Life Relationships Noise, animals and barbecues: Why neighbours fight – and how to avoid it

Noise, animals and barbecues: Why neighbours fight – and how to avoid it

Neighbourly disputes can start over something as innocent as a barbecue – but they can also be easily resolved. Photo: Getty
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Neighbours became bad friends this week, with news a vegan woman has taken her neighbours to court over their meat-filled backyard barbecues, among other things.

Perth woman Cilla Carden took to Nine news to share her tales of woe.

““They’ve put it there so I smell fish – all I can smell is fish,” Ms Carden said.

“I can’t enjoy my backyard; I can’t go out there.”

She also said cigarette smoke and the sound of the house’s children playing basketball was impacting her way of life.

Her complaints have earned her headlines and scorn around the country.

It’s not just regular Joes whose neighbourly disputes have made headlines.

A feud between musical neighbours Robbie Williams and Jimmy Page turned dark earlier this year, with pop star Williams blasting Black Sabbath at Page.

Page was the guitarist for Led Zepplin, a band that enjoyed an infamous rivalry with Ozzy Osbourne’s Sabbath.

It began over Williams’ plans to build a pool in the basement of his London home; Page objected based on fears the excavation work would damage his adjacent heritage-listed home.

While these might be two extreme examples, neighbourly disputes in Australia can escalate to the point of intervention, Law Society of New South Wales president Elizabeth Espinosa said.

Ms Espinosa told The New Daily some of the most common roots of complaints were fences, noise, trees, boundary lines and animals.

Once tensions bubbled over into formal complaints, there were a few ways a resolution could be reached, she said.

Elizabeth Espinosa, president of the Law Society of NSW, says most neighbourly disputes can be resolved via conversation. Photo: Law Society of NSW

“Whether a dispute escalates to a formal complaint or involvement of a third party really depends on the personalities involved,” Ms Espinosa said.

“Resolving it can range from a handshake over the fence to litigation in the courts, while for some people the opportunity to have assistance from a mediator may be a workable way forward for a difficult dispute.”

Right to peace versus right to live

So you’ve got a problem with your neighbour. Maybe they play their music too loud, too late, or their dog constantly breaks into your yard and digs holes, or they like to barbecue for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The first sensible thing to do, Ms Espinosa said, is to try and talk to them and explain how their habits effect your quality of life.

“For example, If you are being disturbed by noise, usually the best thing to do is to ask your neighbour to reduce their noise or to avoid making noise at certain times of the day,” she said.

“If that does not work, the next steps you should take depend on the circumstances. If you are being disturbed by a party late at night you can call the police, who have the power to ask your neighbours to stop.”

If the problem is that your neighbours are renovating, therefore using power tools at all times of the day – and haven’t stopped even after you asked nicely – you can contact your state’s Environment Protection Authority.

In extreme cases, you can even can start proceedings through your local court.

“When you have a dispute with your neighbour, the most effective way of working out a solution is usually to talk and try to come to an arrangement that suits you both,” Ms Espinosa said.

“After all, you could be living near each other for a long time to come, so it’s probably in both your interests to stay on reasonable terms.

“If the problem persists, you should always speak to your lawyer about your rights as well as any potential ways of solving the dispute.”

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