When I was growing up, our neighbours were like family.
The elderly couple Betty and Frank on the right would look after my sister and me after school until our parents finished work. They would indulge us with biscuits and let us watch TV. Our dog would often end up in their yard during the day, and I’d often see them throwing her ball to her.
Sharon and Jeffrey were on our left. They’d let us jump over their fence even when they weren’t home to play in their cubby house, and Jeffrey would often help our dad fix stuff around the house.
Both neighbours would feed our dog while we were away, and we had a dress-up New Years Party every year with the entire street.
Today I don’t know anything about my neighbours, except that one really likes watching bad American action movies at full volume all day, and the one across the street has two collies that practise synchronized barking at night.
The days of knowing everyone’s name down the street and offering to help each other out appear to be gone. More and more it seems the only interaction we have with our neighbours is when we have an issue with them.
A survey of 4000 Brisbane residents, conducted by the Australian Community Capacity Study, found 64 per cent of people were annoyed or bothered by their neighbours’ conduct. The biggest issues neighbours had with each other were noise, parking, roaming pets, overhanging trees and fences.
University of Queensland associate professor in sociology Lynda Cheshire has researched neighbourhood disputes, and suggests that an inability or reluctance to approach neighbours is a contributing factor.
“If you don’t know your neighbour, you may not be able to manage small issues and they can escalate into something much bigger.”
This issue of neighbourly disputes can be exacerbated in a body corporate community where people live in close quarters, parking is limited and pets are confined in small spaces.
These disputes can be mitigated by taking a few simple and proactive steps. Owners and tenants should have the following from the body corporate:
– Committee and building manager contact information
– Instructions on where to park
– Mail box access
– A list of amenities that include how and when they can be utilized
– Rubbish disposal information
– Expectations about pet behaviour