Disputes with neighbours over building work

Let’s face it, neighbours can make life difficult - even at your buy-to-let. So, when you get good neighbours, try to keep them around. Maintaining good neighbourly relations and avoiding neighbourly disputes is sometimes just as important as having a good relationship with tenants. 

The trouble is, staying on good footing with the neighbours can get tricky when it comes to improving your buy-to-let. As the landlord, tenants and neighbours will often turn to you to deal with any issues relating to building work. But knowing how to handle such disputes isn’t always easy. So, how do landlords resolve disputes with neighbours over building work?  

Informing neighbours of building work

Ever heard of the expression, “prevention is better than cure”? It’s a popular saying for good reason and can apply to every aspect of our lives, not just health. 

Nothing will strain otherwise amicable neighbour-landlord relationships like waking up to the sound of a drill coming through the wall. No landlord wants a noise complaint to deal with. It’s always best to inform the neighbours at your buy-to-let of any building work a couple of months in advance. In some cases, it may even be a good idea to introduce neighbours to your builders. That way, when you or your tenants are away from the property, they have a familiar face to approach with any concerns.

This may also provide the opportunity to establish some ground rules. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the neighbours at your buy-to-let. Imagine how frustrating months of dust, noise, skips and scaffolding can be, particularly if you have a newborn baby or work from home. 

You may want to consider setting aside certain hours of the day for particularly noisy and dusty work. Neighbouring residents will certainly appreciate your consideration and will be more likely to get onside.

When notifying neighbours of building work, a quick face-to-face conversation should do the trick. Give them the opportunity to voice any concerns and then decide whether any adjustments can be made to your plans. The earlier you involve the neighbours of your rental property, the less likely you are to face problems later down the road, such as complaints and potentially costly litigation.

After speaking with the neighbours, it may be worth sending out a follow-up letter or email- just so you have something in writing. 

How to handle neighbours complaining about building work

So, you’ve notified your neighbours about building work. Great! But what should you do if you’re still struggling to get them onside?

Sometimes no matter how considerate your builders are or how accommodating you make your plans, neighbours at your rental property may struggle to warm up to the idea of potentially prolonged home improvements. 

To avoid planning disputes with your neighbours, you need to convince them that your plans will not inconvenience them too much. It may even be time to offer them some support to sweeten the deal. 

Perhaps, you’ll pay to have their windows cleaned as a result of any dust. Or maybe you’ll offer to cover any parking fees if they’re unable to park in their usual space. 

If building work is expected to take place over the holiday season, consider gifting the neighbours at your buy-to-let a hamper or gift as a thank you for dealing with construction work.

Remember, a small token of thanks can go a long way. Not to mention, this may make you more approachable. Hopefully, instead of running straight to the council, those in neighbouring properties will come to you first. 

Seek a mediation service

No matter how hard you try to stay in your neighbour’s good books, amicable relationships are sometimes out of the question. If communication between you and the neighbours at your buy-to-let becomes hostile, it may be time to call on a mediator.

Put simply, a mediator acts as a referee in neighbour disputes, offering impartial advice to help both parties come to a mutually beneficial decision.

As soon as you notice things start escalating out of control, you should seek a mediation service to resolve the dispute. 

It’s in your best interest to do everything you can to avoid a neighbour making a formal complaint to your local council. At best, this will delay building work for a few weeks. At worst, building work will be put to a halt altogether- ultimately causing you to lose out on your investment.   

Even though you may have to pay a fee for mediation, remember that prevention is always the most cost-effective solution. Find your local council or housing association to discover what mediation services they provide. 

Keeping your insurer informed

When building work is being carried out, the risk of potential damage to your property significantly increases. Likewise, the risk of insuring your property increases as well. From walls being knocked down to builders constantly coming in and out of your property, there are lots of things that could go wrong. 

If you already have landlord insurance, you should notify your insurer about any building work as soon as you enter the planning stage. If you don’t keep them in the loop about any potential changes to your property, later claims may be invalidated.

If you need to review your current policy or take our cover for the first time, get in touch with one of our experienced brokers. We are here to help you protect your buy-to-let - even when you plan on making major home improvements.