When to Approach your Neighbour

We have approached them many times to try to resolve our issues, but it usually reverts to its original form. Recently we told them we have had enough and that unless it stops, we will approach the authorities.” ‘James and Carolyn’, Southampton

‘James and Carolyn’ have experienced a lot of anti-social behaviour from their next door neighbours who drink and then become loud and abusive. This happens nearly every weekend when other family members visit and stay over. James and Carolyn are subjected to late night noise in the form of shouting, screaming, swearing, and slamming doors; also continual barking from their dog, which they leave in the garden. Nice weather also brings trouble as they gather in their garden with really loud music and lots of beer; their method of communication is to shout above the music.

“It has made my husband and I feel quite stressed at times, however we are resolute that we will not be browbeaten by them,” says Carolyn. “We have approached them many times to try to resolve our issues, but it usually reverts to its original form. Recently we told them we have had enough and that unless it stops, we will approach the authorities. We had peace for two weeks, then it began again; hence the authorities have now been notified.”

She reminds all victims that they should not give in to being bullied, that we all have the strength to stand up for our rights to live in peace and to be able to relax in our own home.

Our Comments

James and Carolyn’s approach is one worth highlighting as best practice, though it will of course depend on the circumstances. As a charity we want to get the balance right between tackling the problem yourself and reporting it to the relevant authorities.

It seems that emotions run high on this issue. It is all rather subjective which means there is often no obvious right and wrong method as a victim to deal with the problem, just as for the agencies when it gets to more serious measures. If a neighbour is making noise that is causing you distress and you call in the police, it is not likely to do much for your relationship with your neighbour. It could cause resentment and make the problems worse.

Usually it is right to try something less severe first. Maybe all that is needed is to simply go round and ask them if they could turn the music down (or stop slamming doors, hoovering in the middle of the night, etc.). Some people would prefer to write a short note and pop it through their letterbox, asking them to please keep the noise down (it is worth keeping a copy of what you wrote in this note in case it gets worse as evidence of what you have done yourself to tackle the problem).

Of course we would not want to see anyone put themselves at risk. In volatile situations, for example where alcohol and drugs are involved, confrontation could be dangerous (as in the tragic death of Garry Newlove who confronted a gang in Warrington http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7176471.stm). Also, if you are struggling to cope with your frustration at the behaviour, there is a risk you will in turn be threatening and abusive in the way you speak to them, something they could report you for, or at least accuse you of, which might weaken your case.

Another victim completing our survey told us that after reporting ASB of extremely loud music, revving of engines, shouting and the strong smell of cannabis, the police, having called at the house of the perpetrators, said it was not advisable for her, or other neighbours to try and solve the issues because of the type of characters they were dealing with. We would suggest this is also true where the perpetrator is suffering from poor mental health. Where there is evidence of potential schizophrenia or bi-polar behaviour, it would be advisable to contact your local Mental Health department rather than speak directly to the individual to ensure there are no misunderstandings and that their health is adequately catered for.

James and Carolyn have now reported their neighbours to the authorities. It looks like they were left with no alternative after numerous attempts to approach them have failed. For many neighbour disputes, agencies are likely to ask you if you have spoken to your neighbours first. If you do this in a polite way, you may find the problem immediately goes away. It may be worth trying.