How to deal with problem neighbours when you own your home
In an ideal world, nobody would ever experience problems with their neighbours or those who live in close proximity to them. But we don’t live in an ideal world – and it’s unfortunately the case that problematic neighbours can spoil your enjoyment of your home. There’s no one size fits all approach to the problem of noisy, rude or harassing neighbours: it can depend on how long the problem has been persisting for, for example, and also on the severity of the problem and how much it is affecting you. This article will explore what your options are in the event of a dispute with neighbours and point out some of the ways in which you can tackle these issues and move on with your life.
Be polite and friendly
Before escalating any issues to a higher authority, it’s worth first of all trying to be friendly with your neighbours. Sometimes, they may not be aware that a problem exists – and by letting them know politely and in a friendly manner, they will perhaps be more likely to solve the problem without having to go to a stressful or costly dispute resolution process.
If you can, try to speak in person initially. If you send a text message or similar, your meaning may be misinterpreted. By speaking in person, you’ll be able to show through your body language and tone of voice that you’re conciliatory and happy to work together in a friendly way. If this does not work, however, sending a written message next time may be better. If the issue proceeds to court or similar in future months, this could end up acting as crucial evidence.
Speak to the council
If you continue to experience problems with your neighbours, the next thing to do could be to get an external body such as the council involved. This is particularly sensible in cases which involve noise or some other sort of environmental issue or hazard, as this tends to fall under the council’s remit more often than not. It’s important to note, however, that council staff may not be able to get to you right away. If you are reporting a noise issue which takes place during a party on a Saturday evening, for example, you might not get a reply until later in the week.
Remember, if your neighbours are harassing you or causing other legal problems, it is important to report this straight to the police. If they are committing a criminal offence, it is important that the problem is placed on record rather than swept under the carpet. In the long term, it is this sort of evidence and record that will help you achieve a satisfactory conclusion.
Are you a leaseholder?
If you live in a block of flats, it’s likely that you may own the leasehold to the flat in which you live. In that case, there is most likely a property management company or a freeholder involved somewhere up the chain who may be able to help you negotiate with the problem neighbour and come to a resolution. It may also be worth checking the lease governing the relationship between the management company and the leaseholders. If this explicitly forbids the nuisance behaviour of your neighbour, you may be able to take them to court ultimately for breach of contract.
If you do go for this option, it could be worth investigating whether or not any other tenants have problems with this neighbour in particular. If they do, you may be able to develop a stronger case by speaking to one another and sharing information about the way that the neighbour is allegedly behaving. If the case does eventually come before some sort of authority, you are likely to find that your case is much more robust given that different individuals can verify the same problem.
In some extreme cases, however, people who are having problems with their neighbours and cannot solve them via any other means end up deciding that the most appropriate thing to do is to move house – and move on. This is a drastic option, and in the specific case of disputes with neighbours, it is only one to consider if you have exhausted every other avenue and have found that you have no other recourse.
Some people, however, feel trapped when considering this option – especially if their house is selling in a quiet market, and in which they may not even be able to get a buyer. They may also be aware that they have to fill out a property information form in which they declare whether or not there are any problems with the neighbours. In this case, opting for a cash buyer could be the most sensible option, as it will mean the issues involved with an open market sale are unlikely to rear their heads.
Getting involved in a dispute with a neighbour is something that very few people relish the thought of doing – especially when the chances of winning a case are not guaranteed to be high. However, if you are suffering from harassment, noise, environmental hazards or something else altogether, it’s never worth suffering in silence. Instead, why not opt for one of the solutions outlined above? Whether you try a low-level solution in the first instance such as being polite and friendly or you decide to escalate the issue to a higher authority such as the freeholder, the council or the police, there are lots of options open to you as a resident. Don’t forget though, if the problem becomes too much to handle, the nuclear option of selling up and moving on is always available.
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