11 Nov 2022

How to be a good neighbour

In crowded cities, where living cheek by jowl with other people creates all kinds of pressure, neighbours can spell trouble… all too often they’re inconsiderately noisy, grab the prime parking space, spill their bin-bags or fight with you over the party wall.

The ‘neighbours from hell’ phenomenon is depressingly familiar, and police are frequently called out to address rowdy altercations and campaigns of victimisation and intimidation; occasionally disputes between next-door neighbours can descend into violence.

But it really doesn’t have to be like this. If you make a concerted effort to be friendly, cooperative and accommodating towards your neighbours, you may find there are many benefits in kind. Approach these relationships in an open and friendly way, and you stand a good chance of escaping the hellish everyday stress of being at daggers drawn with people who live in close proximity.

Follow our golden rules to ensure that your neighbourly relations are cordial and civilised:

Golden Rules for Neighbours

• When new neighbours move in, be quick to make friends. Pop round with a friendly smile, a cup of tea, and offers of help and advice (but only if it is solicited – coming across as the neighbourhood know-it-all may sour relationships at the outset).

• Once you have made friends with your neighbours you can enjoy many reciprocal favours. You can give them keys for when you get locked out, ask them to pop in and feed the cat if you’re away, they’ll know how to turn off the burglar alarm that mistakenly goes off when you’ve just left for your three-week holiday, they’ll take delivery of parcels for you.

• Always remember that neighbourliness is a reciprocal phenomenon. The favours you exact from your neighbours must be returned – that’s the deal.

• Encourage your children to make friends with theirs, especially if they’re of a comparable age; you can offload yours onto them for hours at a time, and vice versa. If you’ve got older kids who are keen to make money babysitting, offer this service to neighbours with young children.

• Be aware of the impact that your behaviour has on neighbours. Park sensibly, ensure that bin bags are safely contained within rubbish bins and keep your street frontage neat and tidy.

• Keep shared boundaries – hedges, fences, walls – well maintained. Encroaching growth or tumbledown fences can be a pressure point that starts many a neighbourly dispute.

• Keep an eye on your garden and be aware that prolific growth can have an impact on neighbours. Ensure that trees are kept well pruned and never impinge on next-door gardens or steal their light. If you’ve got a tree that sheds vast quantities of leaves or inedible windfalls on to the neighbour’s garden, offer to go round and bag up and dispose of the debris.

• Most neighbours should tolerate the sound of children playing on a warm summer’s evenings and accept that they are entitled to do so. However, it is always a good idea to keep an eye on children when they’re playing in the garden – if they are fighting a pitched battle – complete with bloodcurdling shrieks and water cannon – you might have to tell them to calm down.

• Try and be sociable with neighbours. Invite them round for the occasional drink or cup of tea, show them your new kitchen or greenhouse, engage with them on hot neighbourhood topics, for example traffic calming schemes and parking regulations. Coming together over a local cause is a good way of cementing bonds.

• Always warn neighbours if you are entertaining and there is likely to be noise and disruption. If you get on well enough with them, it’s a good idea to invite them to big parties and al fresco events.

• If you are having work done on your house, go round and tell the neighbours beforehand. Builder’s lorries, scaffolding and skips will cause real dismay if they suddenly appear without warning. Keep an eye on your builders and make sure they’re not deafening your neighbour with loud music or shouted conversations.

• If there are problems with the usual neighbour trigger points – noise, parking, rubbish disposal – try your best to negotiate the difficulties amicably and resist outright confrontation. Communicate calmly, show sympathy for their difficulties, behave ultra-reasonably. It is always better to say, “I do understand how difficult it is to find a parking space in this street, but I’m afraid you’re blocking my drive”, rather than shouting “what do you think you’re doing parking in front of my drive?”

• Avoid litigation if possible; once down the route of noise abatement orders and so on, you will always be nervous around your neighbours and the animosity might get out of hand. There are many creative and horrifying ways in which neighbours who feel victimised and persecuted by you can make your life hell.

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