When we bought our first house, we didn’t once consider what the neighbours would be like.
It didn’t take long to discover that we should have probably given it a little more thought. On one side of our three-bed terrace was a man who never ever opened his curtains. When we put a polite note through his door to say we were planning to trim back the overhanging branches of his plum tree he contacted the council and complained of our unreasonable behaviour.
On the other side was a family who seemed nice enough. Until that was we came home from work one sunny day to find they had dragged their sofa out onto the pavement and were enjoying themselves with a four-pack of Fosters.
We sold up a few years ago, moved north and got an altogether better class of neighbour. However, it turns out we got away pretty lightly. According to a survey carried out by the consumer group Which? not only are five million people in the UK annoyed by their neighbours, but a quarter fail to take any action.
Unsurprisingly noise was the biggest irritant with three in five people admitting arguing, blaring music and TVs on full volume regularly cause their blood pressure to soar.
“In the last year, 10 million people have had a problem with a neighbour,” says Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director. “That so many people are losing sleep, getting stressed and struggling at work because of noise from next door shows the damage this does. However, people needn’t suffer in silence.
“Firstly you should keep a diary of when noise or an incident occurs, and how long it lasts and it’s always worth trying to talk to your neighbour about the problem.
“If trying to solve the problem with your neighbour doesn’t work or simply isn’t possible, then get in touch with your local authority who can take action for you.”
All well and good, but as those who have the bad luck to live next door to someone who thinks 3am is a perfectly reasonable time to start doing a little DIY know, solving the problem of a noisy neighbour is not always that easy.
It’s almost 10 years since the website dedicated to neighbours from hell across Britain was launched. Its chatrooms remain inundated with desperate home owners wanting to share their frustration and it’s not just noise which has been causing sleepless nights.
A number of flat owners have complained about neighbours who repeatedly throw nappies into the communal garden, another wants to know how to tackle the problem of rats which have been attracted to the street by an over enthusiastic bird feeder and one admits they have taken an instant to dislike to their new neighbour.
“Without asking, the family who moved in next door removed the fence which separated our back gardens,” writes one disgruntled home owner. “They ended up killing a lot of my plants and they haven’t yet cleared up the mess they made.
“Instead of the fence they have built a really high brick wall, which completely obscures the view from my kitchen. I was away on holiday at the time and I’ve never actually met them. I’m not quite sure what to do next. I live on my own and don’t like the idea of confronting them in case they become abusive. However, I also don’t want to let them get away with it. Every time I look out of my kitchen window and see the wall I can feel my blood start to boil. I love where I live, but I am beginning to wonder whether I should think about moving.”
It’s a story familiar to those who set up the website, Neighbours From Hell in Britain, which has become a one-stop shop for those struggling to cope.
“There is a tendency to think that neighbours from hell only exist on sink estates,” says a spokesman for the website. “But that’s simply not true, they can come from all walks of life and their actions can be incredibly distressing.
“The website was set up to allow people who are suffering with similar problems to come together as a voice for change and most importantly as a means of supporting one another through what can be truly awful times.
“Living next door to someone who blares music out at all times of the night and day or who allows their back garden to become a dumping ground for rubbish can be often both physically and mentally exhausting.
“Since its launch the online forum has attracted 30,000 members. Sometimes when you’re in this situation, you just want to know that you’re not alone.”