No matter how nice or how brilliant your project is, your neighbours will have their own views on those matters.
In this article we cover:
- Why it’s important to maintain good relations with your neighbours
- What your neighbours are most likely to object to
- What they will get most annoyed by
- How to keep sweet with your neighbours
Regardless where you build, you’re likely to have neighbours who’ll want to get involved at some stage, somehow. After all, your construction site is bound to cause them some concern over the year or two you’ll be working on your outdoor factory right next to their homes.
The minute you start removing trees, streaking the road with mud, erecting scaffolding that overlooks their garden, taking deliveries in huge trucks that threaten to scratch their cars or ruin the road surface, and so on, what had previously been theoretical to them will soon become all too real.
The first thing to remember is that busy bodies, who have nothing better to do than police your build, are few and far between. The vast majority of people are reasonable and helpful. Here are the top reasons your neighbours will take issue with your build:
• Noise, dust and other pollution
• Anything that encroaches on their land
• Endangering their children
• Parking outside their place
• Early starts and late finishes, especially over weekends
• Damaging their property or to any of their underground structures (drains, foundations, gas or water supplies)
• Your site becoming a magnet for vandals or criminals
So here are my top five tips to help reduce the likelihood of problems.
Introduce yourself and your project
As soon as you have drawings ready for the planners, arrange to see your neighbours. Take a bottle of wine or some flowers and show them what you have in mind. They may even have some good ideas that you, as an incomer, wouldn’t have thought of. This gets them on the team, feeling involved. Some neighbours will be delighted to imagine that your up market new build will enhance the area generally and maybe even increase the value of their home.
Introduce your builder
People like to feel they know the builder who they’ll be seeing a lot of for many months. It’s not just putting a face to someone but actually feeling the builder will hear them when things go wrong. And they will.
Day to day complaints may not have to be escalated to project manager level (or even to you) if your builder is pleasant and understanding to the neighbours. Big matters to them will usually be very small issues to him as a professional who has seen it all before. Such gripes, nipped in the bud early, won’t escalate to become a world war.
Use a project manager
If and when issues that concern your neighbours do occur, having a neutral intermediary is worth its weight in gold. It stops the whole thing from getting too personal. And they’ll be more expert than you at assessing the complaint and dealing with it. Your neighbours will also be more likely to accept and respect their opinion on the matter rather than yours, especially if you are a first time self-builder.
Keep a close eye on the build yourself
However good your contractor and project manager, it’s still sensible to keep an eye on how things are going. It’s easy for professionals to get sloppy about parking, for example. On many sites this is a real issue, especially towards the end of the build when there are so many trades on site at the same time.
It is you who is going to have to live with the neighbours, not your tradesmen, so it’s in your best interests to smooth things over quickly and empathically.
Keep your neighbours informed
A bit of empathy goes a long way here. What would you like to be informed of if your neighbour were building? No one wants a nasty surprise so warn them of significant events that might affect them. Being kept in the dark is not a good feeling – fertile imaginations make for bad enemies.
For example if there’s going to be an early start or a late finish, especially over weekends, let them know.