Twenty-four-hour party people: noisy neighbours can turn even the loveliest of houses into a waking nightmare
If ever a statistic leapt out and hit me between the eyes, it was that a million Britons have moved house because of disputes with their neighbours.
This finding, from new research by the insurance company CPP, reveals a worrying trend. If you’re living next door to someone, surely it’s common sense that you should bend over backwards to get on with them? Why make a mortal enemy out of someone with so much power to irritate you?
But common sense, it seems, has gone out of the window. From fences to barbecues to parking spaces to crying babies, minor nuisances have been allowed to escalate to the point where people have moved out of a neighbourhood, rather than deal with disputes in a grown-up way.
Personally, I have had a very mixed bag of neighbours. Some have become good friends, while others held all-night Abba parties, built dodgy extensions, chucked cigarette-ends over the garden fence and had miniature poodles who bayed like the Hound of the Baskervilles. But I wouldn’t have let the most annoying of them drive me from my home. It would have felt like a defeat.
If anti-social behaviour is on the rise, so is irritability at the anti-social behaviour of others. People who would once have shrugged at smoke from a bonfire, now get on their high horse and hawk their complaints to the council. Often with disastrous consequences.
Whatever the roots of discord between neighbours, it is clearly a fast-growing problem. Neighbours From Hell in Britain (NFHiB), a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2002, has a forum with 30,000 members.
Those who are really, really mad with their neighbours are referred to another NFHiB website and invited to “rant and shout about your Butt Ugly Neighbour in an unmoderated and uncensored therapeutic environment”. The mind boggles.
There is a lot of pent-up anger behind those twitching net curtains. But in many cases improved communication skills would help defuse tensions with neighbours and prevent feuds spiralling out of control.
"Bad relationships between neighbours reflect the hectic pace of modern life," says psychologist Dr Rob Yeung, author of Confidence: The Power to Take Control and Live the Life You Want. "People don’t have time to build healthy relationships with those living next door. They need to develop the art of empathy, and see things from their neighbour’s point of view rather than rushing to judgment."