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Pacifying Problem Neighbours with Poetry

Friday, 4 July 2014

Barking dogs, overgrown trees, antisocial parking, noisy activities and adjoining walls have all led neighbours across the thresholds of the courts. But ending up in court over what are often minor issues that have boiled over into major annoyances is the last thing most neighbours want to do.

Although it cannot always be avoided and is sometimes necessary, litigation should certainly not be seen as the first strategy for dealing with nuisance neighbours. Taking legal advice early can save a lot of problems though. An experienced solicitor can help guide you towards resolving a problem informally without creating even more issues if it escalates to legal proceedings later on.

As French writer Marcel Proust found when writing his novel In Search of Lost Time, delicately worded letters directly to your neighbour may be all that is required.

Poetic Justice

The BBC recently referred to the Proust’s methods for dealing with nuisance neighbours in a piece about people living noisy modern lives in un-insulated 19th Century apartment blocks in Paris.

Proust’s upstairs neighbours were a married couple, Madame Williams and her husband. Madame Williams played the harp while her husband was a dentist with a consulting room above Proust’s bedroom. Despite lining the room with cork Proust was continually disturbed by the activities of his neighbours.

Rather than suing the couple into submission he charmed them into friendship and persuaded them to have noise-free days by writing what have now become known as Letters to his Neighbour.

Most of us can only dream of having the poetic skills of Proust but understanding the needs of our neighbours and offering a bit of honey with the vinegar can make complaints much more palatable for the recipients.

If All Else Fails

If talking to your neighbour or writing friendly letters fails to persuade them to moderate their behaviour or fails to bring the dispute to an end, there may be tougher remedies available.

If the neighbour is a tenant then contacting the landlord may be way of getting rid of the problem, particularly if the issue is also a breach of their lease terms.

If the issue is persistent noise or other issues such as smoke, odour, dust etc that affects your enjoyment of your property then this might be actionable as a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In that case the local authority must be informed and they will take action on your behalf.

Parking disputes may or may not have a legal solution if they relate to a public highway but, if they relate to private land, legal remedies are more likely to be available.

Boundary or party wall disputes can be particularly problematic and more difficult to resolve without professional advice as the law in this area is complex. It is therefore best to speak to a solicitor at an early stage.

For specialist advice or help with managing neighbourly disputes contact Peter Gourri today by email or telephone 0207 611 4848.

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