Our top ten gripes about the neighbours

Forget about 'love thy neighbour' most of us can barely tolerate them. A survey has revealed our biggest neighbourly gripes and it's not a pretty picture.

So what are our pet hates, and what can they end up costing us?

The survey by HSBC found the top ten grievances were:
1. Being noisy early in the morning or late at night (28%)
2. Playing loud music or learning musical instruments (23%)
3. Stealing parking place on road (20%)
4. Being nosey / interfering (19%)
5. Poor upkeep on their gardens / house exterior (18%)
6. Being noisy in their garden (18%)
7. Having parties (16%)
8. Noisy children / trampolines / balls coming over fence (15%)
9. Pets (14%)
10. Always wanting to speak to me when I'd rather not (11%)

Noise nighmares
It's no surprise that noise is the main focus of complaints - taking the two top spots, as well as featuring at numbers 6, 7 and 8. Most of us just live far too close to our neighbours for comfort, and are subjected to every whim of their musical or TV choice.

On one particularly miserable night while listening to my neighbours have a party I calculated that there was a good chance that 500 people were being kept awake by 30 people having a good time. Most people just don't have the self-awareness to live in such close proximity to each other.

However, it doesn't help that most of can't bear other people on a prolonged basis either. Being nosy at number 4 and always wanting to talk at number 10 show just how little we would ideally like to have to do with other human beings as a general rule.

Lowering the tone
At the back of our minds all the time is the damage our neighbours could be doing to the value of the property. Difficult neighbours have to be cited in a sellers' questionnaire, so falling out can be an expense business when you come to sell.

Then of course there are the problems that can bring down the appearance of the neighbourhood and the value of properties in the street. For the 18% bothered by poor upkeep this is a genuine concern.

And when things go too far, it's not just at the point of sale that you will feel the effects, because in the worst case you could end up in the kind of dispute that drags you both to court and costs you a fortune.

How do you solve problems?
If things have got truly intolerable, it's worth talking to the neighbour politely first - something the survey revealed that only one in tern had considered. More than one in twenty had then gone on to call the police. However, there is an alternative. If you have tried being reasonable until you are blue in the face and this isn't a police matter, then you can get legal redress without the courts, by using a mediator.

Martjin Van Der Heijden, Head of Lending at HSBC says:" For those who do have a nuisance neighbour or a problem that cannot be resolved directly, there are a number of ways to settle these including the help of an independent mediator." To find a mediator you can consult the Directory of UK Mediation on the ADRNow website at: www.adrnow.org.uk.

Of course, before you start taking these steps there is one more step that's worth considering carefully - a big step back to see if you really are being as reasonable as you think. Let's look at the third most common gripe about our neighbours: 'stealing your parking place' which was cited by 20% of people as a major problem. These aren't really allocated spaces, they haven't chosen to park outside your house - they'd much rather park outside their own - this is pure territorial behaviour that has tipped over into irrational anger.

It's easy to get too hot under the collar. It's easy to turn against those we have to live closest too, but it's a painful business and can prove very expensive, so before you start down that track it's worth seeing if there's anything you can do to alter your own approach. If all else fails, of course, you can always move.

But what do you think? What annoys you about your neighbours, and how far would you go to stand up for your rights? Let us know in the comments.

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