We all have neighbours although if living a rural lifestyle, some might be out of sight. For those of us living in closer quarters, neighbours tend to be just over the back and side fences. And we might have them for a long time. It doesn’t have to be quite as the theme song goes, “good neighbours become good friends” but it’s in our best interests to maintain a happy, conflict-free relationship. Sometimes this isn’t easy, and Police and Council records show that most issues and callouts relate to neighbor disputes ranging from barking dogs to loud music to overhanging trees dropping branches and leaves to the most difficult of disputes – shared fences. And it’s the latter which tops the list of neighbourly disputes.
All residents have legal rights including lopping branches that overhang your fence and tossing them back into your neighbour’s yard. Ok, it’s your legal right to do this but, hmmm, that’s not going to be well received and is probably guaranteed to lead to waves in your previously mill-pond calm relationship. And the shock delivered to your neighbour when opening your solicitor’s letter demanding you comply with the erection of a new shared boundary fence is bound cause your relationship to plummet to the deepest, darkest depths from which it’s pretty hard to come back from – especially if you’re aware your neighbour isn’t exactly flush with funds. So, how do you navigate the Bermuda Triangle that is neighbourly life?
It’s probably not rocket science but the best way to remain friendly is to have open and honest communications about your issues. If it’s their barking dog, then go chat with them before you go to the Council. Your neighbour might be blissfully unaware that Fido is barking all day while they’re at work, or at night while they’re out. If you’re able to record the barking and play it to them, they’ll probably be suitably shocked and take the appropriate steps to stop the problem. If not, then you’ve done the right thing and yes, Council might be your next point of call.
If you have an issue with their rainforest impinging on your garden, then discuss the pruning options. They may have a mulcher and be happy for you to prune and return the cuttings to them for mulching. Alternatively, you might have a mulcher and be happy for the free mulch. Either way, a pre-emptive chat prior to a wild hack in anger is a more socially acceptable approach.
And if the Walls of Jericho are tumbling down, get together and discuss the options. If it’s finances that prevent your neighbor from sharing the cost and you have the funds, paying for it yourself might be the better option. Sure, your neighbor gets a nice new fence for free, but you have the fence you need for privacy and security and in the end, that might well outweigh the cost factor. There is also another option that might be feasible. You could enter an arrangement with your neighbour whereby you pay for the fence up front and your neighbour pays you back in agreed installments over an agreed period. Yes, it could get messy, your neighbour might be willing at the outset but fail to make those repayments, leaving you out of pocket. Yes, it is a risk, but I know of numerous instances where this has been done, with a document prepared and signed by both parties, repayments have been made in on time and in full and the cost has ultimately been shared, albeit over a longer period.
Uneasy or downright hostile relationships with neighbours are exhausting. It’s so much easier to have a friendly and cooperative relationship. The simplest and best path to neighbourly happiness starts with an open dialogue on all shared or potentially contentious issues.