Interactions with neighbours are sometimes difficult. Statistics show that at least 2 in 3 Spanish households have had past conflicts with a neighbour. Sources of conflict can be comprised of unpaid, community-owners’ fees, noise & disturbances created by pets, occupation of parking spaces, foul odours and water leaking from balconies. In rural land, the most common disputes come from right of ways and settlements over plot boundaries.
Solving disputes can be expensive. Legal costs along with compensation for damages are the most common source of costs. In this context- 1 out of 10 people takes legal action while the same percentage consider solving the dispute in this way.
Studies also show that more than half of the disputes have not been resolved after two years. The result can be expensive not only from the financial point of view but also from the psychological point of view, causing people to move out from a property or developing health problems especially for the elderly.
The best way to solve conflicts
Dialogue is in general the best way to solve a conflict rather than arguing with the neighbour. Keeping a composed non-aggressive attitude is always the best way to approach these types of disputes.
In case diplomacy fails, the next step is to try to solve the dispute within the community of owners. The framework of the “ley de propiedad horizontal;” the law that regulates communities of owners, allows most disputes to be solved.
Noise, parties and disturbing behaviour
Noise is the number-one problem in communities. In Spain, 70% of complaints between neighbours arriving in court are noise related while the EU average is below 50%.
The person that is causing a noise problem in the community outside the allowed time frame, can be forced by the community to stop his activities. In order to do this, it is necessary to notify the president of the community, who will have to inform the offender by letter. In case the activities are not stopped, the community can vote by simple majority to start an action against the wrongdoer. The procedure can eventually end up in court if a solution cannot be found.
The same procedure can be applied for other conflictive behaviour like pets fouling steps and paths or people littering public areas of the community.
Unpaid community-owner fees
A large number of owners not paying the community of owners fees, can disrupt the normal running of the community. In the same way that we would normally deal with a tenant not paying the rent, the first step is to give a friendly reminder to the people not paying. If this step is ignored, after one month the community can send a “burofax” (equivalent to a recommended letter with notification of receipt). If this is ignored, during the general meeting of the community, the assembly can vote with simple majority to claim the debt judicially, eventually seizing the private assets of the debtor.
Right of way in rural properties
Most conflicts in rural properties revolve around rights of way. The topic is very complex, but in cases of dispute the first step would be to check the “nota simple” (property description) from the land registry. Rights of way for neighbours are normally inscribed, therefore it shouldn’t be a problem to find an agreement.
If the plot is completely landlocked by other plots, the neighbours have to give right of way and an agreement can be found in court. Rights of way in rural properties are a complex topic and a lawyer should study the case.