Have we forgotten how to talk to our neighbours? Citizens Advice Bureau complaints up a hundredfold

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Complaints about neighbours on the rise ()

The WA Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) says complaints about neighbours have increased a hundredfold over the past seven years, and most of them are over minor issues that could be resolved by talking.

Kathryn Lawrence, the bureau’s chief executive, has told ABC Radio Perth’s Geoff Hutchison that staff now field about 40 complaints a week from people unhappy with their neighbours, which is up from about 20 a year in 2014.

She said what was noticeable about many of the complaints was that they were over relatively minor issues that could not be dealt with through legal action.

“They’ll contact us with a dispute, wanting to get legal remedy, when in fact it’s not a legal issue,” Ms Lawrence said.

“It’s more about having to negotiate or speak to your neighbour.

“That’s what we’re seeing so much more of now; people that just don’t know their neighbours or don’t want to speak to their neighbours and want instant gratification.”

Ms Lawrence says an increase in higher-density living in Perth, with more people living in strata complexes and apartments, also seemed to be driving a rise in complaints.

“We get complaints from people who live in apartments and their neighbours are flushing the toilet at two o’clock in the morning,” she said.

“They want their neighbour told, ‘Don’t have a shower when you get home from work if you’re on night shift because it bothers me’. How do you deal with that?

“You must have an expectation that if you move into an apartment that you’re going to be surrounded by people and noise.”

Hoping for a quick fix

Ms Lawrence said it appeared that many people who contacted the bureau were reluctant to speak to their neighbours directly about their concerns.

“It might be simply that they don’t know their neighbours or they might be worried about the reaction from their neighbours,” she said.

“I think what they want us to do is come around and fix it for them.”

The ABC’s Australia Talks survey found that people were more likely to know their neighbours if they lived further from the city.

Fifty-five per cent of people in inner metropolitan areas agreed they knew many of their neighbours, compared to about 70 per cent in rural and regional areas.

In West Australia, 64 per cent of people overall reported that they knew their neighbours.

[Embed – Aus talks graph] 

Try to talk

At the CAB’s 10 offices around Perth and the south-west, staff suggest people try to talk to their neighbours directly to resolve issues, but Ms Lawrence says many people find this advice difficult to take.

“A lot of the time, the issue has bothered them for so long that when they speak to us they’re not really in a position to want to negotiate,” she said.

“We say to try and talk to your neighbour. If you can’t talk to your neighbour pop a letter in the letterbox, with your name and your phone number, and they can talk to you about it.”

Local councils and police also refer many neighbourhood complaints to the CAB, which can conduct mediation sessions if the situation warrants it.

“The police get so many calls-out about neighbourhood disputes now and a lot of them get referred to us — they know it’s a civil matter,” Ms Lawrence said.

No legal remedy

In many cases, advisors at the CAB have to tell people that there is no legal remedy for their complaints.

“If it’s a dispute over where a fence goes, absolutely, we can assist legally with what you need to do for that,” Ms Lawrence said.

“If it’s something that is, ‘I don’t like the tree that my neighbours have planted in their backyard because it’s got purple leaves and I’ve got green grass and their purple flowers don’t look nice on my lawn’, that doesn’t have a legal remedy.

“Then we would always say, ‘Your expectation is just wrong’. But we say it in a nice way.

“But if it’s not something that can be rectified, because it’s not realistic, then, unfortunately, people just get a bit upset about that.”

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Source: Thanks msn.com