It is no secret that London, and other major cities around the UK, are finding it increasingly difficult to house everyone in affordable (and liveable) properties.
Some say the answer is microflats, or a shake-up in housing policy. Others say we should use empty buildings. Regardless of the option we choose, one thing is for certain, future generations will be residing ever-closer to their neighbours.
For anyone who already has upstairs or downstairs neighbours, you’ll know living in close proximity to other people can have a huge impact on your quality of life (for better or worse).
This was recognised by the courts earlier this month when a woman living in High Street Kensington, west London, was awarded damages of £100,000 after complaining about the “intolerable” noise made by the family living above her. Sarvenaz Fouladi, 38, said young children living above treated their home like a “playground” and had “bombarded” her property with noisy games.
Although this is an extreme example, what can residents do to ensure they are being a good upstairs neighbour and a considerate downstairs one too?
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How To Be A Good Upstairs Neighbour
Be considerate with your children’s toys.
Charlie Allenby, 26, who lives in a ground floor flat in Bounds Green, London with his partner, has a family with young children living upstairs. “There’s the usual stomping, shouting and washing machine running at all hours of the day.
“But the icing on the cake is being woken up by the kids upstairs early on a Saturday morning playing with a toy that sounds like a crying baby.”
Make sure your bed is as sound proof as possible.
Sarah Bartlett, 27, who lives in a block of flats in Leeds with her boyfriend, says: “We must have just had new upstairs neighbours. We’ve never had an issue and never heard a peep from any side before, but these new ones are constantly doing it. It’s like clockwork.
“Sometimes it’ll wake me and my boyfriend up at 2am. It’s ridiculous. We laugh about it in the morning but when you’re woken up to someone else’s night time frivolities it’s a bit of a nightmare. Especially on week nights.”
Think about rugs or carpets where possible.
Ali Akobah, 32, who lives alone in a downstairs flat of a semi-detached property in Birmingham, says: “It sounds like my neighbours are wearing high-heeled shoes at all times - even in the middle of the night.
“I don’t know if they really are or if it is just walking on the bare wooden floors, and it would happen regardless of who was living there, but having elephants as upstairs neighbours got really boring, really quickly. I just wish they’d sit down to be honest.”
Try to use your washing machine during the day.
Nancy Harris, 29, lives in Leicester with her girlfriend, in a new apartment block, says that their neighbours are generally good, apart from one hitch. “Despite being quiet people 90% of the time, our neighbours seem to think that the best time to do their washing is overnight.
“This means we have their washing machine vibrating above our heads while we’re trying to sleep. It bangs against the counter top too. It doesn’t seem too much to ask to just put it on during the day when they (and we) are at work.”
Tell your neighbours if you work anti-social hours.
Rachel Lewis, who lives in Essex in a first floor flat, with neighbours above, says: “The problem is they have weird [working] hours. Someone who lives there gets home really late, around midnight, and it sounds like they have to roll into bed or something.
“Every night of the week they are loud from around 12.30am to 1.30am. And then again at six o’clock in the morning. It is silent at all other times and we cannot get to the bottom of it.”
Of course, it goes without saying that pressures on neighbours go both ways: if you’re upstairs you have to be mindful of how loud you’re being, and those downstairs need to accept a little bit of noise is likely.
Jenny Herrera, CEO of ASB (Anti-Social Behaviour) Help, says: “The main thing to remember in being a good neighbour is that we all tolerate different levels of noise. What may seem perfectly reasonable to you, could cause great distress to your neighbour.”
This is particularly true when people are vulnerable, for example some older people or with certain health conditions. And the best way to know if you’re causing distress? Just ask.
Herrera says: “A simple - ‘I hope my guitar playing wasn’t too loud yesterday’, or ‘sorry about the late DIY, I hope it didn’t disturb you’ - is a way to show that you are aware of the noise you make and want to be sure your neighbour is not bothered by it.
“It also gives your neighbour the chance to let you know whether there are any special issues to be aware of, for example night shifts or an ill member of the family.”
What may seem perfectly reasonable to you, could cause great distress to your neighbour..."
But what happens if the problem has gone beyond being considerate and is now a real issue? The Citizen’s Advice Bureau (UK) says you should start by talking to your neighbour (but only if you feel safe and comfortable).
Only a couple of the people we spoke to had tried this, with some being more direct than others. Allenby explained: “We haven’t confronted them about the noise they make, but we’ve definitely shouted ‘shut up’ a few times in the past. We also try to get our own back by playing music loudly, but we’re not sure if they can hear it over their washing machine.”
The CAB say: “You can write, text or call if that’s easier [than speaking face to face].” Bartlett, whose neighbours keep her awake having sex, says: “I did wonder about sending a cheeky note under the door.”
If you don’t have any luck speaking to your neighbours, CAB say the next step is to keep records of the problem. “Take a note whenever the problem happens - your records will be useful if you decide to take things further.
“Write as much detail as possible. Include what happened, the length of time and how it affected you. Keep any messages your neighbour sends you and collect evidence if you feel safe to.”