The Neighbour Debate

The Neighbour Debate

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

We’ve all heard the horror stories concerning the neighbours from hell and the havoc that they can cause, but according to a survey conducted by Columinate on behalf of Private Property, most South Africans have a good relationship with those who virtually live on their doorstep.

Only 17 percent of those polled stated that their neighbours drove them crazy, while 81 percent said that they got along with the people next door. The statistics are somewhat refreshing given that you often hear that unlike the old days when everybody knew everybody that lived in their street, these days it is each to their own and there appears to be little in the way of neighbourliness.

Crime has, unfortunately, impacted on the way we live. Most of the older generation can remember a time when children played in the street and virtually lived in one another’s houses. Lunchtimes were a communal affair when hoards of children would descend on someone’s home for a peanut butter sandwich. Street braai’s were a fairly common occurrence and overall there seemed to be far more community spirit in the suburbs back then than there is now.

What is interesting is that although crime has had a negative impact on the way we live, in many ways it has forced us to befriend our neighbours, albeit, for somewhat selfish reasons. Fifty five percent of those interviewed said that they trusted their neighbours to look after their properties when they were away. Despite this, only 35 percent of those polled said that they often socialised with the folks next door. Does this mean that most people regard their neighbours as better security guards than friends?

On a lighter note, it appears that the age-old problem of barking dogs is still irritating, as 23 percent of the respondents said that they had often considered kidnapping the neighbours annoying pet and taking it to the SPCA. South Africa’s high walls and somewhat secular lifestyle has undoubtedly impacted on neighbourly relations and although 75 percent knew their neighbours, twenty five percent said that they had no idea who lived next door to them.

The wrong sort of neighbours can make your life a misery and it has been seen that this is particularly true when homes are built in close proximity to one another. Sectional title and estate living has numerous benefits, but the downside of an irritating neighbour in such close proximity can evoke a number of emotions and they are not all good. That said, a disruptive neighbour, even one who lives down the street, can create havoc in any neighbourhood.

South Africa is a melting pot of cultures and the fact that your neighbour thinks differently and has a different system of beliefs, does not necessarily make them bad neighbours – just different. A live-and-let-live approach, is of course, always the best option, but if the neighbours really do impact on the way you live then a friendly chat will very often sort out any differences. If talking, however, does not resolve the problem, check your local bylaws and report the person if any laws are being broken. Just remember it is a two-way street, so don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.

The sad part about bad neighbours is that they tend to stick like glue and anyone considering investing in a home should check on the people who live close by. The danger signs include, run-down properties in an otherwise well-maintained street, dogs wandering around the road and loud music emanating from a neighbour’s home. Disruptive neighbours can make the lives of those living in close proximity an absolute misery. It is therefore always a good idea to take a walk around and speak to those living in the area in order to ascertain whether you are moving into a Wisteria Lane type of environment or a Nightmare on Elm Street scenario.


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