn’t resolved it. Some people resort to retaliatory measures thinking this will make the neighbour stop whatever they are doing. The likely outcome is that this will just escalate things. Mediation could well be the answer for you. It is certainly worth a try at least. Community mediators are experts at helping neighbours find a way forward. It is not about trying to sort out who is right and who is wrong. The process focuses on helping neighbours speak and listen to each other and enable them to come up with ideas on what would work for them both. In most cases when we get neighbours to sit down with each other we can reach a positive outcome.
Hopefully these 5 strategies will help you enjoy a conflict free relationship with your neighbours. One final thought for you - what if you are the nuisance neighbour? Is that ridiculous? We all see things differently so what might be a normal evening get together with friends in the front room for you might be a raucous late night party for your neighbour. Just stop to think therefore how you behave and if your neighbour comes knocking on your door concerned about something you are doing, do listen. If you were knocking on their door that’s what you would want them to do isn’t it?
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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