Most of us are familiar with that neighbour who likes to party loud and late, or the problem pet next door, or the mess in the communal areas... But when does the odd neighbourhood gripe start to become a recurring nightmare?
We often (reluctantly) end up brushing it off: “live and let live”. But anything that makes life at home less live-able is something that ultimately has an impact on our mental wellbeing, and even our personal safety at times. After all, we’re not just talking about dog mess and noise – it’s also about threatening behaviour, thefts, disputes and vandalism.
I should add that if you’ve been caught up in it, you’re not alone: It can happen to us all!
Having lived in too many flats to count on one hand, I’ve had my share of problems with neighbours. Stairwell break-ins and bike thefts were fairly common especially in tenement buildings. One flat, however, will always stick in my mind… From catching a youth trying to steal my bike, to enduring my neighbour’s deafening music and violent yelling at 3 A.M, to hearing the local kids destroying trollies in the supermarket next door – I felt like I phoned the local police as much as I phoned my parents! But I think the worst thing was knowing I was alone, in a ground-floor studio flat, with all my possessions. In the end, it meant that when the offer of a lease renewal came after 6 months, I politely declined.
Tenants and homeowners all over the country are blighted by neighbourhood problems, and it can leave people feeling powerless. In worse cases, it can cause fear and even drive people away from their homes.
A Shelter Scotland colleague recalled an encounter that would’ve left anyone shaken: “I once had a neighbour who kicked our door open and piled in with a dozen of his pals from the local pub at 11PM one night. He said us students had been making too much noise, and that he was going to batter us – then they started stealing our stuff. One of my flatmates tried to stand up for us but he was grabbed by one of the strangers. After that I ended up moving back into Student Halls!”
With an increasing number of properties let out as holiday accommodation, what effect does that have on full-time residents? A member of the Shelter Scotland Private Tenants’ Forum shared her concerns not only about the “parties, mess and fireworks in areas where there’s livestock”, but also about pet-friendly holiday lets: “Quite often the dogs will be left out in the garden, barking to the high heavens all day long. My own dogs go nuts when there’s a barker nearby… I can’t even let them out in the garden. For dogs, it’s as if there’s a brand new intruder every other week.”
Escalating a neighbourhood problem
If it’s affecting your happiness, health or safety, it’s worth talking about. I know myself that if you’re a neutral sort of person who prefers not to ruffle feathers, then plucking up the courage to escalate an issue isn’t always easy. It’s even harder if you feel something bad might happen as a result of you making a complaint.
However, it’s worth remembering that if you let these issues continue, you’re likely to develop resentment: this could ruin your relationships with your neighbours or landlord and make it very difficult to communicate with them if you have a problem.
Our top tips:
- You should ideally try to resolve things with your neighbours first, but if this isn’t an option any longer, then seek help. This might start with your landlord, but it may also be a matter for the council – or even the police, in more serious situations. Find out more on our advice pages about how to deal with a range of neighbourhood complaints.
- Keep a diary or record evidence – this will prove really useful further down the line, and will mean things are resolved quicker if you need to escalate it to your landlord, council or even the local police (depending on the severity of the situation).
Remember: there’s no need to suffer in silence!
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