When disputes between neighbors escalate

When disputes between neighbors escalate

Neighbors are great: they water the flowers, feed the cat and take delivery of packages. However, neighbors can also become unbearable if they constantly exceed the bounds of decency and react aggressively to any attempts at clarification. Or, conversely, if they behave like vice squad officers and you barely dare to leave home because of their dirty looks.

A lot has to happen before things get that nasty. Typical areas of conflict and dispute between neighbors are noise, plants or construction projects:

"Could you keep it down a bit?" Disputes over noise

A balmy evening in late summer. The crickets are chirping, the wind is wafting through the leaves. All you need now to make life perfect is a cool glass of white wine and a good book on the patio. But then a door slams shut next door: your neighbor's back home. A little later loud rock music can be heard, motorcycles pull up in front of the house and a spontaneous garden party takes its course until the early hours of the morning. Again...

It is quite obvious that these two neighbors have very different lifestyles. Article 684 of the Swiss Civil Code states that everyone should use their property in such a way that it does not result in excessive effects for their neighbors. What is considered to be excessive in a specific case is debatable. From a legal point of view, the official quiet times for the community must be taken into account as a minimum. They are usually between 10 p.m. in the evening and 7 a.m. in the morning. Otherwise, common sense, mutual consideration and open communication help defuse such conflicts.

"What's that growing there?" Disputes over plants

This neighbor doesn't just have green fingers but a green arm: his cherry laurel hedge has taken on gargantuan proportions and the apple tree on the boundary has also reached majestic heights, generating an astonishing amount of foliage every fall. Ideally, there would also be plenty of apples, but the plant-loving neighbor picks them – even those reaching over the boundary.

This year, the "victim" of the green splendor has finally had enough: once his neighbor leaves for the weekend, he lops off those parts of the hedge and tree that stick out over his property. He then demonstratively tips the clippings onto the neighbor's property. From a legal perspective, these actions have definitely overstepped the mark. Although he generally has the right to prune plants protruding onto his property, he should have complained officially to his neighbor and set him a deadline first. In addition, his neighbor could hold him responsible if the apple tree were to die as a result of his pruning.

"What an eyesore!" Disputes over construction projects

A cheerfully babbling brook, behind it hills, meadows and fields: this perfect view brings joy every time you look through the large panoramic window. But then your neighbor decides to build a double garage. With instinctive certainty, he plans it exactly so that it blocks the view of the brook. Instead of gazing out over nature, the eye will be confronted with this concrete eyesore.

Planning applications, against which you can appeal, must always be submitted for major construction projects. However, there is no fundamental right to an unobstructed view. In principle, in a small country like Switzerland, almost everyone must expect the unoccupied neighboring property to be built on one day. But often compromises are possible: perhaps the garage can be planned less high or moved by a few meters.

Discussion instead of litigation

No matter whether it is about noise pollution, rampant plants or buildings: reasonable compromises can often be found during a joint conversation. For construction projects, it might make sense for a local councilor to participate as an expert and mediator. In many cases, it is helpful to put oneself in the position of the other party, perhaps even to check out the rampant hedge, the booming bass or the building profile from the neighbor's property. 

If no solution can be found despite all the good will in the world, legal expenses insurance, for example from Orion, will serve you well. It advises you on legal options and will cover legal and court costs if necessary. Often, lengthy legal disputes can also be prevented by calling in a mediator. Orion legal protection arranges such mediators in suitable cases and pays for the costs. With the help of a neutral expert, quarreling neighbors can jointly develop a highly successful solution during mediation, enabling them to finally look each other in the eye again. After all, both parties are likely to remain neighbors for many years: hopefully good ones!