Love thy neighbour? Well, maybe not always

Bad neighbours are a fact of life, but before you end up in a feud, there are a few things you can do to find peace

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Faith WoodSome neighbours are great. You visit over the fence, call when you need help and pitch in when the hard work needs to get done.

But not all our neighbours are so fabulous.

My son has a frustrating renter and a messy neighbour. The renter’s dog barks constantly. There are truck parts in the alley and somehow this renter never manages to make it all the way to the back with the garbage bag. The neighbour has eight children, four of whom drive, so parking is an incredible annoyance. And a shed built by the children in shop class years ago was never finished. Hoarded tires, scrap metal and toys round pile up in the yard.

I once had a neighbour who would send her child over looking for dinner items. It would have been cute but she often came in quick succession to borrow all the groceries needed to make supper. Once we came home from a camping trip to find her exiting our house with crackers and cheese.

Dealing with neighbour issues can be dicey. You’re annoyed and yet you don’t want to come across as being the difficult one. Every time you come home and can’t park in front of your house, you wish the neighbour would simply move away. But they never do.

So before things get violent like the Hatfields and McCoys, start communicating with your neighbours.

I get that you’re busy with work, shuttling the children and hibernating with Netflix. But if you don’t say something to your neighbour, why should they stop whatever they do that bothers you? Maybe they’re not even aware there’s a problem. And phoning in anonymous complaints to the bylaw department will only create endless frustration and irritation for both of you.

Instead of allowing resentment to build, assume good intent. Most people want to avoid being those neighbours. They may truly not be aware of the problem. Perhaps their little dog yaps all day when they’re at work. Perhaps their children kick the soccer ball against the shared fence, damaging the vine you’ve so carefully nurtured on your side.

The first step is letting them know about the problem in a friendly manner. “I don’t know if you’re aware, but. …” There’s no need to be confrontational.

When you do approach your neighbour, don’t come armed with a list of things you find irritating. Decide what’s a minor irritant and what really needs to be – and can be – fixed.

Once you’ve aired your concerns, give your neighbour time to remedy the problem. Don’t stop by twice a day with an expectant expression on your face or begin erecting that three-metre fence.

Whatever the problem, keep a record of the issue and what’s been done. If there’s still no action, speak with other neighbours to present a united front.

If the issues are more serious, check to see if your neighbour is violating municipal bylaws. Bylaws can run from excessive noise to unsightly premises. Know where you stand legally. If you’re unsure of how to proceed, call your municipality to get more information.

But before you decide on initiating a legal sanction, let your neighbour know you’re prepared to take that step.

And there’s always the final option: move to the Caribbean. Sun, sand, undulating ocean waves and blue, blue sky every day. Of course, you may end up moving in beside a neighbour who has very unkempt premises, blasts music and lets the tropical vines grow rampant.

But at least you’ll have a spectacular view!

Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. 

love thy neighbour

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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