In this age, there’s a lot of isolation and loneliness. People are often fearful of making connections and sometimes that spills over into a lack of care or compassion for others who live nearby. That’s a shame because good neighbours really do make a difference. And it’s something that’s particularly apt right now as we try to maintain normality through the Coronavirus pandemic. As good neighbours, and good people, it’s only right that we reach out to the elderly couple down the road, or the NHS worker next door whose run off their feet. We can all make a difference by lending a hand, no matter how small; maybe you can offer to walk their dog, grab some shopping for them from the supermarket or simply lend them your ear if they need someone to chat to. You can download our “Good Neighbours” form here, and pass it on.
Forming relationships like this makes the atmosphere of your street friendlier, you feel safer and your surroundings are often tidier. It’s just a nicer way to live.
The way to start is simple. Say hello. Offer a smile. Even if you’re not new to an area, introduce yourself, and if there’s something you’d like to know about the best local café, ask. People like to be helpful and it makes them feel good to share their local knowledge. If you’re the long-established local, offer a warm welcome.
Be considerate and you’ll get consideration in return. If you’re planning a party, let your neighbours know there may be a bit more noise or ask them to come along. If your neighbour works nights, avoid mowing the lawn early in the day. Try to be understanding if they’ve got kids and you haven’t – or vice versa. It’s not always easy to think about things from another’s perspective but try it and it could make a massive difference.
Think about noise when you’re indoors too. You may love thrash metal but placing your million-decibel speakers against a shared wall won’t win you many friends – unless of course, your neighbour shares your passion. In which case, you’ve got a shared interest to chat about over the garden fence.
Talking to other people, even just for a few minutes is great for your mental health. Get in the habit of pausing for a quick catch up and you’ll soon be on good terms, trading surplus garden produce or accepting deliveries from couriers. Tell your neighbour if you’ll be away for a few days, and they’ll keep an eye on things, water your plants or feed your goldfish. If you reciprocate, everyone’s happy.
Share the things you know. If you see anything suspicious, warn your neighbour. If you find out about an event at the community centre, pass the details on and share transport. Be alert for the problems of winter weather, particularly for the infirm or elderly who may struggle to get out and about or adequately heat their homes.
If you drive, be thoughtful about where you park. Don’t block driveways or trap someone in a space that’s way too small and save revving the motorbike for when you’re out on the open road.
Look after your outside spaces. Keep the garden tidy and put the rubbish bins out on the right day. You’ll find people want to fit in and will try to match your standards because being neighbourly and creating a real sense of community feels great.
But what about problem neighbours?
Ah, yes, they do exist. However much you try to build bridges, there will always be some individuals who don’t understand how to get along with others. Even with the best intentions, issues can escalate, so what can you do if you find yourself in a dispute with a neighbour?
The first step and one you may well have already tried is to talk through the problem. Explain the situation and how it’s affecting you. You can put it in writing if it makes it easier. You could also use a mediation service to help resolve the issue. A register of providers can be found here.
If your troublesome neighbour is a tenant, their landlord may be able to help, and in some cases may be able to regain possession of the property.
The police will be able to intervene if there’s a crime being committed – for example, in the case of harassment or racially motivated attacks, but for nuisance or health-related issues, your local council are the best source of help.
Finally, if there is no other way of resolving the issue you can go down the legal route, approaching a solicitor on the first instance. It’s a move that shows you’re serious and is a worthwhile step before taking the matter to court.